Barnes Opening – 1.f3 (Strategy & Theory)

Barnes Opening - 1.f3

The game of chess is known for its deep strategy, unique move patterns, and the array of different openings that players can choose from to start their games. One such opening, which is perhaps lesser-known but equally intriguing, is the Barnes Opening, marked by the initial move 1.f3.

Below we look into the nuances of the Barnes Opening, investigating its move order, theory, strategic purpose, variations, historical background, suitability for beginners and intermediate players, and its usage at the Grandmaster level.

Move Order of the Barnes Opening

The Barnes Opening, denoted by the algebraic notation 1.f3, is characterized by the first move in which White advances the King’s Bishop’s Pawn by one square.

This opening contrasts the more traditional openings such as 1.e4 (King’s Pawn Opening), 1.d4 (Queen’s Pawn Opening), or even 1.Nf3 (Reti Opening) where players aim to control the center of the board right from the beginning.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Barnes Opening

At first glance, the Barnes Opening might seem like a strange choice.

In classical chess theory, control of the center is highly emphasized, and the move 1.f3 doesn’t directly contribute to this purpose.

Instead, it opens a path for the king’s bishop to be developed and potentially could be used as part of a larger strategy to fianchetto the king’s bishop.

However, this strategy has its drawbacks as it potentially weakens the King’s defense, especially along the e1-h4 diagonal.

Variations of 1.f3

While there are not many specific variations of the Barnes Opening due to its unconventional nature, players who use this opening typically follow it up with moves that secure the king and allow for more development.

One such example could be moving the e2 pawn to allow for the King to be castled, or moving the g2 pawn to enable a fianchetto of the King’s Bishop.

Evaluation of 1.f3

1.f3 is generally evaluated at around -0.90 to -1.00 for white.

We rank it at #19 of 20 of the best opening moves behind only the Grob Opening (1.g4).

Theory & Continuation Lines of 1.f3

Some theory and continuation lines of 1.f3 include:

1… e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qf2 d5 6. Bg5 d4 7. O-O-O Bd7 8. Nd5 Be6 9. Nf4 Ne4 10. fxe4 Qxg5 11. Kb1 O-O-O 12. Nxe6

1… e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e4 d5 4. d4 exd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Qf2 d4 8. Nce2

1… e5 2. e3 d5 3. d4 Nc6 4. Bb5 Bd7 5. Ne2 Qh4+ 6. g3 Qh5 7. dxe5 Qxe5 8. Bxc6 Bxc6 9. Qd4 f6 10. Nbc3

1… e5 2. e3 d5 3. d4 Nc6 4. Bb5 Bd7 5. Ne2 Qh4+ 6. g3 Qh5 7. O-O O-O-O 8. Bxc6 Bxc6 9. dxe5 Qxe5 10. Qd4 Qxd4 11. Nxd4 Bd7

1… e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Qxd4 d5 5. e4 Nc6 6. Qf2 Bb4 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 dxe4

1… e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Qxd4 d5 5. e4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Qf2 dxe4 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 Bb4 10. Ne2 exf3 11. Qxf3

The best response to 1.f3 is generally considered e5. This allows possible attacks on white’s king as early as the next move.

This is the main reason why 1.f3 is generally considered the second-worst opening move.

“WOW!” Magnus Carlsen is Surprised that His Turkish Opponent Plays f3 in the First Move Against Him

Barnes Opening, Hammerschlag Variation

Move Order

The Hammerschlag Variation of the Barnes Opening begins with 1.f3 e5.

This move from Black is a typical response to many non-traditional openings, aiming to establish central control.

Subsequently, instead of developing a minor piece, White plays 2.Kf2, an extremely unconventional move in which the king is moved in the second turn of the game.

Barnes Opening, Hammerschlag Variation: 1...e5 2.Kf2

This is generally considered around -2.00 for white.

It can also be considered a type of Bongcloud or “meme” opening.

Strategy and Purpose

The strategy and purpose behind the Hammerschlag variation can be quite puzzling, as it defies many conventional principles of chess opening theory.

Moving the king on the second move delays the development of White’s pieces and disrupts the ability to castle.

However, this could serve as a surprise weapon, aiming to disorient the opponent and lead the game into unfamiliar territory.

The move 2.Kf2 does free the g1 square for a potential knight development and keeps the option to advance the g-pawn for a possible fianchetto setup.

While these possibilities exist, the player using this opening should be aware of the inherent risks associated with the exposed king and the potential weakness on the e1-h4 diagonal, especially if Black develops their queen’s bishop and controls this diagonal.

Overall, the Hammerschlag variation of the Barnes Opening is more about psychological strategy – the shock value of this unconventional opening – than it is about positional or tactical advantages.

Continuation Lines of the Hammerschlag Variation

Possible continuations include:

2… d5 3. e3 d4 4. e4 Bc5 5. d3 Nc6 6. g3 f5 7. Bh3 Nge7 8. Kg2 Be6 9. Nd2 Qd7 10. a3 

2… d5 3. e3 d4 4. e4 Bc5 5. d3 Ne7 6. g3 f5 7. h4 O-O 8. Bh3 a5 9. Kg2 a4 10. Nd2 Nbc6 

2… d5 3. e3 Bc5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. Bxc6 Bxc6 7. d4 Bd6 8. Nc3 Qd7 9. dxe5 Bxe5 10. Nce2 h5 11. h4 Nh6 12. Nh3 Ba4 

2… d5 3. e3 Nc6 4. Bb5 Bd7 5. Ne2 e4 6. h4 Bd6 7. d4 a6 8. Bxc6 Bxc6 9. c4 dxc4 10. Nd2 exf3 11. gxf3 Be7 12. e4 f5 13. e5 Bxh4+ 14. Kf1 Bg5 

2… Bc5+ 3. e3 d5 4. c3 Bd6 5. d4 Nf6 6. dxe5 Bxe5 7. c4 O-O 8. cxd5 c6 9. d6 Bxd6 10. Nc3 

2… Bc5+ 3. e3 d5 4. c3 Bd6 5. d4 Nf6 6. dxe5 Bxe5 7. Ne2 c6 8. h4 Nbd7 9. g4 O-O 10. g5 Nh5 

Magnus Carlsen Plays 1. f3 2.Kf2 Against Wesley So in the FINAL | Banter Series

History of 1.f3

The Barnes Opening is named after Thomas Wilson Barnes, an English player from the 19th century who was one of the top British players of his time.

Known for his unorthodox and adventurous style, Barnes was one of the few players who could consistently challenge the legendary Paul Morphy.

Despite its origins, the Barnes Opening has remained something of a curiosity in chess history due to its unique approach to the game’s opening phase.

Whether It’s Good for Beginners or Intermediates

The Barnes Opening may not be the ideal choice for beginners or intermediate players, primarily due to its unconventional nature.

The opening doesn’t directly control the center of the board, which can put players using it at a disadvantage against more experienced opponents who can take advantage of this fact.

Moreover, the potential weakness it introduces to the king’s defense can be exploited by opponents who understand these principles well.

That being said, experimenting with the Barnes Opening can provide valuable learning experiences and opportunities to explore lesser-known paths in the game.

How Often It’s Played at the Grandmaster Level

At the Grandmaster level, the Barnes Opening is rarely seen. Grandmasters tend to rely on openings that have been thoroughly studied and have a strong theoretical basis.

The Barnes Opening, due to its unconventional nature and lack of central control, is not usually chosen in high-level games.

However, it might occasionally be employed as a surprise weapon or in games where a player wishes to steer the game into less explored territory.


The Barnes Opening, characterized by the unique first move 1.f3, offers a fascinating departure from more traditional chess openings.

While it might not be commonly seen in the upper echelons of competitive play, or generally advised for beginners and intermediate players, its unorthodox approach provides an intriguing exploration of alternative strategies in chess.

FAQs – Barnes Opening – 1.f3

1. What is the Barnes Opening?

The Barnes Opening, denoted by 1.f3, is one of the less common chess openings in which White moves their King’s Bishop’s pawn forward one square on the very first move.

Named after Thomas Wilson Barnes, it’s a somewhat unusual choice and not considered particularly strong by modern standards due to its relatively slow development and neglect of center control.

2. Why isn’t the Barnes Opening more popular?

The Barnes Opening isn’t more popular because it violates several classical principles of chess openings.

It neither establishes control of the center, nor allows for the rapid development of pieces.

Furthermore, it weakens White’s kingside, which could potentially expose the king to checks or attacks early in the game.

3. Are there any famous games played using the Barnes Opening?

Although the Barnes Opening is not commonly seen in high-level professional play, it has been used occasionally as a surprise tactic.

However, there are no famous games using the Barnes Opening that stand out significantly in the history of chess.

4. How can I effectively respond to the Barnes Opening as Black?

The best way to respond to the Barnes Opening is to take advantage of its weaknesses.

Black should control the center immediately, typically with moves like 1…e5 or 1…d5.

This allows for rapid piece development and potentially an early lead in the game.

5. Can the Barnes Opening transpose into another, more common opening?

While it’s possible for the Barnes Opening to transpose into other openings, it’s generally quite difficult due to the specific pawn structure the opening creates.

Typically, the game will develop in a unique manner, following less common paths than standard openings.

6. Are there any notable variations of the Barnes Opening?

As the Barnes Opening is already a non-standard opening, there aren’t specific well-known variations.

However, the game can branch into a variety of different directions depending on how Black responds to 1.f3.

7. What are the main strategies for White when playing the Barnes Opening?

The main strategy when playing the Barnes Opening is to catch the opponent off guard.

The standard principles of chess dictate piece development and center control, but with this opening, it may create confusion and lead the opponent to unfamiliar territory.

This could potentially provide psychological advantages.

8. Is the Barnes Opening recommended for beginners?

The Barnes Opening is generally not recommended for beginners. It’s more important for novice players to understand and implement the classical principles of chess, such as piece development, center control, and king safety, which are not primary features of the Barnes Opening.

Only once a player has a firm understanding of these principles should they consider experimenting with less conventional openings.

9. Are there any professional players known for using the Barnes Opening?

No professional players are particularly known for using the Barnes Opening regularly.

It is generally considered too risky and non-standard for consistent use in high-level play.

10. How can I practice the Barnes Opening?

The best way to practice the Barnes Opening is to play it in casual games or online matches where the stakes are low.

Analyzing your games afterward is crucial. Using a chess engine like Stockfish can provide insight into the weaknesses and strengths of the moves played.

This practice, along with studying any available games where the Barnes Opening was used, can improve your understanding of this unique opening.


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