Van’t Kruijs Opening – 1.e3 (Strategy & Theory)

Van't Kruijs Opening - 1.e3

Chess, often considered the game of kings, has a vast universe of openings, each with its own specific characteristics, strategies, and themes. One of these is the Van’t Kruijs Opening, a rather unique and intriguing option that defies traditional principles of opening theory.

This article delves into the various aspects of the Van’t Kruijs Opening, named after the Dutch player Maarten van’t Kruijs, to give you a deeper understanding of its nature.

Move Order of the Van’t Kruijs Opening

The move order for the Van’t Kruijs Opening is straightforward, beginning with 1.e3.

Van't Kruijs Opening - 1.e3

This move allows the Queen’s Bishop and King’s Bishop to be developed, but it doesn’t exert direct control over the center of the board, which is the primary principle of many other openings.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Van’t Kruijs Opening

While 1.e3 may initially appear passive, the Van’t Kruijs Opening can serve a number of strategic purposes.

Its primary strategy involves a more reserved approach to the game, aiming to avoid early tactical complications and instead, focusing on a flexible pawn structure.

It is important to note, however, that the opening leaves control of the center — a crucial aspect of traditional opening theory — to the opponent.

Moreover, in the old days of chess, pawns could only advance one square forward on their first move (like on each subsequent move). So the popular 1.e4 took a backseat to such openings like 1.e3.

Variations of the Van’t Kruijs Opening

The Van’t Kruijs Opening can lead to numerous systems and setups depending on the player’s preference.

Two notable variations are the Horwitz Defense (1…d5) and the French Defense (1…e6).

Other responses by Black may include 1…c5, 1…e5, 1…Nf6, etc., depending on their strategic objectives and familiarity with the resulting middlegame positions.

Magnus Carlsen Show How To Play Van’t Kruijs Opening

Evaluation of the Van’t Kruijs Opening

1.e3 is generally evaluated at around +0.10 for white.

We rate it #6 out of 20 on our list of best opening moves.

Theory & Continuation Lines of 1.e3

The following are possible theory and continuation lines associated with the opening move 1.e3:

1… Nf6 2. d4 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Be2 dxc4 7. Bxc4 a6 8. e4 b5 9. Bd3 

1… Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. d4 b6 5. Nbd2 Bb7 6. b3 Nbd7 7. Bb2 Be7 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Qb1 h6 10. Be2 O-O 

1… d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. Bd3 Be7 5. Nc3 c5 6. dxc5 Nbd7 7. e4 Nxc5 8. e5 

1… d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 c6 4. c4 Bf5 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 e6 7. Nc3 Nbd7 8. O-O dxc4 9. Qxc4 Be7 10. Re1 Nb6 

1… e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 Bd6 5. d4 b6 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 Nbd7 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Nxd5 

1… e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 Bd6 5. d4 b6 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. O-O O-O 8. Qc2 c5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. e4 c4 

The most common responses to 1.e3 are Nf6, d5, and e6.

History of the Van’t Kruijs Opening

The Van’t Kruijs Opening is named after Maarten van’t Kruijs, a Dutch chess player from the 19th century, who used this opening with some success in his games.

Despite being less popular compared to the central control-focused openings, it has a rich history and has been employed in various matches throughout the centuries, offering a more offbeat option for players seeking to avoid mainstream opening theory.

Whether It’s Good for Beginners or Intermediates

The Van’t Kruijs Opening can be suitable for beginners as it avoids early complex tactics, providing a platform to develop pieces without intense confrontation.

However, the lack of immediate central control might be a disadvantage against stronger players, so for intermediates, this opening is best used as a surprise weapon or when aiming for less explored game territory.

How Often It’s Played at the Grandmaster Level

The Van’t Kruijs Opening is relatively rare at the Grandmaster level.

The principles of early center control, development, and safety of the king — often not directly adhered to by 1.e3 — form the core of chess strategy at the highest levels of play.

That being said, some Grandmasters have used it occasionally as a surprise weapon or in situations where they wish to lead the game into less known territory.


The Van’t Kruijs Opening, beginning with 1.e3, is a unique path in the complex maze of chess openings.

With a strategy that contradicts conventional opening principles, it serves as a reminder of the vastness and depth of chess, where no single approach is universally superior.

While not commonly played at the Grandmaster level, it can offer a breath of fresh air to beginners and intermediate players alike, especially those wishing to explore the less trodden paths of the royal game.

FAQ on Van’t Kruijs Opening – 1.e3

1. What is the Van’t Kruijs Opening in chess?

Van’t Kruijs Opening is a less common chess opening named after the Dutch player Maarten van’t Kruijs. It begins with the move 1.e3.

This move allows for the development of the Queen’s Bishop and King’s Bishop, but it does not control the center of the board as effectively as other openings like the Sicilian or the Queen’s Gambit.

2. What are the key advantages and disadvantages of the Van’t Kruijs Opening?

Advantages of the Van’t Kruijs Opening include flexibility and unpredictability.

It’s not an aggressive opening, which may lead opponents to underestimate it, and it can transpose into other openings depending on how the opponent responds.

The primary disadvantage of the Van’t Kruijs Opening is that it does not immediately control or challenge the center of the board, which is generally considered a key principle in the opening phase of a chess game.

This could potentially lead to a weaker position later in the game.

3. How should one typically respond to the Van’t Kruijs Opening?

There’s no definitive “best” response to the Van’t Kruijs Opening, as it’s highly dependent on the opponent’s style and strategy.

However, common responses include 1…d5 or 1…e5, aiming to establish central control early.

4. Are there any famous games that have featured the Van’t Kruijs Opening?

While the Van’t Kruijs Opening isn’t as popular as other openings at the highest levels of play, it has occasionally been seen.

The game between Oskar Cordel and Johannes Zukertort, Breslau 1864, is a classic example of the Van’t Kruijs Opening.

It’s worth noting that Maarten van’t Kruijs himself used the opening to achieve multiple victories in the 19th century.

5. Can the Van’t Kruijs Opening transition into other known openings?

Yes, one of the key benefits of the Van’t Kruijs Opening is its flexibility.

Depending on how the game develops, it can transpose into a variety of other openings such as the French Defense, Sicilian Defense, Queen’s Gambit, and others.

The ability to transpose into a more familiar opening can be strategically beneficial.

6. Why isn’t the Van’t Kruijs Opening more widely used in competitive play?

Primarily, the Van’t Kruijs Opening isn’t widely used in competitive play because it doesn’t exert immediate control over the center of the board, a key principle in opening strategy.

Many players prefer to use openings that apply immediate pressure and control key central squares.

However, the Van’t Kruijs Opening can still be effective, particularly for players who enjoy unorthodox strategies and less predictable game progressions.

7. What are the key variations of the Van’t Kruijs Opening?

Some key variations of the Van’t Kruijs Opening include 1.e3 e5, leading to the reversed French Defense, or 1.e3 d5, which could lead into the reversed Queen’s Gambit.

However, the next moves can greatly depend on the opponent’s response and the player’s subsequent strategic decisions.

8. How does the Van’t Kruijs Opening affect the middlegame and endgame strategies?

The Van’t Kruijs Opening’s impact on middlegame and endgame strategies depends greatly on the game’s progression and the player’s own strategic preferences.

It allows for a variety of pawn structures and has the potential to transpose into multiple well-known middlegame positions.

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