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Basic openings

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Normally I wouldn't start a guide about chess with openings, but atomic is a little different. For example:

1. e4
1... e5?? 2. Qh5 Threatens Qxf7#.  g6 3. Qh3 f5 4. exf5 Kf7 5. Qe6 The queen cannot be taken without exploding the king.  Kg7 6. Qxg8#
1... c5?? 2. Qh5 g6 3. Qd5 d6 4. Qxf7#

As you can see, the Open Game (1...e5) and Sicilian (1...c5), both very common in standard chess, cause black to immediately lose in atomic. (1.e4 is an unusual first move, but these examples are just meant to demonstrate how easy it is to make a fatal mistake.)

I'll cover a few frequent openings here, just to demonstrate the basic ideas.


This is one of the most common first moves. The imminent threat is 2.Ne5 – any move that fails to prevent it loses immediately:

1... e6?? 2. Ne5 d6 3. Nxf7#
1... d5?? 2. Ne5 f6 3. Nd7 The king cannot escape.  Kf7 4. Nxf8#
1... d6?? 2. Ng5 f6 3. Nf7 Qd7 4. Nxd6 Black does not lose, but is now down a queen. 

This move is probably so often played because there is only a single good response from black. First, we will look at the only other one that doesn't lose either a queen or the game, 1...e5:

1. Ng5
1... f5
2. Nf7 This is a trap that will give the advantage to black.  Qh4 3. g3 Qc4 4. d3 Qxc2
2. d4 Instead, one of these moves should be played first. 
2. h4
1... f6 This move loses the queen.  2. Nf7 Qe7 3. Nd6+ Qxd6

The only reason I mention this opening here is to point out the trap that white might fall into by playing 2.Nf7. Otherwise, there are several continuations after black's only reasonable move, f6:

1... f6
2. Nd4 Nh6 Since white threatens both Nb5 and Nf5, this is the only way black can defend effectively. If white fails to address the threat:  3. Nb5 Ng4 4. f3 Nf2 5. Nxc7 Nxd1#
2. e3
2... Nh6 If black fails to defend, white has a knight sacrifice followed by Qf3 or Qh5.  3. Ne5 fxe5 4. Qh5 g6 5. Qd5 d6 6. Qf7 Kd7 7. Qxe7#
2... d5 White can sacrifice the knight anyway, which doesn't gain material but is a fairly common pattern.  3. Ng5 fxg5 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Qe5 Be6 6. Qxc7
2... e6 3. Nd4 c6
4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Ndb5 Nh6 This is just one possible line – there's a lot of theory in this opening that I won't cover here. 
4. Nb5 cxb5 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Qb5 Nc6 7. Qb6 axb6 8. Bb5 Kf7 9. Bxd7 It is worth pointing this one out, however, which is a transposition into the same opening as below. 


I will only cover a single line in this section for now.

1. e3 e6 2. Nf3 f6 3. Nd4 c6 4. Nb5 cxb5 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Qb5 Nc6 7. Qb6 axb6 8. Bb5 Kf7 9. Bxd7

This is a highly divisive opening in the atomic community, mostly because of how boring many players consider it to be. Many of black's moves are forced or the only reasonable option, so when white plays this opening, the resulting game can feel "standard" and uninteresting.

Even if you don't plan on playing it, it's still good to be aware of (if only because of the apparently-ridiculous move 7.Qb6). There are also ways for black to avoid it (e.g. 2...Qf6, 2...Nc6) and slight variations (e.g. 7...Kf7), but I won't go over those yet.


1... f6 2. Nc3 c6 3. e3 d5 Here black must play any move that prevents the knight sacrifice on d5 (with threat of Qh5+, Qd5) – other options are e6 and g6.  4. Ng5

Future articles will cover these openings in more detail in addition to other common openings.

Hopefully by looking at a few prototypical openings, you've gotten an idea of the general ideas involved (especially the role of the knight and queen). In the next section, which covers basic tactics, I'll describe them in more detail.

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