The Ultimate Chess Sin: What is the Worst First Move in Chess?

Out of the twenty possible moves you can make to start a game, what is the worst first move in chess?

Let’s take a deep dive into understanding how to improve your game by NOT starting off with a weak position.

What is the Worst First Move in Chess?

While many chess enthusiasts argue that 1. f3, or Barnes Opening, is the worst move, in my opinion the much more common and more detrimental 1. h4 does nothing for your opening attack.

Chess is a game of strategy and the ultimate balance of offense vs defense.

The opening moves set the tone, and a blunder right out of the gate can be devastating against a solid opponent.

Let’s examine why the first move matters in chess and take a look at some poor opening moves. Finally I’ll share some strategies on how to avoid a bad start.

Introduction to Chess Openings: Why the First Move Matters

If you’re a complete beginner in chess, one thing to commit to memory is that controlling the center matters. Your very first move is key to accomplishing this.

Controlling the center allows you to set up opportunities for an attack while also limiting your opponent’s moves.

It’s an established fundamental of the game, and when you make a bad first move you can allow your opponent to take early control.

Right out of the gate you may be helping your opponent gain positional advantage and making key pieces on your side vulnerable.

Let’s take a look at some of the worst opening moves in chess and why you should avoid them.

The Worst Opening Move: Examining 1.h4 and Other Poor Choices

There are many opening moves that could be considered wasted moves because they don’t help your cause at all.

Many who play the game argue that 1. f3 is the worst first move in chess because it doesn’t develop any pieces and it actually hinders your kingside knight.

While this is true, I would ask this question, “How often do you ever see someone open with 1. f3?”

Also, at least that opening move is close enough to the center to correct it.

It’s somewhat rare to see 1. f3 happen. Yes, it is a bad move, but the move I see way more often, so therefore more detrimental, is 1. h4.

worst first move in chess 1. h4

Opening with 1. h4 is a bad move for several reasons. The theory behind it is to activate the rook.

In fact, it is somewhat common to see brand new players open with a4 and h4 in an attempt to unleash their rooks.

However, opening with 1. h4 goes against the most basic fundamentals of chess that I discussed earlier: controlling the center.

Remember, by not making a move to control the center you allow your opponent to do so.

As you can see here, the easiest counter to 1. h4 is to d5, taking control of the center and simultaneously limiting the development of your rook.

1. h4 d5

What are some other bad opening moves? 1. h3, 1. a4, 1. a3, and 1. Nh3 are all bad basically for the same reasons. They don’t develop pieces and (I sound like a broken record here) they don’t take control of the center!

Don’t get too crazy with your queen early either. I see many players doing this and all it does is allow your opponent to develop their pieces while you’re running all over the board with just the one. Don’t do it!

More Reasons Why 1.h4 is a Bad Move: Analysis of Its Weaknesses and Potential Consequences

Even though those who open with 1. h4 are trying to develop their rook, this just isn’t the correct way to do so.

As was just shown it’s very easy for your opponent to attack your advancing rook and all you’ve done is create an opening in your defense.

A much, much better strategy would be keeping those kingside pawns where they’re at and castling. This protects your king while simultaneously developing your rook into open space.

Ultimately, 1. h4 is just a waste of time.

This move doesn’t develop any pieces at all. Instead, it’s needlessly moving what should be a protector pawn out onto the fringes of the board where it does no good.

It doesn’t help to develop your bishop, your knight, and no not even that rook.

Every single move matters in chess. You don’t want to have wasted moves or wasted time.

This is even more apparent in timed games. A bad opening move like 1. h4 in Bullet chess could be instantly catastrophic.

Other Bad Opening Moves: Common Mistakes and Their Risks

Similar to 1. h4, 1. h3 is a bad opening move.

Again, it doesn’t develop any pieces and it’s not helping you control the center.

A few moves into the game, h3 could be a decent move to prevent an aggressive knight from getting to g4, but don’t open with it.

1. h3 opening move

“Ware Opening”, or 1. a4 is also very similar to 1. h4 but on the queenside of the board.

1. a4 chess opening

Like the other bad opening moves, it neglects to develop any pieces or control the center.

Seeing a pattern here?

The lone pawn alone out there can also be difficult to protect as the game plays out.

Finally, the “Nimzo-Larsen Attack”, or 1. Nh3, is usually considered a “surprise” attack. It’s just not strong enough strategically though.

It acts as more of a “huh?” than a surprise, though.

You’d be better off developing other pieces instead. The knight out there on the fringe weakens it and also does nothing for control of the center.

1. Nh3 chess opening

Final Thoughts

Don’t waste your opening move! Attack the center to start gaining control of it, develop pieces, and don’t waste your time placing pieces on the fringes of the board so early!

It’s fair to say that every single aspect of chess, opening game moves, endgame moves, and everything in between is ULTRA important.

Take a look at these aggressive chess openers and get inspired! The video below is a solid watch!

What’s the worst first move in chess in your opinion? How often have you played against someone who opened with a really bad move like 1. h4?

Have any other opening moves that deserve to be on this list?

Let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear what you have to say and I always respond!

6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Chess Sin: What is the Worst First Move in Chess?”

  1. Is there a move that you would recommend above all others, or does it depend on the player’s individual style and preference? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and perhaps you could even write a follow-up post exploring the best first moves in chess. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us!

    • There’s no such thing as a singular move that’s better than all others. As far as great openings, the video at the end of the page explores very aggressive openings. I’d check that out!

  2. I have not played chess at all.  How would you recommend even getting started? Do you learn simply by playing? Or reading a book? 

    How do know someone’s moves in advance? Does that come with experience in playing the game? How do you choose your opening move and does that set the tone for the game?

  3. Domination of the center of the board is what all players are after, or should be. Who is the young guy now dominating chess, Magnus I think? Anyway, when I watch him he always starts with similar moves and waits for his opponent to make the first mistake. It is scary his chess abilities. 

    I try to move my pawns first followed by my knight. I try to get my pieces in place (as everyone does) to forward-think my opponent. You mentioned castling, personally, I find this a display of weakness and try to avoid it as it is a waste of a move and easily outthought.


    • You see castling as a weakness? What?
      You may be the first person to ever say that. Castling both protects your king and develops your rook. It’s one of the most important moves in the game. I’d rethink the weakness approach 🙂 Thanks for the comment!


Leave a Comment