The excellent Wang writes about his (good) play in a recent tournament in a post with the delightful title Drunkn Monkey Kung-Fu Patzer Chess, and touches on his use of Alekhine's Defense (1. e4 Nf6). He plays it exclusively.
This set me to thinking about openings from the "amateur's" point of view. There are a million (okay, hyperbole) thousands of chess books and columns aimed at amateurs by professional masters that advise us not to spend much study time on openings until we reach 2000 or 2200 or 2299 or whatever on the ratings list. We should be spending almost all of our limited study time on tactics, say most, or on a mix of tactics studies and instructive annotated master games.
Long-time readers here (all one of them) may remember that the late, great Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby (Secrets of a Grandpatzer Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), recommended the opposite, indeed, recommended memorizing (horrors) main, main lines as a way to save clock time and mental energy in tournament play. As a borderline Grandpatzer who will likely never crack 2000, and thus supposedly never study openings for the rest of my days, I'll go with the Professor; there are real, tangible, practical benefits to doing an efficient amount of opening study, as long as you don't make openings your primary subject in chess.
Now, the Good Dr. Colby recommended the Dragon Sicilian and King's Indian Defense (KID) as the main part of the "Grandpatzer plays Black" repertoire, and as a King's Indian fanatic I (of course) heartily concur with the second half of the prescription. When it comes to meeting 1. e4 though, I think that Wang's Alekhine and my own favorite of the past few years, the Centre Countre (Scandinavian) 1. e4 d5 have some things going for them that you might want to consider.
One of the qualities these two have in common is that they are about the only openings out there that are forcing from move 1. Think about that. No matter your first move as White, Black has five or six decent replies, e.g. 1. d4 d5-Nf6-c6-e6-f5-g6. And if Black against 1. d4, White has five or six sytems against, for example, the King's Indian: the Be2 "Main Line," Four Pawns, Saemisch, Fianchetto, h3 variations...etc. We KID people have to think about all of these, and the same with the Nimzo-Indian, Slav, and so on.
But in the Scandinavian, and even more so, the Alekhine, it seems that White has only one really good reply, 1. e4 d5 2. exd5, and 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5, respectively. Most other second moves for White are considered to allow Black instant equality, for example 1. e4 Nf6 2. d3?!. After 1. e4 d5 2. d4 White goes into the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but I don't remember getting this played against me more than once in scores of tournament and blitz encounters, and it's nothing to be afraid of, anyway. The Alekhine has the defensive 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3, and again Black has no problems equalizing.
For any deeper insight beyond move 2 you're going to have to go to another source, as I don't intend to analyse these openings here, just point out their unique utility for the enthusiastic amateur chess player. Use of either of these openings will usually allow you to meet 1. e4 pretty quickly and efficiently, without too much time or mental energy spent on the first few moves. You'll need all of that you can summon for the middlegame.
It's interesting to note that the reason these two are so forcing is the basic fact that after 1. e4 the e-pawn is unprotected, unlike the d-pawn after 1. d4. So is d4 "theoretically" a stronger move? In a sense, after e4 Black is "in charge" of determining the course of the game. Various chess writers have put it in these terms for over 100 years.
But Robert J. Fischer, a pretty fair player and theoretician, apparently disagreed...