Chess Openings: English Opening

| 5 | Opening Theory


Free Chess Openings Videos, Click Here: Chess Openings


Chess Openings – English Opening

Category – Flank Opening  

Opening Move Sequence – 1 c4

ECO Codes – A10 to A39

The English Opening was first recorded in a game played in 1843 by famous English player Howard Staunton who was considered the unofficial World champion at that time. Later on it became unpopular but regained favor even later. Currently, English Opening is considered a very reliable opening that can be used to reach a variety of positions ranging from Classical positions to hyper modern ones. 

English Opening, according to databases of historical tournament statistics, is the fourth most popular first move for White. Most variations in English Opening tend to be transformed to other openings, though there are few independent variations that can only be played through English Opening. This ability to transform to other openings gives English Opening flexibility. 


All of the modern era’s top players have made use of the capabilities and flexibilities of English with good effect in crucial matches. 

English Opening is classed with Flank Openings or Irregular Openings which start with moves other than 1.e4 or 1.d4. Variations in English Opening are listed under ECO codes A10 to A39. 

Moves and Variations

1 c4

The first move stakes a claim in the center while allowing White more flexibility.

As mentioned above, one of the attractions of English is its ability to transform to other openings. We will now look at how these transformations can be achieved or prevented.

When White plays the move d4 near the beginning of the opening game, it can resemble Queen’s Gambit or Indian Defense Openings, both of which have the moves d4 and c4 in their first few moves. For example, Grünfeld Defense, which is usually classed with Indian defense openings, can be reached through English opening with moves 1.c4 Nf6, 2.Nc3 g6, 3.d4 d5. (Usually the Grünfeld Defense sequence is 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4 g6, 3.Nc3 d5). On the other hand, if White plays 3.e4 instead of 3.d4, White can prevent the transformation to Grünfeld Defense (3.e4 will lead to King's Indian Defense). If Black tried 1.c4 Nf6, 2.Nc3 d5 in order to reach Grünfeld Defense, White can stump that with 3.cxd5 Nxd5, 4.g3.

When White plays Nf3 near the start of English Opening and then develops the Bishop at g1 through fianchetto to g2, the opening transforms to Reti Opening.

If Black responds to 1.c4 with 1…c6 White can transform the game to Outflank Variation of Sokolsky or Polish Opening by 2.b4!? This transformation can be used to surprise the opponent, especially players who are not familiar with Sokolsky Opening.

There are many other possible transformations to a number of variations in several other openings. Given the devious possibilities of English Opening, Black in particular should take precautions when playing it so as not to be surprised into unfamiliar and undesired opening lines. Black should select the moves carefully. For instance, if Black wants to steer the game to Queen's Gambit Declined, he can probably achieve that by playing 1...e6 2.d4 d5 instead of 1...Nf6, 2.Nc3 e6. White can avoid Queen's Gambit Declined in the second case by playing 3.e4. (However, White can transform even the first sequence into Reti Opening by playing 2.Nf3 d5, 3.b3)

The most popular variations in English Opening branch off from the Black’s first move: 1...Nf6, 1...e5 (This variation is known as Sicilian reversed. In the normal Sicilian, White gets Black’s position but with an extra tempo), 1...e6 (This leads to Queen's Gambit Declined through 2.d4 d5. However, White players mostly play one of the three other available options here: 2.Nf3, 2.Nc3 or 2.g3), 1...c5 (This is called Symmetrical Variation and can be used to reach Hedgehog System if desired), 1...g6, and 1...c6 (This may lead to Slav Defense through 2.d4 d5. However, White tends to select either Caro-Kann Defense through 2.e4 d5, or Reti Opening through 2.Nf3 d5).

Free Chess Openings Videos, Click Here: Chess Openings


More from chessvictory
Are You Making This Beginner's Queen Mistake?

Are You Making This Beginner's Queen Mistake?

"Weird" Opening Attack

"Weird" Opening Attack