English Opening Revisited

Aug 31, 2013, 5:33 AM |

The Four Knights Variation of the English Opening (c4 e5 Nc3 Nf6 Nf3 Nc6) is a direct and logical continuation which offers Black good defense with some flexibility for counterattack. Some lines lead to Sicilian Dragon with colors reversed. Even though it looks risky to enter a sharp variation with a tempo less but if having healthy agrression, Black has nearly = chances.

The Carls "Bremen" System/Accelerated Fianchetto( c4 e5 Nc3 Nf6 g3) can transpose to favorable subvariations but must contend with c6, the Keres attack. White can also try to take a march on 4 N`s lines.

The Closed Variation (c4 e5 Nc3 Nc6 g3 g6 Bg2 Bg7)mimics the Closed Sicilian with colors reversed. White could easily control the queenside but equaling Black`s kingside chances is something else. Some lines show effects of an early f5 but with cautious play,White can lure them to overextension. Black shouldn`t force transposition if White didn`t fianchetto his bishop. The system c4 e5 Nc3 d6 is off the beaten track but is a handy alternative. Of the many miscellaneous variations, one line shows an unrefuted chance to accelerate the minor piece trade that characterizes the 4 N`s. If Black chooses to play the English with his favorite defense to the Queen`s Pawn against it. White in turn may play an early d4 transposing to Black`s choice of opening or postpone it or avoid it leading to uniqely English lines(Nimzo-Indian, Queen`s Indian, a hybrid variation, King`s Indian, Grunfeld, and Slav Englishes). Overall, White`s loss of direct territorial control in postponing d4 is = by gains in flexibility and tactical subtleties. If White delays development of the queen knight, Black may venture into the Double Fianchetto Defensefeaturing quadruple fianchettoes or the Romanshin Variation.

The Symmetrical variation (c4 c5) is maybe the most exciting defense to the English. In main variations, 1 or both players will disrupt the center almost instantly with moving the Queen Pawn 2 squares and an intense struggle for d4 and d5 will develop. There`s also a Keres Defense subvariation to it.

The Symmetrical Four Knights Variation( c4 c5 Nf3 Nf6 Nc3 Nc6) sums up this type of game. In the modern variations of it, it`s often a question of whose pawn sac comes first and most effectively(White on c3, Black on d5. In the older fianchetto variation, Black cedes central territory advantage but can challenge the queenside with b5. Some lines show Black actively achieves d5 before white plays d4. The main var. is wild with 2 king moves in 1st 8 moves and pawn sac for strong attack.Other lines show Black chooses relief from tactical melees of previous lines with 3.e6. It`s safer and less sharp tahn 3.Nc6 and 3.d5 but themes of central expansion on c3 and d5 recur.

The Hedgehog Defense with 3. e6 and 4.b6 is a development of the 1970s and 80s. As recently as the 70s, hedgehog was a generic term describing any cramped, defensive and difficult to attack setup. Currently, it refers to a setup where black exchanges his c pawn for white`s d pawn and black`s minor pieces are developed as in the Queen`s Indian. Black gives White a central bind with pawns on c4 and e4 but black`s chances to achieve b5 or d5 gives his game dymanic potential. There are other Hedgehog related variations in the Paulsen Var. of the Sicilian Def. as well(besides itself Laughing). Variations with d5 are inventions of Paul Keres. Black aims at a setup similar to the Tarrasch defense but with the defense eased by the exchange of a pair of knights, white may or may not force the isolation of Black`s QP but may create his own passed pawn as in the Seni-Tarrasch Defense. Both ideas require alert handling for Black. One line shows Black tries to enter a Hedgehog before white commits his king bishop. It looks daring but isn`t clearly refuted. Some lines show white plays d4 before Nc3. This preempts the attack of Nc3 d5 but now reckons with e5 or transpose to counterattacking variation of the Catalan. Some lines show White fianchettoes his king bishop before d4. It`s plausible but the lifeless variations are discouraging. Some lines are interesting sidelines but 1 line by move order is condemned by theory but strong GMs have tried it. If White plays 2.Nc3 than 2.Nf3, he`s better prepared to meet d5 than enforce his d4.

If Black plays d5 anyways, he might arrive at the Rubinstein/Botvinnik Variation(c4 c5 Nc3 Nf6 g3 d5 cxd5 Nxd5 Bg2 Nc7, a sort of Maroczy Bind Sicilian with colors reversed. If Black completes his development despite white square invasions or doubled isolated c pawns, he can look forward to good winning chances due to his spatial advantage.

The Ultra-Symmetricial Variation( c4 c5 Nc3 Nc6 g3 g6 Bg2 Bg7) uses the bad strategy of mimicing one`s moves to prevent each other`s d pawn breaks. These lines need patience and its rewards are sometimes paltry. However, people like Larsen and Andersson have shown even Black has no sure road to equality. Some columns in the MCO-13 I`m reading(this is why the blog is gigantic and saying lines which actually meant colums from the MCO-13 and maybe avoid plagiraismSurprised) are odds and ends. These not so typical first and second moves will mainly transpose to other variations or other openings, there are exceptions that one must watch for.

I`ve been using the MCO-13 pp. 626-669