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I've been starting to play this opening a bit, but I am always unsure how to respond to an early d5 puch by black.
Are any of the previous moves I'm making wrong, or am I just missing something here?
My first two games on chess.com went exactly like this and I lost each early.
Why not continue Bg2. If dxc4, play Qa4+ to pick the pawn back up. If d4, play Ne4 with it protected by the Bishop.
My worries after those two lines were that after dxc4, my queen would be activated too early and coule be harassed. After 4... d4 5. Ne4 Bf5 black to me appears to be better developed and enjoys more space.
Play cxd4, and then respond to Nxd4 with Bg2, gaining time.
If Nxc3, then the exchange seems to benefit black. Either bxc3 which leaves my a pawn isolated or dxc3 which leads to an exchange of queens and myself unable to castle.
Change your opening move order:
And now you don't have to worry about it, as 3. ...d4 can be replied with cxd4, giving you two central pawns. Next, you can develop your knight--an opponent who trades loses quite a bit of tempo, and gives you a strong pawn center.
Won't the isolated a pawn be a problem down the road though?
Not any more than it usually is. If it's attacked, d3 or b3 solves the problem, situation depending. You'll bring your knight out to c3 pretty soon anyhow, so it shouldn't change much in the opening on your end. I played the English at one point, and remember reading a book that suggested that move order to prevent any early troubles with your c3 knight (such as possibly annoying Bb4 pins and whatnot).
There is nothing wrong with the move order even, the result will still be cxd, Bg2 and Nc3. Now, not every isolated pawn is weak. This is an a-pawn on the second rank and on a closed file! White gets the halfopen b-file and a strong centre. The normal move is actually 5...Nb6 You can see it's really a reversed dragon... If you know the Sicilian, then you probably know Nd4xc6 is not a move that gives black the worst problems!
Ill try it out and see how it goes. Wish me luck!
Well, this is the most cooperative Black approach, even though it has some merit.
I prefer treating this with 2 ...Nc6 and 3 ...g6. It is very difficult for White to get much against that.
It's a good solid system for black, as people mentioned a reverse sicilian dragon. As black a tempo down, will usually play in classical style with nb6 and be7, 0.0 etc. Although Korchnoi liked throwing in an early g5. A good old book that recommended it for black was "Beating the Flank Openings". Marin and Kosten's "Dynamic English" has plenty on it for white.
If you don't like the Reversed Dragon (a very popular system in GM chess) with 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 or 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 then you could always choose the move order favoured by Vladimir Kramnik: 1. Nf3 and then 2. c4. Of course, that means playing d-pawn openings too after 1. Nf3 d5 if the Reti 2. c4 d4 is not your cup of tea.
There's nothing wrong with going into the Reversed Dragon (or other 1.c4 e5) variations of the English.
I'll add another title to the books already mentioned: "English ...e5" by Raetsky and Chetverik (Everyman 2003), which is quite a useful book despite its age.
Is the English generally considered a good opening move?
I ask wondering if I should commit a lot of time playing it, or just to have it as something to throw in to my games every once and a while.
Perfectly good Botvinnik and Kasparov played it in world championship matches, amongst others.