The English Opening: A Repertoire- Introduction

My name is Alan Llewellyn and I have played chess since the age of 5 when my father bought me a small travel set and taught me the moves. I have been on the chess seen for many years first of all in local junior events, then at a rather later stage, when 18 years old, at a chess club (ie in 1989). I quickly reached the club level but have rather stagnated in recent years in terms of results although in terms of quality of my play I am playing, still, the best chess of my life.

I have entered a few top national tournaments, including the Isle of Man Masters in 2014 and the London Classic Super Rapidplay 2014, while I have a rating of 1533 on the current list I have beaten a number of Grandmasters online (including European Senior Champion GM Keith Arkell) and have beaten a past World Blitz Champion (IM Yaacov Norowitz) in a blitz game also online.

I first started playing the English Opening in 1991, I learnt it from the book 'Winning with 1 c4:A complete opening system' by Andrew Soltis(1990). In this Andrew decides that the way to play the English Opening as White is to follow the Four Knight Variation (1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 and only then play 4 g3 to fianchetto the Light squared Bishop). This followed the thinking of the time behind the World Championship Match in 1987 which saw three, English Four Knights, openings played by Garry Kasparov as White and Anatoly Karpov as Black.

Another book I looked at originally was 'Batsford Chess Openings 2' by Garry Kasparov and Raymond Keene(1989) which is an encyclopedia of openings and had the latest trends. Originally I thought this was gospel and any move which was not included in this book must be bad, I know that sounds rather stupid now to me but you must remember I am a physicist by trade thus I think anything published is akin to the Bible. I followed the lines with the Four Knights for many years only changing them to the Botvinnik System (with pawns at c4 d3 and e4 and g3 having been played), The Anti-Closed Opening and Anti-Kings Indian System (with pawns at c4 d3 e4 and f4 with no g3 in both the latter), this change happened in 2007 and was developmental (ie occurred in steps).

I learnt from playing a Barrow Chess Club member Trevor Blower a multitude of times, who is a regular Dutch player, how to play against the Dutch Defence, and developed a system similar to the one against the Kings Indian Defence (namely with pawns on c4 d3 e4 and f4 again with no g3) this is called The Anti-Dutch in this publication.

After buying the book 'The Dynamic English' by Tony Kosten(2006) I flirted with the idea of playing an early g3 like he suggested but after developing the strategy of if Black can play Bc5 then not playing the f4 or d3 moves I discovered I could get good results, incidentally a line I don't mention in this book is a transposition into a French Defence, Advance Variation which goes something like (1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 e4 d5 4 e5 Nfd7 5 d4 when c5 is looming for Black to ruin the d4 e5 setup of Whites pawns). It is also possible to get a Grunfeld Defence against my English Opening repertoire but that is rare. Yet another opening I haven't mentioned is The Queens Indian Defence, this is much more common but not at over the board level where it is rare against my setup-(there I play 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 e4 as mentioned later in the introduction, but after 3...b6 4 d3 Bb7 5 f4! you get a very double edged position-note it is good to play g3 and get the light squared Bishop to g2 for White in those lines to dent the killer Bishop on b7, otherwise the b7 Bishop of Black can be strong against the weakened King position). What I HAVE included is a system I developed to avoid an opening I play as Black which is The Queens Gambit Accepted, in my Anti-Queens Gambit Accepted Opening, I play (1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 d5 3 e3!!) this avoids the unhealthily aggressive lines of this opening involving 3...dxc4, which are bad for the heart.

I play an Anti-Slav System which is similar to the Anti-QGA line with 1...c6 instead of 1...e6. Note in both of these to avoid a lack of winning opportunities because e3 has blocked the dark squared Bishop in, I play a later Ne5 in the opening, and follow it up with a pawn formation (f4 e3 d4), this is rather solid but doesn't often succeed against strong opponents in getting the full point. It can also backfire sometimes rather drastically as the f4 pawn move provides attacking counter chances against a weakened e3 pawn with a Black Bishop getting on the square c5 or b6 and causing worries on the short castled King.

Yet another line which I hinted at is the Anti-Nimzo Indian Opening, which is also known as The Mikenas-Flohr Variation of the English Opening, I call it the Anti-Nimzo-Indian because most people playing 1...e6 and 2...Nf6 assume you will play an early d4 and they can then play 3...Bb4 with a transposition into the Nimzo-Indian Defence , but with the move order (1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 e4!! a move such as 3...Bb4 no longer pins the Knight on c3 and even allows the good move 4 e5 by White when White holds all the aces).