This section offers insights and tips to enhance your opening repertoire, guiding both seasoned players and newcomers through the captivating dynamics that shape the early stages of a chess match.
The English Opening is named after Howard Staunton who first played it in his match against De Saint Amant in 1843. 1.c4 did however not catch on with his contemporaries and it took until the 20th century, when players like Nimzovich, Reti, and Rubinstein drove forward its development. Every World Champion played the English Opening at some point in his career, with Botvinnik making a great contribution to shaping it into a modern weapon.
Strong players like Johannes Zuckertort regularly played the move 1.Nf3 in the 19th century. He would combine it with d4 – leading the game back to the various Queen’s Pawn Openings. In the 1920s, Richard Reti began to link 1.Nf3 to new ideas: attacking the center from the flank (mostly with c4), without an early commitment to d4 or e4. This was often combined with the Fianchetto of the king’s bishop or a double Fianchetto.
Systems with Nf3 and c4, form the base of this article. Many of these bear some close relation to the English Opening, with fluent transitions. Our goal is to show the most important directions and some core theoretical lines, to get a good overview of the varied types of positions they can lead to.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6
The basic point of the move 2...c6 is to solidly defend d5, while keeping the diagonal of the light-squared bishop open. There’s also another no less important idea connected to it: starting active counterplay on the queenside with ...dxc4 followed by ...b5. The character of the game can become ultra-sharp (e.g. the Botvinnik Variation) or quiet and positional (e.g. the 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 line). This makes the Slav attractive to players of various levels and playing styles. Both sides can select systems in accordance to their skill and liking.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
The Nimzo-Indian Defence is regarded as one of the best defences against 1.d4 – almost every World Champion played it at some point in his career. It’s based on sound principles: rapid development and control of the center. The Nimzo is popular with players of various styles. In contrast to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, where the pawn structure is to some extend ‘fixed’ by the move ...d5, Black keeps all kinds of schemes at his disposal. He may strike at the center with ...c5, ...d5, ...e5 (prepared by ...Nc6 or ...d6), or strive to control the central squares by the Fianchetto of his queen’s bishop (possibly followed by ...Ne4 and ...f5) – a rich choice!
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7
What characterizes the King’s Indian Defence? Black can use the following scheme of development not only against 1.d4, but also against 1.c4 and 1.Nf3.
✔ Black brings out the king’s knight in reply to 1.d4, and then opts for the Fianchetto of his dark-squared bishop.
✔ He plays ...d6 at an early stage.
✔ After castling kingside he attacks the opponent’s center by ...e5 or ...c5.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6
"The opening of the world championship matches" is one of the epithets given to the Queen’s Gambit Declined by World Champion Garry Kasparov. Indeed it has been tested in a number of matches for the chess crown. In Alekhine-Capablanca, Buenos Aires 1927, both contestants played it as White and Black, which resulted in no less than 31 games with the Queen’s Gambit Declined in a match of 34!
The Queen’s Gambit Declined enjoys lasting popularity with players of all levels. Its basic plans are straightforward and easy to understand (see "Basic Concepts...") and it has a sound and solid reputation. An aspect appealing to players of different styles lies in the opportunity to choose between solid lines, based primarily on positional understanding and sharp, complex, theoretical ones.