Sunday, December 03, 2006

Time to learn about the English...

I don't have any standard response to the Dreaded English. Sometimes I play symmetrically (1...c5), other times I play the center response (1...e5). After that I just try to trust my judgment.

Well, I did that last night and got demolished. I spent half the game on the first fifteen moves, and then ended up getting caught in a tricky attack from his queen as I started to rush my moves. My opening wasn't the problem, but chewed way too much time off the clock. It has been my experience that it is very helpful to have a skeleton of a repertoire in response to all the major openings. This saves me time, and lets me build up wisdom each time I see that opening in a real game.

So far, the Dreaded English hasn't come up very much. But now, alas, its time has come. After reading through the options in Sam Collins' wonderful book Understanding the Chess Openings, I've decided to go with 1...e5.

I am at the point now where I don't fear learning new opening theory, but kind of enjoy the process of looking for a response to something that dinged me. It's like going out on the dating scene, trying things out, and then settling on The One for me and living happily ever after.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had Fritz 9 ponder over 1.c4 for quite some time, and it's number one response is 1...e5 :-) Personally, i think it's Black's best response (vs English) as well. As a second choice i would go for 1...Nc6. Anyway, while were on the subject of trying to understand openings, and you bringing that book up, i've got another book recommendation for you. Mastering the Chess Openings: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Modern Chess Openings Volume 1. This is going to be a 2 volume set by IM John Watson, and it is supposed to be(come) very good. I will surely get them myself.

12/03/2006 11:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also recommend it because i think it is far more important to get a grasp of the ideas behind chess openings (at this point), then to learn lot's of theory (as in learning lines 20 moves deep). I mean, what is theory gonna do for you when you don't have a clue where you're going. Your theory will improve along the way when you're playing for the idea. But that's just my 2 cents (that is the phrase, right?).

12/03/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Edwin: I agree, which is one reason I like Collins' book so much. It is hard to find a book that is a good mixture of strategy advice and variations. They usually just give a variation dump.

12/03/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will quote Tim McGrew, from his column Gambit Cartel at

"Clearly, the right response is 1.c4 e5, on the principled ground that the Sicilian is a rotten opening and must be bad even with an extra tempo."

Tru dat!!!

12/04/2006 02:31:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If the sicilian is such a rotten opening, why do all the top players play it? :)

12/04/2006 02:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've played 1... Nf3 in response to everything but 1. e4 for years now. Because I haven't wanted to spend the time to memorize and really study the openings my approach to openings has been ...

As white I play 1. d4 based on this book

As black against 1.e4 I play the french defense as described in this book.

As black against anything other than 1.e4 I play 1... Nf6 to take e4 away from my opponent, and then attempt to apply all the opening principles to the game. Develop before attacking. Castle early. Try to hold or influence the center.

12/04/2006 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I wish all opening books were as good as Watson's book on the French. If I ever hit 1500 I'll add the French to my repertoire.

Incidentally, I decided to play the French Exchange as white until then. :) The GMs say it is playing for a draw, but at my level I have a very different experience. I like it because it tends to annoy the Frenchies as much as the French annoys me.

12/04/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Joshua Waitzkin had a way of playing against the french that is not known by that many french players and still has poison. While he doesn't discuss what is considered critical today, many french players will play into the exact lines that joshua waitzkin talks about. You can find out about this in chessmaster 10. The annotated games by joshua waitzkin in chessmaster 10 are excellent, and they're voice annotations. The quality is far higher than chessfm videos, the waitzkin games are more 'lessons' than annotated games.

12/04/2006 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the tip about waitzkin. i found this old game. wow.

about the sicilian being a "rotten opening", clearly this is tongue-in-cheek......

12/05/2006 01:22:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the tip on Josh's lecture. I'll check it out. I've considered that version of the French Exchange, and am also considering 4. Nf3.

There is nothing out there in book form for the French exchange from white's perspective that I have seen. Only a desultory book chapter or two.

12/05/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

If you are a fan of the Grand Prix Attack as White, the easiest option is the Grand Prix reversed. I've been meaning to write up something about it and likely will some time. But meanwhile, I'd recommend Raetsky and Chetverik's "English ...e5" (Everyman 2003) which offers good coverage of all the 1...e5 lines.

My favorite line goes 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.e3 d5! when Black recovers the pawn and/or gets a nice initiative, e.g.: 6.cxd5 Nb4 with ideas like Nd3+, Nbxd5, e4 and Nxd5 etc.

Against other lines, ...Bb4 or ...Bc5 as in the standard Grand Prix are played. You might look up analysis (all over the web) of the classic Saidy-Fischer game in this line with ...Bc5, though I think Fischer's play was obviously too ambitious. The Bb4 and Bxc3 idea is easier to grasp and completely parallel to the White lines.

12/05/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Michael: that sounds very cool. I'll check it out. Also, I ordered that book a few days ago and it is due soon!

12/05/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

Another good approach for Black is discussed by Jeremy Silman recently at his site.

12/09/2006 11:03:00 PM  

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