English and other Flank Openings
Welcome to the 'other openings' site!
After 1 d4, and 1 e4, I suppose that the next two most logical moves are 1 c4, and then 1 Nf3. Not surprisingly these are also the next two most popular moves. Therefore, this site deals mostly with the English (which is my personal favourite opening), and then devotes quite a bit of room to the Réti. However, I also handle all the other funny opening lines, some of which are reasonably popular, some not at all- well, someone had to have them!
The English Opening
So named because of the (unofficial) English World Champion, Howard Staunton (1810-1874) who played it a lot, but it only really caught on, and became 'mainstream' with the advent of the Hypermodern School. White establishes a grip on d5 with his first move, which he will attempt to increase with his subsequent moves, Nc3, g3, and Bg2. This brings us on to an important strategical element, the pressure from this white bishop on g2 along the h1-a8 diagonal, all the way to b7, and beyond.
Play can often transpose into queen's pawn main lines, whenever White plays an early d4, but these are covered in other sections, and here I will completely ignore anything that has lost its real 'English' identity.
As in the Réti, play can become closed, should both sides refuse a central clash, but also very open, should White continue with an early d4, for instance. Thus, the opening appeals to all types of player, from those who prefer calm positional manoeuvres, and those in between, to sharp, tactical hackers (like myself!)
English specialists come in two flavours, those who play the opening from time-to-time, and use it mainly to reach favourable 1 d4 openings, whilst avoiding certain defences (1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 g6 3 e4 is a case in point, forcing a Grünfeld player to play the King's Indian after the further 3...d6 4 d4), and those who live to play the English. Into the former category come:
Kasparov, who plays everything exceedingly well, of course, but normally prefers 1 d4, or 1 e4.
Kramnik, who normally starts with 1 Nf3, and plays c4 on his second move. Despite the fact that his tactical vision is second to none, plays in a solid, positional style.
Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Salov, Karpov, in fact almost all the world elite, going back in time to Tal, Petrosian, Botvinnik, etc.
In the latter category come the 'anglophiles', they speak English as a native language, and amongst these players are, at present:
Yasser Seirawan (a wing player 'par excellence'), the late, and sorely missed Tony Miles, Chernin (who plays in the most unpretentious manner, and yet can gain crushing positions in only a few moves) Mikhail Gurevich, Korchnoi, the tactician Krasenkow, Serper (one of my personal favourites, a man with a different sense of values to the rest of us), Kevin Spraggett (I am always 'borrowing' his ideas) and many others besides.
The Réti Opening
Named after Richard Réti (1889-1929), this opening was born out of his ideas, and that of the hypermodern school. White avoids immediate pawn occupation of the centre, preferring to control it from afar with his pieces. Traditionally, this can lead to slow, manoeuvering games, where both sides develop their pieces and wait for the right moment to strike in the centre, or it can lead to positions where Black attempts to construct a centre, and White to attack, and destroy it. Often this can resemble reversed versions of various black defences, with the advantage that White has an important extra tempo, of course.
It is a very flexible move, and nowadays many players use 1 Nf3 as a means of obtaining other openings, whilst avoiding various dangerous possibilities. For instance, after 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4, White reaches an English Opening, but having avoided 1...e5. Players who come into this category are Kramnik, Krashenkov, Speelman, and many others.
'Thoroughbred' Réti players are those who play the opening as it was originally intended, attempting to develop their pieces without touching their e, and d-pawns, with bishops on b2, and g2. They attempt to snipe away at any black pawn centre and will keep their central pawn thrusts in reserve for as long as possible. This is a very un-theoretical approach, indeed, apart from a few ideas you don't really need to know any theory at all. Players who come into this group include Akopian, Salov, Ribli, and Vaganian.
Other 'Flank' Openings
This is a very loose term for a group of openings that vary considerably, one from the other. I tend to think of them as containing two completely different sets of openings.
Firstly, there are the 'transpositional' openings, and this includes 1 g3, and 1 d3, where White sometimes transposes into an English, or Réti, often plays reversed Pirc, King's Indian, or Modern Defence positions, and also 1 Nc3 (Dunst). These openings are rarely played to reach original positions, but to take the opponent out of his theoretical knowledge. Transpositional tricks abound, perfect for the unwary opponent to fall into. Many players have used these moves on an occasional basis, but few players stick to them.
Secondly, there are the really distinctive openings, those openings that produce a thoroughly original position after just a couple of moves. These are further split into two groups, the reasonably respectable ones: 1 b3 (Larsen's Opening) where White plays for the control of the a1-h8 diagonal, 1 f4 (Bird's Opening) a sort of reversed Dutch Defence, where White tries to control e5, and mount a kingside attack. Then there are 1 b4 (The Orang-utan), and 1 g4 (Grob's Opening) which verge on the unsound.
Apart from 1 b3, only really original players are tempted into these waters, most players manage to spend their entire lives quite happily without ever having to worry about them. Still, you never know when someone will try something unusual against you, and so it pays to know a good defence against each!