An English opening is a flanking opening in which White’s c-pawn moves forward two squares instead of the d- or e-pawn suddenly. The English opening is highly transpositional, meaning that in many cases the game will end in the same position as other openings and move sequences. The English opening is best suited to intermediate and advanced players as it requires a deeper understanding of positional concepts.

A respectable opening, the English has been adopted by several elite players. Among them are former world champions GMs Mikhail Botvinnik, Garry Kasparov, and even the 1.e4-devotee Bobby Fischer.

In this article you will be able to learn more about the chess openings in a new light.


Starting Position

When White begins the game with the move 1.c4, it is known as the English Opening. White uses a flank pawn to control the center rather than moving their d and e-pawns.

White’s opening move helps both sides to play more creatively with the center pawns. The major focus of the game is to see who can take control of the center of the board.

White will usually play a Sicilian-style setup with the colors reversed, or the game will switch to a queen’s-pawn opening. Another argument for White’s move is that it avoids or restricts Black’s answers to certain defenses against 1.d4 openings.


  • With a wing pawn, fights for the center.
  • It’s possible that this will result in queenside pressure.
  • Many Black players are pushed out of their comfort zones.



  • Development is taking longer.
  • There are fewer direct attacking opportunities.
  • Allows Black to e5 with a good pawn.

Main Variations Of The English Opening

The English, as previously said, is a highly transpositional opening. As a result, it has a limited number of independent variations. That does not, however, imply that it is light in theory. White must know what they’re doing to use this opening well because of its positional nature and the numerous transpositions that can occur. The primary variations in the English Opening are shown here.


Reversed Sicilian

After Black makes the move…e5, either after 1.c4 e5 or after postponing the e-pawn thrust for a few moves, reversed Sicilian games begin. White will play a Sicilian-style setup with an added pace, as the name suggests.


Four Knights’ Variation

After the moves 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nf6, the Four Knights Variation occurs. The setup of Black is adaptable and enables for counterattacks. They will frequently exchange their dark-squared bishop for White’s c3-knight or play down a tempo versus White’s Sicilian Dragon setup.


Bremen System

After 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3, the Bremen System appears. White tries to increase their influence over the central light-squares by hastening the development of their light-squared bishop. They can also employ this variation to limit Black’s options and then apply it to other Four Knights’ lines.


Botvinnik System

When playing the English, White can use the Botvinnik System as a developing setup. This development scheme, as a whole, works against a variety of opening plays that Black might make.

Building a pawn triangle on the c4, d3, and e4 squares, controlling the d5 square, and tying up Black’s pieces is the basic setup. White also castles kingside, places a knight on c3, fianchettoes a bishop on g2, and places a knight on c3. In this method, move order isn’t as critical as getting White to the final setup.

  1. c4 f62. c3 g63. e4 g74. g3 O-O5. g2 c56. ge2 c67. d3 d68. O-O5. c4 f62. c3 g63. e4 g74. g3 O-O5.

The Botvinnik System is simple to understand, but it still has a bite to it. White can go for a kingside mating attack, or play in the center with a powerful knight on d5, or even go for a queenside mating attack. Black, on the other hand, can win a game if they can take advantage of the gaps created by White’s pawn play, particularly in the d4-square.


Closed Variation

When Black plays as White would play a Closed Sicilian, the Closed Variation begins with the moves 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6. White normally has the upper hand on the queenside, while Black has the upper hand on the kingside. The way players develop their kingside knight has a big impact on the rest of the game.


Symmetrical English

The Symmetrical English is a term used to describe a group of openings that appear following 1.c4 c5. From then, the game can move into a variety of Sicilian Defense or other opening variations.


Symmetrical Four Knights’

The Symmetrical Four Knights’ Variation begins with 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6. In this variant, one of the players normally moves their d-pawn two squares forward, while the players compete for possession of the middle squares.


Ultra-Symmetrical Line

The moves begin the Ultra-Symmetrical line. c4 c5 c4 c5 c4 c5 Nc3 Nc6 2.Nc3 Nc6 g3 g6 g3 g6 g3 g6 4.Begin with a bg2 and end with a bg7. To prevent their opponents from pressing the d-pawn, both players fianchetto their kingside bishops. This version frequently results in games that are slow and maneuvering.

  1. c4 c52. c3 c63. g3 g64. g2 g7. c4 c52. c3 c63. g3 g64.


Hedgehog Defense

Black’s Hedgehog Defense is a good approach to deal with the English. It begins with the moves 1.c4 c5. Nf3 Nf6 2.Nf3 Nf6 c3 e6 c3 e6 c3 e6 c3 g3 b6 g3 b6 g3 b6 Bb7 5.Bg2 6.O-O Be7, in which Black accepts a restricted position in order to counterattack at the appropriate time. In most cases, Black trades their c-pawn for White’s d-pawn, sets up a queen and rook on the semi-open c-file, and develops their pieces behind their pawns. Black’s strategy relies around maximizing the dynamic potential of their pieces.

  1. c4 c52. f3 f63. c3 e64. g3 b65. g2 b76. O-O e7. c4 c52. f3 f63. c3 e64. g3 b65. g2 b76.


History Of The English Opening

The English Opening is named after the legendary English master Howard Staunton. In their unofficial world championship match, Staunton played 1.c4 six times against Pierre de Saint Amant. However, it wasn’t until Botvinnik used it in the 1930s that the opening became popular.

After elite players began to use it on a regular basis in the 1960s and 1980s, the English reached its pinnacle. GMs Tigran Petrosian, Jan Timman, and Garry Kasparov were among the early users. Even Fischer, who nearly usually preferred the 1.e4 opening, used the English to beat GM Boris Spassky in a world championship match.


The English language’s popularity has dipped marginally since the 1990s. However, the opening is still used often and is part of the opening repertoire of many world-class players.