I used to be a fan of the English, but some ultrasymmetrical variations bugged me, especially if a lower rated player decided to play for a draw against me with them. There seemed to be a lot to consider to get any sort of meaningful advantage, if Black really wanted to be annoying. No players ever did, but that's probably because they themselves were worried about slipping and losing a painfully boring game where they never really had a chance.
I played e3 after c4/Nc3/g3/Bg2, so obviously one solution is to play c4, Nf3 and d4...or an entirely different first move.
But I'm wondering, how would someone get around an opponent who deliberately tries to frustrate them with smart copycat moves? Are there a couple lines that give clear convincing edges? I can see how the pawn trades at d4/d5 create a structural imbalance, but I don't see when and where White has an edge.
Fritz evaluates the position as equal below.
[FEN ""] 1. c4 c5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. e3 e6 6. N1e2 N8e7 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 d5 9. cxd5 Nxd5
In this case, Black finesses the copycat by not playing ...d5 on move 7, which would be bad then, but it can't be stopped on move 8.
And now it doesn't seem like anything White does gets an edge. With Nxd5, Black's pawn is isolated, but Black can return the favor. If White moves the knight, Black has a nice diagonal, and White's QB is bad.
Also, even if a symmetrical position is achieved, as after 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. O-O Nxd4 12. exd4 O-O, what is a good plan to try to shake it up? I think something like Qa4 might work. But it just seems very drawish.
Usually it's White who can force the symmetrical pawn structure e.g. with the Slav or French exchange. But here Black forces it on White.
Is it what White "deserves" for not playing more in the center, and does waiting for ...d5 defuse things for Black, or am I missing possibilities e.g. a way to inject life into this by pushing d4/taking on d4 differently? Or is there a good concrete line with, say, Nf3, where Black can copycat me for only so long? In that case 1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 d5 looks bad for Black, as does 6. ...d5.