10

Here are my understandings of the English opening:

  1. The English opening is as good as 1.d4.
  2. Since it is less common than 1.e4 and 1.d4; it is more likely that an average amateur player is less familar with it and thus it is easier for white to play against an amateur player using the English opening.
  3. There are less lines than say 1. e4. When white plays 1. e4, he needs to be familiar with 1. ... e5, the Sicilian Defense, the Scandinavian Defense, the Caro-Kann Defense, the French Defense etc. On the other hand, when white plays the English, he almost always knows where each piece goes to, regardless of how black replies (except for some rare and dubious lines, such as 1. ... d5). For example, after the 8th move, the following two formations for white are natural and common:

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  1. It is lessly that white will fall into a surprising trap.

Do these factors make the English opening ideal for beginners?

  • 1
    There are other explanations for why c4 may score as well as d4. For one thing, it is played less so one's opponents are likely to be less prepared for it. – Qudit May 13 at 6:54
  • 3
    You need to make clear, "suitable" in which sense? Winning? It seems like you are arguing along those lines. On the other hand, openings such as the Italian are often said to be ideal for beginners who want to improve, because open games tend to be more tactical and tactical practice is what beginners need the most. Also keep in mind that beginner's games are not decided due to opening or strategic advantage but due to blunders on both sides (e.g., hanging pieces). – itub May 13 at 11:03
  • Beginners need no opening theory at all! – David May 13 at 11:27
  • @itub, I mean winning chance. If one beginner is playing against another beginner, my question is basically "does playing English make it easier for him to win?" – Zuriel May 14 at 14:22
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Do these factors make the English opening ideal for beginners?

No. As a beginner it is OK to study the English along with other openings but what you seem to be suggesting, that it be the only white opening a beginner learns, is very bad.

By definition a beginner doesn't know very much about chess and to progress needs to learn much. In openings the standard approach, therefore, is to learn the classics: Ruy Lopez, Italian, Kings Gambit, 4 Knights, Scotch, Sicilian, French, Caro Kann.

You notice these are all e4 openings and the list starts with the reply e5 by black before moving on to other replies. A beginner needs to start by learning about control of the centre in the most direct way. He needs to learn about the importance of development and then tactics.

Some chess teachers would start by teaching the Kings Gambit for this reason. Chess needs to be fun and tactics are fun and most games end because of some missed tactic by the opponent. If you only ever learn how to play calm positions then you will lose all your games where your opponent manages to make the game tactical.

You also seem to suggest a formulaic way of playing the opening. Play more or less the same moves in the English and you will end up in one of two tabiyas which you give. This is also very wrong. One of the key skills a beginner needs to develop is to always consider the ideas and aims of his opponent's moves. Just playing automatic moves will lead to many quick defeats.

There are many ways for black to respond and they give rise to different problems for white which can't be addressed by just playing more or less the same moves. The opening theorist IM John Watson actually wrote 4 separate books on the English because of this. He wrote one book each for black's responses: 1 ... e5, 1 ... c5, 1 ... Nf6 and a catch-all "other replies".

So, no, the English is close to being the least suitable opening for beginners. Better than the Grob, obviously, also better than Bird's, but a long way behind 1. d4 and even further behind 1. e4 openings.

  • @DavidRicherby I guess you read only the first 15 words of that sentence. This is how the sentence ends: " before moving on to other replies". The first 6 start with the reply "e5". The next 3 move on to other replies. – Brian Towers May 13 at 17:51
  • Oh, sorry. I misread what you wrote, as saying that these are e4 openings where Black starts with ...e5 before doing other things, rather than a list of e4 openings that starts with ...e5 openings and then continues with other ones. – David Richerby May 13 at 17:59
6

In the competitive sense of surprising your opponent it does have its advantages for beginners. However, a few things:

1) A surprise in the English isn't as valuable as a surprise in one of the 1.e4 openings. The reason is that the English is quieter and it's harder for White to tactically profit off of small mistakes on Black's part.

2) The English structure may be non-intuitive for a beginner at first, so could require more work to learn.

Also, it's important to consider how playing the English will affect the beginner's chess progress in the long-term. If the beginning instead played 1.e4 he would become acquainted with a wealth of common openings integral of chess. This would benefit his foundation, as well as be helpful when playing as Black against 1.e4 (which is more common than the English).

2

The English opening is pretty bad as a choice for beginners.

For one, the things beginners need to learn (center, development, king safety) are less important in a positional opening like this and it will lead to lagging weaknesses that you don't understand.

For another the English is extremely complex both because of transpositions and positional understanding. I think all of that time could be spent on getting better.

Lastly, you need to learn to play actively to improve. Beginners tend towards defensive openings but that's the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

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