Understanding The English 1.c4 e5 - A20 - A29

Many players have brought along through history their contributions to the development of the theory on the English. Grand Masters like Uhlmann or Suba have played almost exclusively 1.c4 throughout practically all their chess carrier. Others, like Botvinnik, Petrosian, Karpov, Kortschnoj or Portisch, have used it as a reliable complement to 1.d4, depending on the opponent's style.

The English is rich enough to provide study material for a whole life time. For players who don't like the "Open Variations" like 1.e4, 1.c4 is the ideal solution to avoid such popular openings like the Queen's Gambit, the Grunfeld, the Nimzo Indian, the Benoni and the Slav. This is very impressive isn't it? Maintaining the half-closed character of the position and keeping the option to transpose to the Queen's Gambit Declined and the King's Indian. In many respects, 1.c4, might seem just the perfect move to start the game if it wouldn't be for Black's possibility to play 1e5. This is exactly the subject of this page.

From the point of view of the Chess Informant classification system. A29 is obviously the ultimate main variation of the 1.c4 c5 English. In many other openings, during the few decades that have past from the establishing of this system of classification, some major changes have occurred and therefore, some initially neglected variations have become topical. Fashion didn't effect that much the A29 complex, which is still the converging point of theory. Let's have a brief look at the moves that lead there: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6. As if strictly following Lasker's recommendations both sides have taken control of the center and then developed the Knights before the Bishops. Note that the classical principles are still valid here of Knights before Bishops. With the next move, 4.g3, White prepares the development of his King's Bishop.

Generally, the English Opening is associated with the image of a white Bishop on g2, putting the pressure on the diagonal that became critical after defining the structure in the center. Because of its capital importance, we should pay more attention to the A29 and examine it in more depth than the rest of the variations.

Black has a wide range of continuations at his disposal: 4Nd4, 4g6, 4Bc5, 4Bb4 and 4d5. We can now look at them one by one in the order of their increasing popularity.

The English A29 begins as: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6. 4.g3
1) 4...d5
2) 4...Nd4
3) 4...Bc5
4) 4...Bb4 5.Nd5
5) 4...Bb4 5.Bg2
6) 4...g6

Similarly to the Sicilian Defense, where Black has different sysems of development at his disposal, it is no wonder that, besides 4.g3, White can also play other moves aiming to get positions typical for the Paulsen, the Scheveningen, or anything else, where, hopefully, the extra tempo will get him chances for an advantage, just as in the reversed Sicilian Dragon.
1) 4.a3
2) 4.d3
3) 4.d4
4) 4.e3