20 December 2011

Annotated Game #23: English Four Knights (4. e3 Be7)

This next game followed Annotated Game #22 and was the last round of the tournament.  My opponent was rated at the upper end of Class D and played the opening well, coming out of it with a space advantage, well-placed pieces and control of the center with a hanging pawns structure on the c/d files.  However, he apparently did not understand the requirements for subsequent dynamic play that the structure required, allowing me (despite some weak moves on my part) to eventually successfully target the pawns and then achieve a dominating position with a material plus.  Incredibly, at this point I dithered and allowed a draw, at the time being too passive and afraid of nonexistent threats on the kingside.  It is exactly this type of play (and attitude) that should be avoided on the path to chess mastery.


  1. Hey Chess admin,

    Nice annotations!

    I think the English is a hard opening to play because Black can go ahead and play many of his or her favorite defenses to 1. d4 as well.

    Instead of 26. f4 what do you think you should have played? What about 26. f3 with the idea of getting your knight over to the kingisde or even followed by e4? Or do you think something simpler would be best?

  2. Thanks for the comment. In general, I think the English isn't too hard for Black to meet if he/she plays an Indian-type defense, since a similar (if not identical) structure can then be used. QGD players can also reach similar structures, although through a different move-order than usual (requiring Nf6-e6-d5). In either case, there are sometimes positional subtleties that can render Black's typical plans ineffective or require a change, usually due to the absence of a pawn to target on d4.

    In looking at the game position after move 25, Black essentially has no real threats. The f2 pawn is adequately protected by K+Q, so that annoying knight checks on h3 and f3 don't amount to anything more. Black's h-pawn won't be able to crack White's king position either, even if the Black bishop sacrifices itself.

    My two main candidate moves would therefore be 26. h4, which after Nh3+ 27. Kf1 doesn't lead anywhere for Black, or simply 26. a3 followed by b4 and then a pawn roller (per the note to move 28) on the queenside. White's pieces dominate the queenside space and are ideally placed to support the majority pawn push.