Chess Book Reviews 28
How to Play the English Opening
By GM Karpov
‘When you want to avoid long theoretical variations and rely more on understanding you won’t come up with anything better than the English Opening…this is not a standard opening manual or reference book, which is obliged to contain all systems. It has a different format: it represents a collection of 30 interesting, important and systematically arranged games, many of which have a place in the development of the theory of the opening.’
I have to admit that I found Karpov’s recent books on the Caro-Kann to be rather turgid and somewhat dated, with not enough in the way of ‘verbal’ explanations. I was therefore pleased to see that his latest book for Batsford is more in the style of his older series, ‘The Game in Action’, which used well-annotated top level games rather than virtually language-less database dumps. Indeed, the lion’s share of the games feature the 12th World Champion himself so it is especially useful to gain such a first-hand insight into the strategic ideas and plans adopted.
The first 15 games concentrate on 1 c4 e5, with heavy emphasis on the Four Knight’s Variation. The very first game puts one of Karpov’s most famous moves under the spotlight…
Kasparov - Karpov
World Championship 1987
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 e4 7.Ng5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Re8 9.f3 e3!?
Karpov eventually won the game but not the match. Many other games and fragments punctuate and enhance the narrative, clearly showing the historical development of a
number of key variations.
Various systems, including the Hedgehog, are covered in the latter half of the book. Here, the games of the current World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik, are well to the fore including a famous victory against Karpov himself!
Although the theory of the English is less clearly defined than mainline 1 d4/1e4 openings, there is still a lot to get through and several variations are not considered here, possibly because Karpov has never had much to do with them in his own games. For example, there is nothing on lines featuring an e5/f5 set-up by Black, even though they are quite popular at club level meaning that anyone learning the English from this book alone is in for a few painful surprises.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of sound advice and wisdom to be founding the 191 pages, not to mention a bit of rare Karpovian humour. For example, when describing the position after:
1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2
he says, ‘Recently White has avoided 4 a3 Bxc3 5 bc, not wanting to spoil his pawn haircut’!
All in all, this is a good read with some terrific illustrative games. It’s not suitable Used in conjunction with a more general English book this one should increase the reader’s understanding of this tricky opening.
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