Just because you may have been raised on 1.e4 (or 1.P-K4), it doesn’t mean that other openings must remain forever foreign to you.
Rather than offer a detailed repertoire based around 1.c4, Steve Giddins aims instead to explain the most important positional and strategic ideas underpinning the English Opening: the key one being to pressurize the central light squares, in particular d5. And in this respect he succeeds admirably.
Like other books in the Move by Move series, this one uses a Question and Answer format. The register of the prose is more conversational than usual, I’d say, in keeping with the author’s style. Yet even so, it’s a concentrated conversation: the discussion is always pertinent and to the point. You learn a lot.
All the main variations are covered in a mere five chapters and, although not a necessary component of Giddins’ remit, there’s plenty of detailed and up-to-date theory, notably in chapter 3, whose topic is the Mikenas System (1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4). There are 26 illustrative games in total, with a fair few more in the notes.
At the end, in a final sixth chapter, Giddins gives some advice about constructing an English Opening repertoire. Here, it is undoubtedly useful to be familiar with some 1.d4 lines, to use 1.c4 in part as a transpositional tool: purely English lines are not especially effective against e.g. a King’s Indian set-up. Quite a dilemma apparently arises after 1.c4 e5 (or 1…Nf6): should White play 2.Nc3 or 2.g3? Giddins explores this question in some (some might say unhealthy) detail, without coming to any definite conclusion. OK, it’s not a moral dilemma along the lines discussed by Julian Nida-Rumelin at a recent Wittgenstein conference, but it is important if you intend to take up 1.c4.
Those for whom English is not their native tongue will find in Giddins’ book an accessible and indeed quite excellent introduction to the opening. It is an ESOL primer par excellence, and will set you on the road to fluency in no time at all.
The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.
By Steve Giddins
Everyman Chess, 2012