Review: The English Opening Volume 2, By Simon Williams

By Davide Nastasio

In this second DVD, GM Williams shows how to fight the Symmetrical English and the King’s Indian setups, as well as the Grunfeld.

The Symmetrical English (1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7) with 5 a3!?  This line is covered with 10 videos.




One of the games Williams uses as an example in this section is from the famous author Tony Kosten, who a few years ago wrote the book “The Dynamic English” on this opening.




GM Williams says he read this book when he was young (the book was printed in 1999) and used some the ideas in it for this DVD. The following game is a nice miniature which proves the power of the English:



The Symmetrical English: Black tries to deviate with d5; this is covered with 2 games.




Playing against the Kings Indian Defence: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 g6 3 g3 Bg7.  This is covered with 4 games.




Playing against the Grunfeld: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5, covered with 2 games.




A different type of Slav: 1 c4 c6 2 Nc3 d5 3 e3!?  This is covered with 3 games.




The last two games cover how to play against the English defence and the Dutch.

In the end there are 11 videos of exercises in which Williams drills us on how well we understand the videos and what we should play in different scenarios. This second volume comes with a database of extra games to study: 55 in total. The two volumes have more than 160 games one can study over and over to acquire a grasp of this repertoire. The players of these games are the top of this era, with the exception of one classic.

After the review of these delightful DVDs, I would like to add my opinion as a player. GM Williams should seriously entertain the idea of becoming a chess comedian. In one video he showed a line where White would gain one pawn! With a joking tone of voice he said something to the effect that one couldn’t ask more from a DVD of a GM giving a line where he wins a pawn.

Now, for us amateurs a pawn doesn’t seem like much, but reading here and there I remember that in Giddins’ last book on Bronstein (Bronstein’s “Move by Move”) it shows a line given by Bronstein to an amateur. At the end, the advantage was to give up a pawn for getting control of the dark squares. Such control would lead to a win, for those who are at that level of understanding. So when a GM like Williams gives us a line in which I win a pawn, I do pay attention and I do believe the price of the DVD is entirely worth it.

Obviously, I tried to play as many correspondence games as possible with the English, as taught by GM Williams. My opponents, however, being club players often went out of theory quickly. My idea is that maybe GM Williams should do a Volume 3 with all the lines we commonly find against Club players, and give us directions on how to play them. For example after: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d6.  Already here we don’t have an example to follow in volume 1, but GM Williams correctly has drilled into my brain:  4.d4.




The choice could have been also 4.g3, because in Megabase 2015 there are 876 games played with d4, and 635 played with g3, with many big names like Karpov, Grischuk, Lautier, etc.

After 4…exd4 5.Nxd4 there are more than 200 games with 5…Be7 showing it is not a minor choice (in the past, all major names have played it, like Alekhine, Reti, Tartakower, while in the present Karpov’s name comes out quite a lot).  Many GMs have played it in tournament.  This is the reason GM Williams should definitely do a volume 3 to cover more main “sidelines.”




Another line which was played was the following: 1.c4,e5; 2.Nc3,Bc5; clearly the Black player understood that I want to take control of d4, and he goes to reinforce it right away. Also this strange 2nd move has been played more than 400 times.




On the other hand, this opening asks for the player to take responsibility, study, and remember–which is not my forte.  In one bullet game I had the following: 1.c4,Nf6; 2.Nc3,g6; 3.Nf3,Bg7; 4.d4,d6.





Instead, GM Williams recommends a totally different approach: 1. c4,Nf6; 2.g3,g6; 3.Bg2,Bg7; 4.Nc3,0-0; 5.d3,d6; in this last case it was totally my fault that I didn’t follow GM Williams recommendations.




Nevertheless, this is also the reason I practice online with different time controls to see what I remember and what I don’t. After the games, I quickly go over them and compare with the lines given in the DVDs.

With the regard to the tournament games I had, it is not clear what to do if Black goes at all costs for the Nimzo-Indian. This is a line found in the first DVD: 1.c4,Nf6; 2.Nc3,e6. Here Williams says Black is trying to enter a Nimzo-Indian, and we avoid it with 3.e4.




But now the question is why can’t Black continue with 3…Bb4 if what he wants is a Nimzo-Indian? I’m not saying Williams is wrong, because in the DVD he analyzes the most common moves, which are 3…d5, and 3…c5.  Both of them, however, are not what one has in mind if the goal is playing the Nimzo-Indian, with the exchange of the dark squares bishop for the Nc3.




Obviously GM Williams says that the dark-square bishop is the good one for Black, and a player shouldn’t exchange it. But likely most club players don’t have such a sophisticated understanding of the game, and most White players will also not be able to exploit such a positional mistake.

In conclusion, I found both the DVDs to be an excellent English Opening repertoire. It took me less than a month to master most of the lines, and I was able to use them in some tournaments. I also felt the honesty of GM Williams as a teacher who really wants the student to do well, and he is giving all the information he can. I believe I will also look into his work on the King’s Gambit, because I like the way he teaches, and I learned a lot of questions to ask myself in my future tournament games.



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