A lifetime love for the English

by Davide Nastasio
4/24/2019 – For a player who wants to learn a wide range of different middlegame positions, the English should definitely be high on the list. Flexibility in move orders can mean the difference between quiet or aggressive play. Reviewer DAVIDE NASTASIO takes a deep dive into the new FritzTrainer by GM Mihal Marin, who previously authored one of the biggest literary works on the English opening and has now brought his experience to the video format in a new, updated repertoire. Glimpse his deep knowledge, acquired through years of practice, in order to gain confidence in this new opening weapon suitable in every type of setting, from long time control tournaments to online blitz.

Marin's English Love Vol.1 and 2 - A complete repertoire for White after 1.c4 Marin's English Love Vol.1 and 2 - A complete repertoire for White after 1.c4

The aim of these Dvd's is to build a repertoire after 1.c4 and 2.g3 for White. The first DVD includes the systems 1...e5, the Dutch and Indian setups. The second DVD includes the systems with 1...c5, 1...c6 and 1...e6.

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Marin's English Love, Volume 1 — a review

While the entire video series on the English by Grandmaster Mihail Marin is made up of two volumes, I decided to review them separately. This series is quite important, as a follow-up to Marin's instant classic reference work from 2009-10 — a trilogy of books on the English. These books were essential reading for anyone aspiring to master the opening. But opening theory never stands still, and thanks to tireless research the theory improved a lot for both sides over the past ten years.

Marin doesn't regurgitate old material from the books, but generally offers new alternative lines, underscoring that the English is a very rich landscape. When, in a few cases he recommends one of the lines from those books, he has re-analysed and refreshed the advice.

Marin mentions in the beginning this repertoire is based on 1.c4 followed by 2.g3. Obviously the move 2.g3 has the advantage to avoid the lines where Black plays ♝b4, such as after: 1.c4 e5 2.c3 b4

 

Also, ♝b4 can appear by transposition in different move orders like: 1.c4 e5 2.c3 f6 3.f3 c6 4.e3 b4

 

So what is the disadvantage of 2.g3? White is giving Black the chance to expand in the centre right away, because there is not a knight on C3 to try to take control of D5.

Let's start the review proper. Marin, in the introductory video shows some of the lines he treats in Volume 1 and Volume 2, but here we focus only on the first volume. For example the closed system with g6, which we have after 1.c4 e5 2. g3 c6 3.g2 g6 4.c3 g7 5.e3

 

At this point Marin observes this line can happen with or without the knight on C6, and also with the pawn either on F5 or still on F7 — and this is a big divergence from the books a decade ago.

There is clearly a different interpretation of the English for this video series. For example after the moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 f6 3.g2 c6, then 4.f3 is the move he prefers for this FritzTrainer, instead of 4.d4 that he recommended in the book.

 

One of the points I was curious about was how he would treat the King's Indian Defence (KID) which is an opening used quite often at every level. Marin says he wrote some articles, using a special system for White, published in ChessBase Magazine, with the moves: 1.c4 f6 2.g3 g6 3.b3 g7 4.b2 These articles are included in this FritzTrainer, so one can study them from on screen or print them out.

 

Marin also mentions it is a little more complicated if Black uses 1.c4 g6 as there are possible transpositions which could steer White enter into other main 1.d4 openings. It is a kind of endless fight where we try to bring our opponents into pawn structures we know how to play, and they obviously do the same — trying to bring us into unknown territory.

 

The English, as taught by Marin is easy to memorize too. For example when dealing with the Dutch Leningrad he says one can use the same system used against the closed system with g6. After the moves: 1.c4 f5 2.g3 f6 3.g2 g6 4.c3 g7 5. e3,

 

Instead, against the Stonewall he recommends keeping the d2-pawn in place up to the right moment: 1.c4 f5 2.g3 f6 3.g2 e6 4.f3 d5 5.0-0

 

What's on the FritzTrainer?

After this appetizer, we should begin to talk about the content in a more detail. Marin is an experienced grandmaster, hence when he talks one must pay attention. He mentions how difficult it is in chess to find the right move order. This is something I've noticed myself — once I have begun to have a stable repertoire, playing always the same openings over and over and over. One begins to have a feeling for where the pieces belong and why. But it can also help to understand when the opponent does something that's not quite correct. Whatever the case may be Marin does a good job of mentioning what happens when we one more or another is called for, or when we fail to put pressure on the center and instead develop on the flank.

Before continuing the review, I'd like to say that I don't believe the English is for everyone. It is an opening which transposes into openings which are played as Black. For example after the moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6

 

What is the name of this opening if played with reverse colours (1.e4 c5 2.c3)? Obviously everyone will answer immediately: the Sicilian Alapin, one of the openings used throughout the career of GM Evgeny Sveshnikov (for those who want to know more about openings, there is the New Encyclopaedia 2019 with videos and articles to enrich one's own general understanding).


Opening Encyclopaedia 2019

Over 1,100 special theoretical databases, 180 new opening surveys, a large number revised — in total 6,680 surveys — and over 38,000 illustrative games.

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Why is important to know a name? It's not — but what is important is how the themes, patterns and ideas are the same of when playing the Sicilian as Black against the Alapin, but with one tempo advantage, with White as an English.

I'd like to mention one argument I hear over and over against studying openings in general: that they are nor formative to the player and lack didactic power. I disagree, and I'd like to use this FritzTrainer by Marin to illustrate just how rich our chess preparation can become through opening study.

For example, I began to look for games related to one of the lines he mentioned: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.f3 e4 4.d4 d5 5.cxd5 xd5

 

Here I watch 3-5 games just to have an idea of possible tactics, middlegame themes (e.g. where does White attack?) and often even the endgames that a line tend to bring us into. Here a sample:

 

Just watching the games whimsically will not bring us any benefit. But asking ourselves questions while watching and actively searching the answer will definitely demonstrate how one can study openings and learn a lot. Here's a position taken from one of the games in the sample:

 

White blundered by playing 19.xa7. Instead, White could have drawn the game, if he found the right continuation (♕c5 is a good start!). A good way to learn the opening and the middlegame is actually through playing. Thanks to ChessBase dynamic diagrams, the positions above can be played against an engine, within this article!

Of course one must be alert and attentive also when Marin gives an evaluation of a position such as the following after the moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.f3 e4 4.d4 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.d3 f6 7.c3 exd3 8.xd3 c6 9.g2 e7 10.0-0 0-0 and now Marin says after 11.e3 White has a favourable version of the Tarrasch where the queen is already on D3.

 

This position can be played from the diagram (White continues with 11.e3, and then one learns how to play it against an engine). But the point is: this position must be played. One cannot just take Marin's word and believe to understand how to play the opening.

If I didn't have this article, where I can play it from the diagram above, I would use one of the great tools inside ChessBase 15.

But what do we learn from that position? We learn how to play against an Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP).

Is my job as player aiming to learn the opening complete? No, far from it, if we are really studying the opening to become better players, instead of just memorizing lines like parrots.

For example Marin mentioned he gave 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.f3 in the FritzTrainer. But in the book from 10 years ago (chapter 32, page 437) he gave 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.d4:

 
 
 
Openings must be studied to discover what styles of play we prefer, and one should not just learn from Marin's 2019 effort, but also from the Marin of 2009 to see which of the two lines are more congenial to one's own chess personality. Eventually if one doesn't have Marin's book we can just make a search of games played with that line and see who is the strongest player using it more often. In this way we can find a role model for our games.
 
Here's one: Viktor 'the Terrible' Korchnoi used it against Etienne Bacrot multiple times inflicting a lot of pain!
 
 

At club level, both lines — the one recommended by Marin in 2019 and the one given by Marin in 2009 — can be played, giving our repertoire depth and surprise value, and keeping our opponents off balance. But the point we have seen here is: to be an active learner, DYOR (do your own research). Sitting down and watching a video, like a soap opera, will not shape us as players.

Coming back to the review: the chapter dedicated to an early c6, is made up of six videos. Volume 1 has a total of eight chapters for a total of over seven hours! Yes, this is just the first volume and one must follow seven hours of videos to grasp all the theory. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Marin conscientiously knew he cannot give such huge opening without supporting it with study material. The FritzTrainer comes with a database of model games one should study for a total of 299 games!! Here we can see why getting these two volumes on the English opening can transform us as players. We have seven hours of theory and then nearly 300 games to watch and learn just in Volume 1. But the material to study is still not finished, proving this format is bigger than any book on the opening.

There are four huge theoretical articles on the English published in previous ChessBase Magazine issues. Why I say huge? Because each article has between 14 and over 20 games annotated by Marin. The theoretical articles show plans like we can see in the following image:

But he also elaborates on the ideas behind the moves:

Each chapter includes many videos. For example Chapter 2 on the reversed Closed Sicilian, which we have after the moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.g2 g6 4.c3 g7 5.e3 d6 6.ge2

 

In five videos Marin covers all of Black's possible answers. Between the video analysis and the file accompanying each video of every chapter, we have extremely useful resources for the serious tournament player. The database files allow the student to add his or her own annotations, and eventually new moves played in tournament games or ideas to remember when refreshing one's theoretical knowledge before a tournament.

Here an example of one of the files accompanying video analysis:

 

Notice the files can also be used in other web tools for preparing or memorizing the moves, once one knows the plans and ideas behind them.

I'd like now to give a brief description of the remaining chapters for the readers who wants a full overview of the content.

Chapter 3 is also on the reversed Closed Sicilian, but without ♞c6, and includes three videos dealing with: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 d6 3.g2 g6 4.c3 g7 5.e3

 

Not committing the b8-knight to C6 can give Black some flexibility compared to the previous chapter where the knight was developed immediately.

Here we see another important way to learn openings. Many GMs, Marin included, consider some positions "endgames" even if we have many pieces over the board. This is the case for instance after the following moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 g6 (instead of the main line discussed in the first video which continues with 2...d6) 3.d4 d6 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.xd8 xd8 6.c3 e6 and White should continue with 7.b3

 

Marin considers this ending position pleasant for White, just based on Black's bad kingside structure, and somehow exposed king position. This highlights the need to play this kind of endgame position over and over, in order to learn how to exploit the Black's kingside weaknesses.

Chapter 4 is based on the lines when Black plays f7-f5 after ♞c6. I.e. after the moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 c6 3.g2 f5:

 

Once more we see how playing the English opening can also teach us about the Sicilian. With reversed colours this would be called the Grand Prix Attack.

Obviously White's extra tempo makes a difference, but the point is: if a player previously has gained experience playing the Grand Prix attack, now as White will know what Black will try to do, and will become easier to prevent it.

Marin warns us about different ways to play in the centre, because they can lead to Black undertaking active operations on the kingside.

Chapter 5 is the reversed Dragon! Six videos on: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 f6 3.g2 d5 4.cxd5 xd5 5.f3 c6 6.0-0 b6 7.a3 e7 8.d3

 

This is what Marin's consider the most crucial system for the 1.c4 e5 English, and he begins by showing some sidelines. He explains at length his GM evaluation of the opening. This being a reversed Dragon, White enjoys a tempo advantage. However, Marin points out Black has a space advantage in the centre, and an outpost on D4.

On this line I found a little more than 170 games in my Megabase. It is definitely played at the top level, but not much at club level for what I can see.

Of course, it's better to be safe than sorry, and for this reason I've selected few games played at top-level, to give an idea of how different players interpret it for White. When watching the games please pay attention to pawn breaks, where do they happen? Queenside? Centre? Are there typical intermediate moves? Which types of endgames must one know, in order to convert an advantage into a win? What about weaknesses in the pawn structure?

 

Chapter 6 is on: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 f6 3.g2 c6 4.f3 c5 5.0-0 d6 6.c3 0-0 7.d3:

 

Marin begins this chapter outlining the attacking plans for both sides. He also give us an appreciation for piece placement. En passant, he mentions he has met this line many times, and learned to appreciate many nuances.

Here a couple of his games:

 

The last two chapters are based on more rare lines. Chapter 7 is on 1.c4 e5 2.g3 followed by 2...h5 or 2...f6 3.g2 h6

 
 
 
And finally Chapter 8 is against the Dutch and Indian setups. This chapter is quite important, because many players try to avoid studying an opening against the English and instead aim to transpose into 1.d4. Marin says: The Dutch Defence doesn't cause us many problems and recommends preparing against two main systems: the Leningrad and the Stonewall. He also mentions there are possible transpositions into the 1.c4 e5 for the Leningrad. Against the Stonewall, Marin mentions his preferences, and explain the rationale behind the importance of move order. Once more the video analysis file becomes quite important for searching through Megabase 2019. It's possible to find the latest games played with the lines recommended by Marin, and eventually practice some lines against the engine.

Final thoughts

I believe in order to learn the English opening one must make a commitment both in studying time and practice time. These days we are lucky, because we have teachers like Marin who can give us wisdom accumulated throughout their careers in a video format, as if they were sitting in front of us. The next part is of course mainly up to us. We need to study the games, notice the recurrent patterns, and practice, practice, practice!

I don't believe the English is for everyone, in the sense that a player needs to have some experience with gambits and open games before approaching the English. In this way one will be able to put the experience and understanding gained from other openings to good use. The Sicilian has been called the opening of Champions, because most world champions have played it throughout their careers. The English can easily transform itself in a reversed Sicilian, so this FritzTrainer can help us become better Sicilian players too — the pawn structures are the same. A tempo advantage as White can help us with possible mistakes, or slow moves, while in the learning process.

The English can also become a surprise weapon. One can feel Marin has mastery over this opening, because he presents it flawlessly. To acquire such fluidity one will need a huge amount of time. On the other hand, at club level, one doesn't need such depth and it's very possible to master the main ideas, watching the videos and parsing through the games of the database given with the FritzTrainer.

Before closing the review I'd like to say I hope I have proven how one can learn from an opening to increase technical knowledge in all the phases of the game. I've given plenty of important examples how to use this great opening DVD to improve ourselves generally, and become better chess players. Now it's up to you to put in the time studying and practising.


Marin's English Love - A complete repertoire for White after 1.c4 Vol.1

The first DVD includes the systems 1...e5, the Dutch and Indian setups.

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Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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BKnight2003 BKnight2003 4/30/2019 10:27
Takes a lifetime long to read this article. I bet nobody will reach this point.
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