Simon Williams: The English Opening Vol. 1

by Davide Nastasio
9/23/2015 – Simon Williams knows the English Opening - and loves it. After all it helped him to get his titles. He likes that you do not have to know much theory to play the opening and that White often can claim a space advantage. In his two DVDs about the English Williams now offers White a good, solid repertoire. Davide Nastasio looked at the first volume and was happy.

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The English Opening Vol. 1 by Simon Williams - a review


Over the years I have looked at many videos by Simon Williams and even bought some of his books. He is an exceptionally passionate teacher and committed to the openings he plays and talks about. He likes the English Opening because, as he says in his introduction, it is extremely interesting, and an opening in which you do not need to know a lot of theory – you can navigate it safely if you know the main ideas.

Now, while that may be arguable, I completely agree to another statement by Williams. He claims that, "if one learns the ideas and the setups, this opening is one in which theory doesn't change too drastically, and what one learns today will still be valuable ten, even twenty years from now."

Williams, of course, is not the only grandmaster who likes the English. In fact, the opening is becoming more and more popular. While commentating some games of the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger Hikaru Nakamura was asked why so many top players played the English with White. His answer was simple: "Because it is one of the most exciting openings..."

In the first of his two DVDs on the English Williams uses an array of 22 top games to explain how White should play against 1...e5.

1: Réti Variation of the four knights English – 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 d4!? (seven games)

2: An early …f5 – 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nf3 f5 4 d4! (three games)

3: An early …g6 – 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nf3 g6 4 d4! (two games)


4: 2...Bb4 – 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Bb4 (three games)

5: Mikenas-Carls variation – 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4!? (four games)

6: A unique idea against 1…e6 and …d5 – 1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 d5 3 e3!? (two games)

7: Crazy lines from Black (One video)

The video called „Unique Approach“ shows how White can avoid to end up in positions arising from 1.d4 d5 openings. However, Williams himself questions whether this is such a good idea and reveals how he in the beginning of his chess journey played 1.c4 e6 2.d4 because he wanted to learn how to play against d4-d5 structures. Thus Williams offers both: a repertoire for those who want to stick to English structures and the advice that for those who want to become better universal players it is a good idea to learn how to deal with other pawn structures and opening ideas.

Williams' last video reiterates the main ideas expressed throughout the DVD and is followed by twelve videos with exercises which allow you to test your knowledge about the English. On top of that the DVD also contains a database with 50 model games.

These DVDs on the English are more than just an opening recommendation because for Williams the English is more than an ordinary opening. In the introductory video Williams tells how he started to play chess at the age of six but did not become good until he was twelve years old. Later he gradually developed into an IM and a GM. The English Opening helped him to reach master strength – up to the age of 18 he always played it.

The repertoire Williams recommends is based on 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3. Now many of you who studied Marin's work on the English will ask: "But why not 2.g3...?" Well, one the main ideas of the repertoire Williams recommends is to develop both knights and then play d2-d4 – in particular, if Black opts for an early …f7-f5. To support this point Williams cites a recent game between Svidler and Carlsen, in which Svidler with White fairly quickly ended up in a critical position because he could not counter Black’s approach with a timely d4 and was lucky to escape to a draw.


Williams also avoids the Reversed Sicilian with a pawn on d3. He does not want to give Black a lot of space and easy development. Williams admits that these positions are full of sharp and interesting lines, but cautions that they might not be suited for amateurs who want to play the English but are not well-versed in the intricacies of the Sicilian. Williams’ target audience are amateurs with a rating of about 1800 who want to grow. Thus, he does not recommend lines that are difficult to understand for players who have not yet developed a full positional understanding.

These two DVDs (I will review the second volume soon) are perfect for players with a rating of, let's say up to 1800, who want to grow further. And that is the reason why Williams puts so much emphasis on learning the transpositions to 1.d4 d5 openings.

I particularly loved one game from this DVD and while watching it I thought that Williams should seriously consider a career as a comedian – he really has an entertaining and funny way of presenting his material. Thus, he claimed that his opponent after this game changed job and career – and he, Williams, was the reason.

Simon Williams

But the game also features an important theoretical novelty which the Informator still missed seven or eight years after the game was played. I don't want to spoil the fun of the story Williams tells but I would like everyone to enjoy such a great game. It shows amongst other things, how good your endgame has to be if you aspire to become an IM or GM.


Conclusion: I am happy and had a lot of fun with this DVD, and I am looking forward to the second volume. I also plan to look at Williams’ DVD, in which he recommends A dynamic weapon against the QGD - 5.Bf4. This line would allow me to transpose from the English to 1.d4 d5 structures. Williams again and again emphasizes how important it is to learn how to deal with such structures – and his passionate teachings on this and other DVDs are a treasure which will surely help me to improve.

Sample Video: The English Opening Vol. 1

Simon Williams: The English Opening Vol. 1

• Video running time: 6 h 21 min
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Training database with over 50 essential games
• Including CB 12 Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$29.65 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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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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