English Opening, The — Volume 2

Mihail Marin

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Quality Chess
432 pages

One of the outstanding chess books of 2009 was volume one of Romanian Grandmaster Mihail Marin’s trilogy on 1.c4. This 477-page work covering 1.c4 e5 won deserved recognition for the depth and quality of the analysis. The second volume in the series, recently released, maintains the same high standards.

The English Opening: Volume Two by Mihail Marin deals with the question of how to handle Black’s attempts to turn the English Opening into the Slav, Queen’s Gambit, Grunfeld and King’s Indian. Marin borrows a page from Tony Kosten’s Dynamic English in advocating a Reti/Catalan setup (g3 and c4) versus both the Slav and Queen’s Gambit. While Kosten could only cover the basics, Marin spends over 200 pages on 1.c4 c6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 alone!

The key position for this is reached after 1.c4 c6 2.g3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg2 dxc4 when Marin advocates the principled 5.0-0 with the idea of meeting 5…b5 with 6.a4 Bb7 7.b3 cxb3 8.Qxb3, saving a tempo over similar lines after 5.Qc2 where the queen spends two tempi to reach b3. The critical variation is 5.0-0 Nbd7 6.Na3 Nb6 7.Qc2 Qd5 8.Ne1! (intending the gambit d3 in many lines) where Marin shares many novelties in 8 pages of coverage.

The same fresh approach characterizes his neo-Catalan answer to the Queen’s Gambit with 1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Na3 where White willingly accepts double rook pawns in return for the two Bishops and a strong pawn center. If Black decides to hold steady with 1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 White does not transpose into the Catalan but continues with an old Botvinnik favorite 6.b3. White meets 6…b6 with 7.Bb2 Bb7 8.e3 Nbd7 9.Nc3 intending Qe2 and d4.

The big divergence with Kosten’s repertoire is in Marin’s advocacy of the Botvinnik system (c4, g3, Bg2, Nc3, e4) against the King’s Indian. Since the author in volume three has White fighting against the Botvinnik via 1.c4 c5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e5 I was very curious as to how Marin would handle this. Readers of the Dynamic English will recall that Kosten specifically refrained from recommending the Botvinnik against the King’s Indian, not because of …e5 setups but those involving …c5.

When playing against the Botvinnik, Marin recommends leaving White’s pawn on d2 and aiming for a3 and b4, often without Rab1. The latter detail can be quite important. My only reservation about the entire series is that in Volume 2 the Botvinnik for White is only considered after 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 0-0 5.e4 d6 instead of the more flexible 5…c5 intending …Ne8-c7-e6 right away. This treatment would cut across d3-d4 plans for White leaving him to choose between kingside play and initiating action on the queenside with a3 and b4. It would be very interesting to see Marin’s thoughts on this.

One way to try to deprogram the pure English treatment of 1.c4, 2.g3, 3.Bg2 and 4.Nc3 is with 1…b6. Many of those who play the English like to keep the ball in their own court and not go down the main lines that arise from 1…b6 that are often quite messy. Marin has just the answer in 1.c4 b6 2.Nc3 Bb7 3.e4 e6 4.Nge2 with White following with a later g3 and Bg2. This is yet another example of how well the openings in this series work together.

Sometimes opening repertoire books advocate variations that are all over the place – for example g3 in the Vienna followed by 6.Bg5 against the Najdorf – this series is not like that. The lines are consistent throughout featuring active positional chess.

Anti-Slav Systems 2 Introduction 15 3 5th Move Various 21 4 5…e6 53 5 4…Bg4 69 6 The Barcza Variation 85 7 4…g6 109 8 4…e6 127 9 3…Bg4 155 10 3…dxc4 165 11 3…g6 173 Anti-QG Systems 12 Introduction and 3…dxc4 195 13 The Triangle I 203 14 The Triangle II 209 15 The Georgian System 215 16 4…dxc4 227 17 4…e6 with a quick …b5 241 18 4…dxc4 – 6…0–-0 Main Line 259 QGD Set-up 19 6…d4 and 6…a5 269 20 6…c6 275 21 6…b6 without …c5 293 22 6…c5 303 23 Reversed Modern Benoni 317 24 9…dxc4 Main Line 333 25 9…Bb7 Main Line 351 Odds and Ends 26 Anti-Grünfeld 375 27 Anti-King’s Indian 391 28 Anti-Dutch 403 29 Anti-Owen 411 30 Reti Move Order 423 Variation Index

This book gets my highest recommendation.

Also check out the reviews for The English Opening Volume 1 and The English Opening Volume 3.