English, The

David Cummings

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
399 pages

The English by David Cummings is not your normal repertoire book for White employing 1.c4. While works by Tony Kosten and Mihail Marin focused exclusively on treatments with White’s king bishop fianchettoed, and Craig Pritchett and Steve Giddins books for Everyman Chess offer hybrid treatments combing g3 and d4 systems, Cummings’ has produced something new.

The English offers center oriented lines for White front and center based on a repertoire that starts with 1.c4, but sometimes switches to 1.d4 systems. The author uses 44 model games with detailed analysis and plenty of explanatory prose to state his case.

Cummings has specific ideas of what he wants to play against and what he wants to avoid. 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 0-0 6.Nd5 Re8 7.Qf5 is one main line, with the clever idea of meeting 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 with 3.e3 (3……Nf6 4.Nf3) intending d4. Likewise, against ……c5 the plan is 2.Nf3 followed by d4, where White avoids the difficult to crack Hedgehog setups based on …e6 and …b6 as well as ……b6 and ……g6.1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.a3 is the core of this treatment.

Against the Queen’s Gambit Declined and Semi-Slav Cummings advocates system based on e3:  1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.b3 0-0 6.Bb2 and 1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3. The Grunfeld is countered with the cunning 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.Nf3 g6 5.h4, seeming opting for kingside play while keeping the idea of heading for a better endgame with e4 ……Nxc3 and dxc3 as an option. Another tricky offering is the Anti-Dutch move-order 1.c4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.d4 e6 4.Qc2 planning to meet the Stonewall with Bf4 (and not g3) and 4……d6 with 5.Nf3 Be7 6.e4.

The King’s Indian is met by the flexible Petrosian System which has the added plus of being one of the more theoretically manageable lines to learn for White. Whether Black’s opts for ……Nbd7 or ……Na6 setups, the lines often transpose.

The English offers a well-thought opening repertoire for White based on principled lines that are not vulnerable to being refuted by a sharp new move or system like the Kosten and Marin advocated 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Bf5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 which can be strongly met by the gambit 6……Nc6 7.Qxb7 Bd7. However there is no free lunch.

Cummings’ repertoire requires mastering many more middlegame structures than purely g3 based English systems. They range from the Maroczy Bind to Isolated Queen Pawn positions. While this could be just the ticket for an ambitious player wishing to learn many different types of middlegames, it does require a significant time commitment, much larger than for those who play 1.c4 followed by g3 and Bg2. Accordingly I would primarily recommend this book for players rated 2000 to 2400 USCF.

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