English Opening

The English Opening is where White plays “1.c4” as the first move. It is a positional and less commonly seen opening. Both e4 and d4 are much more popular. Nevertheless, it is a solid opening and well-respected. There are also some “anti-English” and “Indian-Like” systems for Black against the English.

Diagram: English Opening

Black replies include:

  • 1..Nf6 (Indian-Like)
  • 1..e5 (Reverse Sicilian)
  • 1..c5
  • 1..c6

For more ideas for Black against the English, see: Anti-English Openings.

Indian-Like Defences for Black

Diagram: Indian-Like Defences (English Opening)

Indian-Like Defences (1..Nf6) … This aims for setups similar to the various Indian Defences against d4, and indeed may transpose if White chooses to play “2.d4” immediately or later in the game.

Various sub-variations of the Indian-Like Defences include:

Many of these lines will transpose to the “proper” lines of these defences if White chooses to play “d4” at some point.

Reverse Sicilian Systems for Black

Diagram: Reverse Sicilian (English Opening)

Reverse Sicilian (1..e5) … This setup immediately looks like a Reverse Sicilian Defence, where White can try all of the various different types of Sicilian setups. This can become a “Reverse Grand Prix Attack” if Black plays “..d6” and “..f5”, which has become a popular “anti-English” opening.

Symmetrical Black Systems

Diagram: Symmetrical Line (English Opening)

Symmetrical English (1..c5) … Black can also copy White giving the Symmetrical English Variation. There are numeorus sub-variations of the symmetrical lines, including:


Transpositions: the English Opening will often transpose into a Reti Opening (1.Nf3) or a similar system involving “g3” and “Bg2” (Modern Attack). The positional goal of all these opening setups is pressure on the White squares down the diagonal.

Queen Pawn Opening Transposition: Another important aspect of this opening is the possible transposition into a Queen Pawn Opening, where White has simply re-ordered the two moves: “d4” and “c4”. For example, if Black plays “1..d6” then if White plays “2.d4” it looks like Black has been tricked into playing an Old Indian Defence (or a Philidor or Pirc if Black allows White to play “e4”). Similarly, after “1. c4 Nf6” White can play “2.d4” with a common Queen pawn position with many possible Black defences possible. Hence, a lot of replies to “1.c4” will aim to inhibit White’s “2.d4”, such as if Black plays “1…e5” or “1…c5”.

Beginners Moves

Diagram: Beginners Line: White plays 1.c4 and 2.e4 (English Opening)

Beginners often want to play both “c4” and “e4”, which is possible against either “1..c5” or “1..e5”. For example, with the move order like “1.c4 c5, 2.e4!?”. However, such a position is not well-regarded because of the weakness it creates on the “d4” square. But it is playable at a club level. In some lines, it may become a Maroczy Bind, which is a playable but not particularly strong anti-Sicilian line.

Other Types of English Opening

It is worth noting that the English Opening (1.c4) is not the only England-originated chess opening. Some of the other opening systems with an English heritage include:

Related Chess Openings Topics

Read more about these related chess openings, strategies, chess puzzles, and other chess topics: