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ONE OF the marked characteristics of British chess since the Seventies has been the willingness, particularly as Black, to experiment in the opening. This subversive movement reached its zenith in Tony Miles's great victory over Anatoly Karpov in Skara, in 1980, starting with the splendidly "insulting" 1...a6 - the St George Defence. But there has also been immense growth of borderline respectable openings, particularly the subject of today's review: The English Defence, by Daniel King (Everyman Chess pounds 14.99).

Characterised by a very early queen's fianchetto, this aggressive opening puts White under instant pressure, both technical and psychological. As King (whose birthday it is today) explains in the introduction, "Since the 19th century Englishmen have dabbled... However, the English Defence really began to `earn' its name in the early 1970s, when Michael Basman and Tony Miles began experimenting..."

The experiment has turned into something of a cult, both with other English players - I've had a love/hate relationship with it, and even Nigel Short has used it from time to time - and overseas players, such as the "Russian" Americans Boris Gulko and Alexander Shabalov, and, particularly, Latvia's Edvins Kengis; of King's 79 complete games, I make it that 24 were played by just Miles, Kengis and myself.

King has divided the material into eight chapters, of which the first five cover lines starting 1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 3.e4 Bb7. He begins with the "main line" 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.Nf3/Ne2 Nb4; then Black's fourth move alternatives in this sequence especially 4...f5!?; and then three further chapters on lines where White allows the pin with 4.Nc3 Bb4. Finally, he examines lines with an early a3 - to prevent the pin ...Bb4 - and transpositional possibilities.

As befits a book intended for players who will almost certainly be playing Black, the author has adopted a fairly cheery approach to the difficulties that Black's hubris may incur, and I'm not sure that I would totally trust him - or myself - when preparing for a well armed opponent rated over 2600 (BCF 250); however, in all other circumstances it's a great opening and this is an excellent work.

A typical White disaster (King's game 28). White should play 5.exf5! Bxg2 6.Qh5+. After 7...Qh4! he was already in trouble. He could almost have resigned after 17...Qe6.

White: Francois Marchand

Black: Boris Gulko

Geneva Open 1997

1 d4 e6

2 c4 b6

3 e4 Bb7

4 Bd3 f5

5 Nc3 Bb4

6 d5 fxe4

7 Bxe4 Qh4

8 Qe2 Nf6

9 Bf3 0-0

10 dxe6 Nc6

11 g3 Qd4

12 Bd2 Ba6

13 exd7 Bxc4

14 Qe3 Qxd7

15 0-0-0 Rae8

16 Qf4 Ne5

17 Qh4 Qe6

18 Kb1 Bxc3

19 Bxc3 Bxa2+

20 Ka1 Bb3

21 Re1 b5

22 Rxe5 Qa6+

23 Kb1 Qa2+

24 Kc1 Rxe5

25 Bxe5 Rd8

26 Bd4 Qa1+

27 Kd2 Qxb2+

28 Ke3 Qc1+

White resigns