Symmetrical English, Double Fianchetto Defense

Against the English, I have tried the Hedgehog, the nimzo-english, and even the dutch recently. One problem I kept running into with the Hedgehog was the weakness of my d6 pawn. I would often have to contort my pieces into odd positions in order to hold it. Obviously, this is not a fault of the opening but rather my lack of understanding. However, the Symmetrical English, Double Fianchetto Defense offers a lot of the same solidity of the Hedgehog, but without presenting white with this weakness to attack. In the 1980’s, Kasparov used this solid defense to great effect in a world championship match, and his contributions to its theory are nicely detailed by Marin in New In Chess, Yearbook #75. However, what I like about this defense is how easy it is to manage without a great deal of theoretical knowledge.

This position can be reached through various move orders. The most common is 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5. 0-0 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 giving us the following tabiya:

Check out that rock solid position!

Here, white has several options, though the non-forcing nature of the position allows for many transpositions between lines, and even where lines are “forcing,” the “correct” moves are usually obvious and intuitive. White will play d4 at some point, exchanging off a pawn and leaving half open c and d files, though in this position white may also try 7. b3, or Re1 while d3 is likely too passive to give white any advantage. Generally, black will look to reroute his knight via a6 to a more useful square, either c7 or c5 depending on the position, and exchange off light square bishops when possible. Black’s long term plan is to play on the light squares in the center, perhaps striking with …d5 at some point, as well as applying pressure along the half open c-file. Similar to the Hedgehog, the position is strategic in nature, and both sides should look to pawn breaks as the main tactical feature.

You can find a large game collection here, and below are a few selected games that I chose featuring top players battling in this variation: