View Full Version : Opening books in general- which series do you find good/bad

Paul Cavezza
30-09-2009, 09:11 PM
Most opening books start the same way: "Chess is a game of learning and not memory", and then they go on to give 400 lines with often poorly worked out variations coupled with games and or few explanations of the moves in the lines themselves.

I've found this particularly with the Everyman books, they're so popular but they use games in lieu of actually explaining the opening ideas usually which I hate.

The best books for me have been older books, from the 70's which list games afterwards in small print without explanation (especially of the endgames!) but which explain the positional and tactical ideas much better.

Anyway- would just thought i'd ask if anyone had a series or book which actually does explain these chess ideas through opening study rather than just starting with the endless "memory is the devil, play this: e4,e5,Nf3,Nf6.........................." and so on until boredom or lack of understanding tears us apart

30-09-2009, 10:07 PM
Ive got a few chess books which are very good.

In one it has 30 games which he goes over explaining each move with their general reason and plan and mentioning what the reader should learn from the game. The second half of the book is deep theory and variations.

Another the Tromposky by Wells slowly explains the plans and reasons and why some moves are bad.

I find that books written away from the main publishers are excellent as the author has less restrictions on space and time limits.

01-10-2009, 08:16 AM
I am mid-1800's and I have found that the "Starting Out" books seem to be getting advanced enough for me these days.

I have a couple of books which are slightly more advanced such as Watson's general d4 book but that's about it.

I probably wouldn't bother with multiple volume "Openings according to Kramnik" or the like as I simply can't remember that much, although that type of book may be useful after the game to check out where you go wrong.


17-12-2009, 01:18 PM
Quality Chess appears to be one to keep an eye on. Mihail Marin in particular has been getting great reviews and I was impressed by the book I picked up.

17-12-2009, 03:29 PM
As a general rule, trust specialized opening books only on lines favoured by top players, no matter who the author is. There is usually a good reason why other openings are rare at the top. Winning with the Ruy López is fair, because even the world champs played this to try to win; but be skeptical of Winning with the Four Knights, otherwise why don't more top players try it?

I endorse IM John Watson's review of GM John Nunn's book Secrets of Practical Chess:

I would like to draw the reader's attention to one superb piece of writing called "Books on Offbeat Openings." I suspect that I read more of such books than Nunn does, so I was delighted and impressed with his insights into them. He gets right to the essence of the matter, pointing out a number of dubious tendencies such books normally exhibit, for example: (a) they claim that "recent games" justify a previously-discredited opening (Nunn points out that the games are usually by unknown players and don't stand up to examination); (b) the authors of these books "display great ingenuity in finding resources for 'their' side, but often overlook even quite simple tactical defenses for the 'other' side" (how true!); (c) the author's analysis includes both "nothing moves" by the opponent and variations in which the opponent grabs all the offered material and cooperates in a glorious self-immolation (when in both cases, rational continuations were available).

The great thing is that Nunn backs this criticism up by examining two such books by GMs: Tony Kosten's The Latvian Gambit and Andy Soltis' Winning with the Giuoco Piano and the Max Lange Attack. Tackling the former book first, he simply devastates Kosten's analysis of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Nc6, and then does the same for Kosten's main line of 3...Qf6 4.Nc4 fxe4 5.Nc3 Qf7 6.Nc3 c6. In typical Nunn style, this takes four pages of what appears to me to be flawless analysis. He then turns his attention to Soltis' book and in a further four pages, simply refutes Soltis' superficial "analysis" of both of Black's main defenses in the most critical variations. After Nunn finishes, Black has two ways of getting an advantage versus a line with which White is supposed to be able to "win!" This exercise is vintage Nunn: devastating and path-breaking at the same time.

... On the essential point, however, Nunn says what has long been needed to be said about such books. I can confirm from extensive experience that the type of errors he discovers are indeed rampant in typical books on offbeat openings, and in my opinion, they are at least as egregious in books written by grandmasters as in those by mere masters (who as a rule seem to work harder).

Kevin Bonham
17-12-2009, 04:25 PM
As a general rule, trust specialized opening books only on lines favoured by top players, no matter who the author is. There is usually a good reason why other openings are rare at the top. Winning with the Ruy López is fair, because even the world champs played this to try to win; but be skeptical of Winning with the Four Knights, otherwise why don't more top players try it?

:lol: I'm pleased to say there is no Winning with the Four Knights (and the few books on it are generally honest about its lack of any objective plus) but it is seen at 2600+ level on a reasonable basis and sometimes even higher than that. Malakhov, Motylev, Short, Vallejo, Movsesian, Grischuk, Svidler, Smirin, Mamedyarov, Leko, Shirov, Nakamura, Khalifman etc all in the last decade, most more than once and not all while playing for draws either.

The reason the Four Knights is rare at the top is that there is no objective advantage worth speaking of and therefore against well-playing booked-up opposition it is very likely to be a draw.

But at club level almost anything is playable, even things a great deal worse than the Four Knights.

I think what people need to watch out for is books that exaggerate the prospects of openings not seen at the very top level. Those books generally do have all the flaws Watson and Nunn attribute to them, and a further danger is that if a club player plays the lines included in them, even if they do so successfully, they don't develop a rounded game.

So if a book is making wild claims about some line that is never seen at top level then that is a good reason to be extremely suspicious about it. But if a book explores a less-than-cutting-edge opening and is honest that the opening is not going to score you 86% against your own rating, then it might be a good book.

I'm pretty sceptical of books entitled "Winning with the ..." in general, whatever they claim to be winning with. "Beating the ..." is a similarly dubious title. But there are probably some good books in these categories.

18-12-2009, 12:47 AM
Hi everyone,

The book "Winning with the Queen's Indian" features 5 black wins, about 12 draws, and about 25 white wins, in my perhaps inaccurate recollection. Hard to see where the "winning with" part comes into such a book....lol

Take care and God Bless, Macavity

Paul Cavezza
18-12-2009, 08:50 AM
My view is that your average 16-1800 player will lose a "significant" opening advantage within 1-10 moves of attaining it and gain nothing more than an "slight" middle game advantage in most cases.

Games at our level are usually decided by oversights or strategical ignorance rather than "opening advantages."

Which is why I was asking about books that forgo the study of "lines" for a more step by step strategical analysis of each move in an opening/game!

In any case- am happy with the "winning with the X" bashing direction the thread has taken!

01-02-2010, 12:35 PM
Fundamental chess openings is basically a new bible for players who want to know plans and theory. Really great stuff. Check out all the reviews, they concur.

01-02-2010, 01:28 PM
A new book Revolutionize Your Chess by Ivanchuk's GM trainer now resident in Spain (Viktor Moskalenko) is really good. The opering treatment in his section on Openings and their link to middle game (and even ending) does not focus on learning lines, but rather as it should on ideas. he only picks a few openings dure to space limitations, one being the Stonewall Dutch. As I say on my own web site in my sig, I have always struggled with memorising long lines, so I endorse those writers who get us away from that demoralising practice for us club level players.