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Mastering the Chess Openings Volume 4 [Kindle Edition]

John Watson

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Book Description

"IM Watson's writing is never less than entertaining and thought provoking. 'Mastering the Chess Openings' is a fine and deservedly popular series." - Sean Marsh,

In this highly-acclaimed series, John Watson helps chess-players achieve a more holistic and insightful view of the openings. He explains not only the ideas and strategies behind specific openings, but also the interconnections of chess openings taken as a whole. By presenting the common threads that underlie opening play, Watson provides a permanent basis for playing openings of any type.

This final volume draws together many themes in a wide-ranging discussion of general opening topics. By looking at familiar situations from new angles, Watson helps us greatly increase our understanding of them. In the process, he covers a wide variety of opening structures and variations not seen in the earlier volumes and presents a great wealth of original analysis.

* Réti and Fianchetto Systems
* Reversed Openings
* Symmetry
* Irregular Openings
* Gambits: Primitive or Positional
* Universal Openings

In the final two chapters, Watson presents his views on the importance of opening study and explains how players should best prepare and choose their openings for the level at which they play. He looks at the future of chess openings and explains which skills will be most important as chess evolves in the forthcoming decades.

"In order to appreciate fully the achievement of John Watson, you need to examine the four separate volumes as a unified whole. He himself is fond of stressing that a game of chess is a unified whole and not just a succession of distinct and unrelated parts (opening, middle game, ending) and this is very much to the fore throughout the series. By emphasising the underlying ideas behind the openings, and by showing how apparently different opening systems often have common ideas at their root, he presents the reader with a framework as the basis for handling all opening systems, both familiar and unfamiliar, with confidence." - Alan Sutton, En Passant

International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. In 1999, his Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy won 'Chess Book of the Year' awards in the USA and the UK. He reviews chess books for The Week in Chess and hosts a weekly radio show on the Internet Chess Club. As a trainer, he has worked with many talented pupils, including Tal Shaked.

"This series is written in such a way that anyone rated from 1500 to 2400 will be able to benefit from it. This particular volume covers openings that are less relevant for stronger players, because they will infrequently encounter them, but to counterbalance this issue Watson sometimes goes into very specific details. Whereas in earlier volumes, the strategic discussions on more popular openings were drawn in more general terms for understanding the ideas and aims for both sides. The collective effort put into all four volumes is truly Herculean and should be praised as an opening book equivalent to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am astounded by the consistently high level of writing in all four volumes." - Carsten Hansen,

"Watson is a lucid and often provocative writer who isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and turn conservative theory on its head." - Cecil Rosner, Winnipeg Free Press

"...a book any chess lover should have a look at - if not for its openings, then surely for its general awesomeness." - Arne Moll,

"...far from being just an opening monograph, Volume 4 is an oracle of practical advice that everyone would benefit from..." - GM Glenn Flear, New-in-Chess Yearbook

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 9610 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications (6 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #293,906 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final volume of a wonderful series 6 Oct. 2010
By Joshua Newsham - Published on
Any serious student (with around $100 to spend) of chess should have the 4-volume Mastering the Chess Openings series by Watson. This volume covers less frequently played openings (Reti, Bird's, 1.b3, 1.b4, the Dutch defense, various gambits, etc.) as well as a couple chapters at the end of the book which discuss both the current state of opening theory and which openings ambitious non-masters should consider playing.

The "meat" of the book is, as always with Watson, excellent. For me, however, the essay toward the end of the book, about modern opening theory, was the best part. All too often we hear of the oppressive weight of opening theory - the staggering amount of information one most both memorize and understand in order to play these days. It is enough to depress anyone who would study the game.

Watson has a simple answer to such worries: quit whining! First off, below the super-GM level (these days that would probably be 2725+ or so), lots of openings are completely fine, and below about 2500, all sorts of crazy lines are fine. The average club warrior is not playing Topalov or Anand, so why worry about their repertoires? Play some offbeat lines, some gambits and some main lines. Follow the repertoires of the 2650 players - they make their livings playing in mixed strength Open events, therefore they play lots of sharp and unbalanced lines with both colors. Kramnik and Gelfand might bore us to tears with Berlin and Petrov defenses, but plenty of strong GMs play imaginative lines, and they should be followed.

For lots of good information on less played lines, and to get a refreshing perspective on openings in general, Watson's series, and volue 4 in particular, is highly recommended.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for every serious chess player 14 Dec. 2010
By K. Yee - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like the way Watson gives the basic ideas of the more unusual openings especially the part on gambits. When I first started out in chess I use to follow the way Paul Morphy played and pratically gave pieces away on purpose for more activity. I later had to temper that against better players but through the explainations and ideas of how gambits are suppose to work I may have a change of heart and go back to that style of play with a much better understanding. The break down of "primitive" gambits and 'positional' gambits is outstanding and feel that part of the book to me was worth reading.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Watson Mastrepiece 4 July 2011
By K. J. Case - Published on
The fourth volume discusses opening variations that were not treated in the first three volumes (that is, offbeat openings). First, I think every player who is ranked from beginner to approximately 2300 should read the chapter "Choosing and Preparing the Opening." Watson gives detailed advice to players in four different categories of playing strength. I think he makes a strong case for why players at all levels who want to improve their game should devote some time studying and preparing openings.

As always, Watson provides a lot of original analysis. I especially liked his treatment of the Grob move 2..Bxg4 on pages 272 and 273 and the Benko Gambit where White declines the gambit with 4. Qc2 in note c on page 176. The chapter, Modern Kingside Fianchetto, will be valuable to anyone who has to play either side of these openings that have such flexible move orders.

This book contains a wealth of offbeat variations, many of which I have never seen in my 50 years of playing chess! I agree with another reviewer who stated that owning all four volumes of Mastering the Chess Opening is a valuable resource for improving your game and your enjoyment of the game.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth Coverage of Less Common Openings 4 Jun. 2012
By Matt Morgan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It took joining a local chess club and repeatedly getting clobbered right out of the opening to realize that in order to stand much of a chance I needed to invest more time in the study of opening theory. I already have a copy of MCO but it is heavy on spewing out moves, light on explanation and has more than a few typos that sometimes make following the variations difficult. I researched books on opening theory and finally settled on Watson's Mastering the Chess Openings series. This is a somewhat more costly resource than many of the others available (four volumes instead of a single book) but it's a worthwhile investment.

Volume 4 of the series covers a lot of odd openings that did not fit into the other three volumes, some of which are not often seen in higher levels of play but are very useful for the surprise factor. Of the four volumes, this one is the one I use and appreciate most. It covers the following openings and systems:

- Reti: Open and Closed Variations
- Reti: Slav Variations
- Modern Kingside Fianchetto
- Modern Queenside Fianchetto
- Gambits
- f-Pawns and Reversed Openings (this includes the Dutch and Bird Openings)
- Symmetry and its Descendants (Petroff, Four Knights and two variations on the English Opening)

It also includes a couple of chapters that suggest how to select openings for study and also try to predict the trends in opening theory.

I was especially interested in the Dutch Defense and this volume really helped me to understand the themes behind it. I have been successful with it though I still have more to learn.

Watson does a great job of explaining all of these opening systems (or opening defenses as appropriate). That is, rather than give a summary blurb about the opening and then just prattling on with move after move, he walks the reader through the opening, explaining the purpose behind each move. Then, once finished with the main sequence of moves, he includes one or more instructive games with relevant analysis and variations. This is so much more helpful than a cold and clinical presentation of silent moves.

Watson's writing style is very clear and approachable. He neither talks down to his readership nor does he assume that everyone has a doctorate in chess.

This is a superb series on chess openings which will leave the reader with a much clearer understanding of not just the moves involved in the openings but also an understanding of the purpose and goals of any given opening and variation covered. Although the cost of the series is more than that of a single volume it is well worth it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and Unique Opening Study 2 Oct. 2013
By R. Tobias - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the last volume in IM Watson's excellent opening series. This is a unique series in more than one way. Firstly, it is neither a repertoire, nor is it a comprehensive survey of openings. Rather, Watson has selected various openings for their instructive value, especially for the typical player. He treats openings as an organic whole, and ties them together, finding similarites in openings that you would normally think should be considered totally separately. Another unique feature is simply that Watson is one of the world's leading opening experts, and a very experienced instructor of average players. So the material in this series is of unusually high quality. This vol. focuses on 'odds and ends' openings not covered in the first 3 vols. In particular, Watson looks at the Reti Opening, symmetrical openings like the Petroff, gambits (including 'primitive' old fashioned gambits, and modern sophisticated gambits like the Benko), Reversed Openings, Double Fianchettoes, and irregular openings like Owen's Def, Larsen's Op. and even rare oddities like 1.g4. A special feature of this Vol. is a section on how to select your openings, which is in several sections aimed at players of various strengths. This could be THE most important section of the whole series for the developing player who has taken the typical haphazard trial and error approach that most of us seem to take. There is something in this series for players of a wide range of strengths, from serious post-beginners all the way up to masters and even beyond. I think that for anyone who has not already reached a rather high level of opening expertise, a series like this, which is based on understanding key opening principles, is of more value than picking up a monograph on the latest hot opening and memorizing reams of lines. Yes, if you want to be a titled player, you have to memorize a lot, but for us non-masters, we would be better off learning the 'nuts and bolts' strategic and tactical principles that underlie all openings first. This series is a great place to get that education. Highly recommended, along with the other three volumes in the series.
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