- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 8533 KB
- Print Length: 288 pages
- Publisher: Gambit Publications (6 May 2014)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00ASHEFBA
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Not Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #138,603 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Mastering the Chess Openings Volume 1 Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
In view of the scope of the book, I had expected that the discussion of ideas would dominate. That is however not the case. Maybe that is not so strange, as Watson in his other books tends to emphasize the exceptions to ideas that occur in many positions. (Rule-independence is a term, I think, that often pops up.) So there are many variations, but, as the number of pages is limited, not enough to get anything but a superficial discussion of each of the various openings in the book. This does not make it a bad book, Watson is a much too good author for that, but neither is it a very useful book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
encyclopedia. It is also not a repertoire book. It is not a survey of
a specific opening. Rather, it seeks to give the reader a holistic
view of openings, focusing on ideas, plans, structures, and even
tactical themes that cut across many systems. Those who are familiar
with Watson's award-winning "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" and
"Chess Strategy in Action" will find the same level of scholarship,
depth of thinking, and rich insights in this work. As an example, in
the early chapters we explore the importance of Black's d5 break in the
"open" games (i.e., those that begin 1.e4 e5). We go on in the Chapter
on the Giuoco Piano to see how this advance is tied to Black's quest
for equality. Then in the Ruy Lopez chapter, we compare the effect of
3...a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3, when the Spanish bishop is on the same diagonal.
Watson keenly observes that now the d5 advance lacks sting (it does
not attack the bishop, being on b3 rather than c4), and hence the Ruy
Lopez can be seen as a way for White to achieve the ideal two pawn
center while diminishing Black's ability to counter effectively with
d5. Very illuminating. And so the idea of the equalizing pawn break,
and many other ideas, weave their way through the treatments of various
responses to 1.e4. Game fragments and complete annotated games help to
illustrate these deeper themes in a concrete fashion.
Much of the material is quite sophisticated, and yet this book can be
of great use to advanced beginners and above. It will benefit anybody
who wishes to understand the ideas behind the openings, rather than
memorize moves. In fact, I think it would be good for all serious
students of the game to work through the entire book, even where the
opening is not part of their repertoire. (It may profoundly affect
your repertoire!) This is because good chess is about ideas, and
seeing a wealth of these ideas unfold in this book will surely
strengthen your game. A recommended companion to MCO and the
repertoire books on your shelf.
I have not read the entire work yet, but I can highly recommend the chapters on the Pirc Defense, Philidor Defense, Caro Kan, Giucco Piano, Kings Gambit, and Sicilian. I think this book will be very useful for almost any level of player. Also please read the chapter on the "Significance of Structure"
Eevn though I have been playing chess for over 50 years (USCF-expert, when active), I feel that I have only gained a genuine understanding of these openings for the first time after reading Watson's book!!
Finally, this volume will not only increase your understanding of the e4 openings, but it will also deepen your enjoyment and love for the game.
I can't wait to read Volume 2 on d4!!
By the way, I should mention that I think the review by j clark very accurately describes the book.
As much as anything it takes its introductory chapters on basic topics like pawn structure and then uses certain lines to illustrate them. In other words this is a very theoretical book (which happens to be about opening theory instead of middle game), not a practical guide to openings.
I'd recommend it simply because John Watson is one of the best chess writers working. If that doesn't appeal to you, skip it.
There are few chess authors who consistently deliver fresh and challenging works on what are sometimes oft-covered subjects; John Watson proves himself up to the task, again, and it is fitting that it arrived just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. All I can say is "thanks, John" for making it a special couple of days.
MASTERING THE CHESS OPENINGS: VOLUME 1 is, in many ways, the opening complement to Watson's earlier two volume middle game tour-de-force, SECRETS OF MODERN CHESS STRATEGY and CHESS STRATEGY IN ACTION. Here the author takes deadly aim at the sorts of concrete bits of chess knowledge that an aspiring player must possess to master the first stage of the game.
While earlier "mastering" and "understanding" the opening works tend to stress fairly basic concepts and themes, Watson, as always, digs deeper, and penetrates further into the topics he presents. Far from presenting a "Cliff Notes" method for studying or playing the opening, this book challenges the reader in uncharacteristic ways. For example, Watson delights in identifying structures and themes that cut across openings -- and these aren't your normal "opening cousin" pairings either. While we might expect to see similarities among, say, fianchetto defenses like the Pirc, King's Indian, and Dragon Sicilian, Watson confronts us with pairings like the Pirc and Open Ruy Lopez.
This book concentrates on what are generally called the King's Pawn Openings. Volume two will consider Queen's Pawn Openings. It should be noted from the start that this is not an exhaustive examination of all variations -- or even all openings -- within this classification. The author has sought to cover those variations that best provide a forum for discussion of important opening topics. While I think this is a sensible approach (and given the author's in-depth coverage, a necessary one), there are some disappointments along the way in terms of material that does not get included.
After a brief introduction, the book starts with three chapters that set the stage for the coverage of specific variations in the remaining 11 chapters. The book's remarkable depth are on display in those early chapters, as Watson spends 76 pages covering basic issues like development, king safety, space, piece characteristics, activity and initiative, weaknesses, fianchetto themes, prophylaxis, and color complexes. Perhaps the most useful and involved discussion comes in chapter three, which discusses important issues involving structure. Modern chess and its interpretation of the opening have focused much attention on the interplay between structure and activity, and this chapter provides excellent coverage of topics like isolated pawns (in particular the isolated d-pawn), pawn chains, doubled pawns, hanging pawns, majorities and minorities, and space.
One interesting discussion, which serves as a pre-curser for the book's general approach, involves what the author refers to as "cross pollination" -- situations where themes cross between openings that are not otherwise related. The author touches upon several, including examples of poisoned pawns, g-pawn thrusts, constructive semi-waiting moves in the opening, etc. This early topic discussion helps to cement the analysis that occurs in the following chapters.
As noted above, not all openings receive specific coverage (although many show up in cameo roles based on their topicality to discussion in other opening variations). The first section, which deals with 1.e4 e5 openings, specifically covers the Philidor Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6), the Giuoco Piano (2 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5), the Two Knights Defense (3...Nf6), the Ruy Lopez (3.Bb5) and the King's Gambit (2.f4). Comprising 85 pages, this includes some fascinating discussion, particularly on the evolution of the Ruy Lopez. While the examination of the development of theory is fascinating, I was struck by how well the author touches upon -- and answers -- fundamental questions. Why, for example, is the Ruy Lopez 3.Bb5 such a cornerstone of 1.e4 and opening theory -- what, exactly sets it apart from the seemingly more aggressive and challenging 3.Bc4? Watson's explanation is direct and to the point, and its fundamental truth was something I really hadn't grasped after 30 years of serious opening study.
Not surprisingly, given its popularity, the largest single chapter (75 pages) is devoted to the Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5). The author focuses on the open variations (2.Nf3 generally followed by 3.d4), in particular the Dragon (2...d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6), the Najdorf (5...a6), the Classical (5...Nc6), the Accelerated Dragon (2 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6), the Four Knights (2...e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6), Paulsen (4...a6), and Taimanov (4...Nc6). The author's only major discussion of non-open lines concerns the Alapin (2.c3).
The book concludes with chapters on the Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6), French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) and Pirc (1.e4 Nf6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6). Of these, the Caro-Kann gets probably the shortest shrift, as it is represented only by white's second move divergence with 2.Nc3 and the almost main line with 2.d4 d5 3.e5. The long accepted main lines, which go 3.Nc3 dxe4, are not covered. As might be expected, the French receives better coverage (Watson has written numerous books on the defense), with 41 pages covering the key lines after the main responses 3.Nc3, 3.Nd2. It is notable that the author also spends a fair amount of time on 3.e5 in his early chapter on pawn chains.
One of the things that consistently sets Watson apart from other openings authors is his willingness -- nay, insistence -- on challenging accepted theory. In any number of places, the author suggests improvements or areas for research that might alter current assessments. This, of course, should be the standard approach to openings discussion -- time does not stand still. It is, unfortunately, not the norm among authors. Watson's books are a refreshing reminder that chess is not played out, and there are many discoveries to be found, in all stages of the game.
I also appreciated the author's ability to weave the recurring themes identified in the early chapters into a cohesive discussion in the following pages. In a work with this much depth and discussion of so many variations, it is easy to lose sight of key themes and concepts. Watson is the rare author who can present detail without overwhelming the reader.
Of course, there are a few disappointments along the way. In a book that stresses popular structures, I was surprised at the relative lack of coverage for important center-relinquishing lines in the French (such as 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4) and Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4). I also thought that the symmetrical Petroff structures (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6) deserved more attention. Finally, the Alekhine's (1.e4 Nf6) and Scandinavian (1.e4 d5 2.exd5) Defense are important and under-represented, although themes involving the Scandinavian ...Qxd5 are discussed in the sections on the Sicilian Alapin and French Nd2 variation.
There are also a few minor irritations. The author goes to great lengths to remind the reader that the variations provided are representative of key ideas and not necessarily latest theory. The author has also sought to limit the discussion of the sorts of "random" tactical variations that don't lend themselves to discussion of themes and ideas. This is understandable and laudable, but the author's constant reminder of these facts gets tiresome and probably adds at least a page or two to the book's overall page count.
That said, there are many "minor enjoyments" that outweigh the irritants. The book includes a useful table of contents, an extensive bibliography, an index of players and openings. The pages are large, the diagrams numerous, the printing clear, the text very readable, and the book opens flat for easy study.
I took this book with me over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. Even while fighting a cold and surrounded by far more relatives than my in-law's house should reasonably hold, the weekend will be remembered fondly for the time spent with a great book that once again rekindled my love for chess and chess books. For that, I owe John Watson my thanks. My bet is that, after reading the book, you will too.
1 The Nature of Chess Openings: Fundamentals (12 pages)
This section is intended for the actual beginner. Included are the definition of "opening", the center, development, space, initiative,and some general rules of the pieces like "rooks on open files" and so on.
2 Opening Ideas and Positional Features (13 pages)
Here Watson gets a little deeper. He discusses Black's two approaches to the opening: equality first or dynamic imbalance. White has a similar choice: accumulating small advantages, dynamic imbalances, and even two-sided slugfests. Also in this section is a wonderful discussion of different kinds of centers, pawn weaknesses, color complexes, fianchetto themes, internal weaknesses. Great stuff!
3 The Significance of Structure (51 pages)
Pawns or Pieces?, the IQP (and the isolated a-, e- or c-pawns as well!), Pawn chains (how to attack and defend them), doubled center pawns, doubled c-pawns, hanging pawns, majorities and minorities, the light square restraint structure, cross pollination (this is found throughout the book as mentioned. Here he talks about so called "poisoned pawns" in a variety of openings).
Section 1: Open Games
5 Introduction to 1 e4 and the Open Games (4 pages)
Includes a section on factors that make 1 e4 and 1 d4 different (and sometimes similar!)
6-9 Cover the following Open games and several variations of each: Guioco Piano, Two Knights, Philidor, Ruy Lopez, King's Gambit. (82 pages)
Section 2: Semi-Open Games
10 Introduction to the Semi-Open Games (2 pages)
"In stopping 2 d4 you have to give something up" is Watson's theme.
11-14 Cover the following Semi-Open Games (157 pages): Sicilian (biggest), Caro-Kann, French, and the Pirc.
As you can see, the discussions of individual openings is the bulk of the work (239 pages altogether). Here Watson looks at the plans for both sides for most major variations, although sadly he had to leave a few out. You will find no discussion, for example, of the main lines of the Caro-Kann, but you will find the Caro Two Knights (I'm sure he has his reasons). In each section these general ideas are fleshed out with a historical game between top players.
Mouth watering yet? Highly recommended.