Should Chess Authors play the openings they recommend?


Some people assert that the authors of chess repertoire books should not be allowed to play anything other than what they have recommended in their books. I have always found that this claim, if upgraded to law, would seriously injure the human rights of a small group of people I have a natural positive bias towards.

Why do chess authors play in tournaments? Basically to win games, rating and prizes – just like everyone else. They are not on a book tour!

Repertoire books are great and extremely useful. At times someone will say here on the blog that grandmasters don’t read the Grandmaster Repertoire books. Well, we know for sure that the Chinese don’t really read them, because they keep getting stuffed by recommendations from them! But we also know that Anand, Kramnik, Ponomariov, Aronian, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Svidler, Grischuk, Adams, Polgar and most likely all the other top players in the world have them – with the exception of Shirov, who “doesn’t read chess books”.

However, none of these players would ever follow a repertoire strictly. Instead they look for ideas and information; new analysis and so on. They have their own core repertoires, but will at times include ideas from wherever they find them. In some cases they will take up a new opening and check the analysis carefully; adding their own ideas.

It is not a surprise to me that after the Avrukh and Delchev books were published on the Grünfeld this opening became wildly popular among top players.

There are times when players of a reasonable level will follow a repertoire book for a tournament. Recently GM Sune Berg Hansen followed Bologan’s book on the Chebanenko Slav at the Danish Championship and in general did OK out of the opening with it. I am sure it happens all the time.

But what about the authors?

I want to give two examples of authors following their repertoires from the same tournament:

In the Danish Championship in 2012 Lars Schandorff followed his 1.d4 repertoire throughout the tournament. This led to some nice victories:

Lars Schandorff – Allan Stig Rasmussen

Round 3

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bxc4 Nb6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Bg4 8.f3 Be6 9.Nbc3 Bc4 10.Bxc4 Nxc4 11.e6 fxe6 12.0–0 g6 13.Qb3 Nb6 14.Qxe6 Qd7 15.Qxd7+ Kxd7 16.d5 Nb4 17.Rd1 e6 18.dxe6+ Kxe6

19.Ne4 Be7 20.Bg5 Rhd8 21.a3 Rxd1+ 22.Rxd1 N4d5 23.Nd4+ Kd7 24.Bxe7 Kxe7 25.Nc5 Rb8 26.Ndb3 Kd6 27.Ne4+ Ke5 28.Re1 Kf5 29.Nd4+ Ke5 30.Nb3 Kf5 31.Nbc5 h5 32.h4 a5 33.Kf2 Nf4 34.Rd1 Ne6 35.Nd7 Nxd7 36.Rxd7 Rd8 37.Rf7+ Ke5 38.Re7 Kd5 39.Ke3 b5 40.g4 hxg4 41.fxg4 Rh8 42.h5 gxh5 43.gxh5 a4 44.Rf7 Ke5 45.Ng3 c6 46.Rf5+ Kd6 47.Ne4+ Ke7 48.Re5 Kd7 49.Nc5+ Nxc5 50.Rxc5 Rg8 51.h6 Rg3+ 52.Kf4 Rh3 53.Kg5 Kd6 54.Rf5 Ke6 55.Rf6+ Ke7 56.Rxc6 Kf7 57.h7 Kg7 58.h8Q+ 1–0

Lars Schandorff – Jacob Carstensen

Round 5
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Nge2 Bg7 8.Ng3 0–0 9.Be2 a6 10.a4 h5 11.Bg5 Qc7 12.Qd2 Re8 13.0–0 Nbd7 14.f3 Nh7 15.Bh6 Bh8 16.Nh1 Rb8 17.Nf2 c4 18.Rac1 b5 19.axb5 axb5 20.b4 Ba6 21.Be3 Nb6 22.Bd4


22…Bxd4 23.Qxd4 Nf8 24.f4 Ra8 25.g4 Qa7 26.Ra1 Qb7 27.gxh5 Nbd7 28.Ng4 Re7 29.hxg6 fxg6 30.Ra3 1–0

Lars Schandorff – Jens Kristiansen

Round 9
1.d4 f5 2.Bg5 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.h4 Nc6 5.Nf3 h6 6.Bf4 d6 7.e4 Nf6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bb5 0–0 10.Qe2 Nxd4 11.Nxd4 dxe5

12.Nf3 Qd6 13.Rd1 Qb4 14.Qc4+ Qxc4 15.Bxc4+ Kh8 16.Bc1 c6 17.a4 e4 18.Nh2 Ne5 19.Be2 Be6 20.f3 exf3 21.Nxf3 Nxf3+ 22.gxf3 Rad8 23.Kf2 a6 24.a5 Kh7 25.Rxd8 Rxd8 26.Rd1 Rxd1 27.Nxd1 Bf6 28.Kg3 Bc8 29.Bd2 Be5+ 30.Kg2 Bf6 31.Kg3 Be5+ 32.Kg2 Bf6 33.Be1 Be6 34.b3 Bc8 35.Ne3 Kg7 36.Nc4 g5 37.Nb6 Be6 38.Na4 Bc8 39.Bc4 f4 40.Nc5 e5 41.Ne4 Bf5 42.Nd6 Bxc2 43.Ne8+ Kg6 44.h5+1–0

In round 7 Lars was also close to beating GM Sune Berg Hansen in a long Nimzo-Indian game. In the end, Sune was partly lucky, partly inventive. In round nine, Sune incorrectly sacrificed an exchange in a difficult position, but played much better thereafter. Had Sune lost, Lars would have won the event; now Sune won the title.

A few months later Lars published his complete 1.d4 repertoire, The Queen’s Gambit and The Indian Defences. These games were all mentioned in there (I think).

I played in this event as well. And I did not play very well or with great energy. I had a reasonable start, but missed wins in rounds three and four, losing whatever faith I had in my own abilities at that time. It was my first event in half a year and it was my plan to play the Olympiad five months later – so I was mainly there for practice.

Let’s get the excuses out of the way; I was not very sharp or well-prepared. I had two quick draws to save energy.

Then I ran into a bad beating.

Allan Stig Rasmussen – Jacob Aagaard

Round 7
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.Bg5 c4 10.Ne5 Be6 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.b3 h6 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.bxc4 dxc4 15.e3 Qa5 16.Rc1 Rac8 17.Qa4 Qxa4 18.Nxa4 Be7 19.Nb2 Ba3 20.Rc2 Bxb2 21.Rxb2 Rc7 22.Rc1

22…g5 23.Rd2 Rd8 24.h3 Kg7 25.g4 h5 26.gxh5 Kh6 27.Bf3 f5 28.Kh2 f4 29.e4 Rcd7 30.Bg4 Bxg4 31.hxg4 Rxd4 32.Rdc2 Rd2 33.Rxd2 Rxd2 34.Kg2 Rd4 35.e5 Re4 36.Kf3 Rxe5 37.Rxc4 c5 38.Re4 Rd5 39.Re6+ Kh7 40.Re7+ Kh6 41.Rc7 Rd6 42.Ke4 Rd4+ 43.Kf5 Rd5+ 44.Ke6 Rd4 45.f3 c4 46.Rc6 Kh7 47.Kf6 Rd5 48.Rxc4 Kh6 49.Rc6 Ra5 50.a4 Kh7 51.Rd6 Kh6 52.Re6 a6 53.Rd6 Kh7 54.Rc6 Kh6 55.Re6 Rxa4 56.Kf5+ Kg7 57.Kxg5 a5 58.h6+ 1–0

The game followed our analysis from Grandmaster Repertoire 10 – The Tarrasch Defence. Nikos and I had analysed the line carefully; it is fine for Black. But when you give away pawns for no reason and generally play poorly, you lose. I also had not checked this line for some months, so I could not remember all the accurate reactions.

Allan, on the other hand, had checked the book prior to the tournament, on the off-chance that he was going to be White against me and I would play this. He found no big improvements, but in the end decided that this at least was playable.

Prior to the publication of the book, I had done brilliantly with the Tarrasch. Several wins and a few draws. But suddenly only this game mattered! Not only did I lose a game in what had been my favourite opening up to this point, I also started to see comments everywhere to the effect that the line was better (or at least easier) for White. You can find this game till move 35 in John Watson’s 1.d4 repertoire, where he gives no detail (general space constraints, I assume) but ends with the following words:

“That’s only one game, but it’s safe to say that, regardless of the ultimate theoretical verdict after 11…h6, you can deviate at many points with alternate moves which will at the very least pose practical difficulties and force Black to think on his own.”
This might all sound very sensible; the ending seems difficult for Black – “just look at this game!”

But if you really look at it, Black is not worse in this ending; he was worse on the day. White can indeed deviate – but so can Black. And they always can, also in other openings, no matter the evaluation.

Overall this game was hugely damaging for the sales and reputation of a great book. Nikos and I published an article in NIC Yearbook about the improvements, but sales slowed down in a way we do not normally see. I really felt I had let Nikos down, but at least I had satisfied unknown people on the Internet, who think that I have to play what I have written about.

The up-shot is: A chess author does well to follow the repertoire he is writing about; only the best time to do so is before publication. Thereafter he does not want to give his opponents the edge of following a published repertoire. This does not mean that others cannot follow it; but don’t tell your opponents in advance that you are going to follow a specific repertoire – and please have ideas of your own, or use different books on the same openings.

Opening preparation is to a great extent about being ahead of the opponent. You cannot publish all your analysis and still be ahead. If the opponent has just one idea, you are already behind. The idea does not even need to be anything special, as long as it causes difficulties at the board. For this reason most chess authors will only play their repertoires before they are published.

91 thoughts on “Should Chess Authors play the openings they recommend?”

  1. Very nice article, thanks for sharing and spending your time. I hope it opens the door for a good discussion.

    First the interesting items which I agree with:
    1) Publishing own analyses can decrease your own chances on the board. I already mentioned that in my previous comments under your blogarticle ‘Naivety’ and also in my blogarticle ‘Chessintuition’ I showed an example of the negative effects of publishing my own analysis.
    2) Getting bad publicity by losing a game as author can indeed have a negative effect on the sales.
    3) Playing chess on a high level is indeed about having ideas and they don’t even have to be special. I’ve seen, heard this many times in topgrandmastergames so having more ideas than your opponent is an important advantage.

    Now so far the items which I agree with. However there are also many things which are at least dubious.
    1) While I stated that publishing your own games can decrease the winning odds, in other cases it will increase the winning odds. A lot of players become afraid to play directly in the specialized repertoire of the author. People start to deviate from their own repertoire or just play sidelines to avoid the big theoretical lines of which they expect that the author will know it better anyway. Difficult to proof if this is good or bad for the author but I can imagine that at least on certain occasions this can increase the winning odds.
    2) You are stating that Lars Schandorff followed his 1.d4 repertoire throughout the tournament. How can you be sure that the 1.d4 repertoire was existing before the tournament as the book was only published months later? Maybe Lars found the games nice and then afterwards said that from this moment onwards these lines are part of his 1.d4 repertoire. It is irrelevant in this discussion but I just wanted to point out that it is difficult to make claims on what exactly happened first before a publication (unless you are closely involved in the creation of his book).
    3) As stated in the article, your opponent (2500 rated GM) didn’t find anything serious but just considered it playable. With this in mind, we can safely say that ideas didn’t play a role in the game. In fact I would even take it broader and dare to state although fresh ideas play a serious role on the toplevels, it barely does on the lower levels. Most opponents of chessauthors aren’t part of the elite so the risk to run behind in an opening which you spent months on, can be considered pretty small (at least the first year after the publishing).
    4) As I did agree that publishing your own analysis can decrease the odds, I still have a firm conviction that on your level of play that you still have a serious edge with your favorite opening compared with your opponent whom read your book. As we both know, the book is only the endresult. Much more analysis were made which weren’t included. Also as I read on chesspub from Nikos, many traininggames were played to test out certain types of positions. This level of knowledge/ experience is something which even an average GM of 2500 can’t catch up with reading the book and making some notes. In fact you mention it yourself that the loss was due to not being sharp and not being well prepared. We can’t make any conclusion on this game that playing after publication decreased your odds compared with playing something completely different.

    Despite this truth, people see and read different things. The perception is created that the book is not good which is of course wrong. Your loss has nothing to do with the quality of the book.

    Knowing today that the sales went much quicker down than normal, one can indeed state that it would’ve been better not to play as author what one has published. This isn’t the same as having diminished chances on the board which is a.f.a.i.k. not proven.

    Personally I find it very hard to say that this loss in revenues could’ve been forecasted and avoided by not playing as author via the book. Of course we are today living in society where news (even wrong one) spreads very fast via the internet but to see such effects are for me a surprise and I expect also for you.

  2. Can chess authors write a good book about openings they never (or seldom) have played? I notice now and then books on openings of which the author has very little to no boardexperience with. It is a topic close to the one of this article and maybe also interesting once to discuss. I am very hesitant to trust such work but maybe this is wrong.

  3. Of course they should. The opponent(s) will buy one more copy of the book! 😀
    but seriously… I always check if the author has some experience with the opening or it’s a “never played in my life” book

  4. @Igor
    This also depends of the playing strenght of the author.
    There are several authors who basicly publish a book or DVD on every Opening randomly, this I would not trust.
    If a strong GM decides to play a new Opening and publish a book on this it is different, as he still uunderstands whats going on

  5. It is a little bit off topic here but on Lars Schandorff’s book I wrote a blogarticle in which I pinpointed to some defects in his book:
    It is a pure academic discussion but when can we really talk about one’s repertoire? Can a specific collection of own games with some analysis really be considered as one’s repertoire? Looking to the specific chapter on the Dutch, I have my doubts that Lars made any deep analytical work on a complete repertoire (say level of correspondence chess) before or after the played games.
    For somebody looking for fresh ideas I am sure this book is fantastic and one will certainly achieve better results on the board by implementing his ideas. However I am mainly looking to the theoretical value of the published analysis (e.g. for correspondence chess) and then it looks rather slim.

  6. I don’t agree with this reasoning. At a certain level it’s often well known what you are going to play but this doesn’t stop you from playing it anyway because your superior understanding of the opening can’t be matched by a few hours of pre-game preparation. Marin for example says this in his books on the English. Of course if you play a very narrow, very tactical, very risky opening, you can be punched by a monster novelty, but if you play a reasonably solid opening, even a novelty can’t turn upside-down the evaluation.

  7. @garryk
    You are well summarizing my points 1,3 and 4 of my first comment.
    Grandmasters Marin, Aagaard, Schandorff are strong players but I do think there is still a substantial difference with the eliteplayers where different rules are applicable. One of the big differences between the eliteplayer and the average grandmaster is their ability to adapt very quickly to new situations. Ivanchuk is extreme as practically in every game, he will play a completely different opening. I think it was also Ivanchuk that stated in an interview that he gave up searching for this monster novelties. You have to work a full week or more to find a monster novelty at move 23. By changing every game from opening, the surprise value largely covers the lack of killer novelties. I believe Carlsen made this hit and run strategy really popular. Even Anand admitted to use this against Topalov as their preparation couldn’t stand the scrutiny of Topalov’s team.

  8. @brabo
    I agree. The perfect solution (at least for me) is an opening with a wide choice of interpretation. Look at the Sicilian Kan for example. Black has many choices that don’t change much the position but prevent the opponent to be sure about what you are going to play.

  9. @garryk
    I am playing the Dutch stonewall for more than 15 years. Many games of mine are published in the database and my analysis can be read on my blog. In 5 of my interclubgames this season I got a Dutch defense on the board but none of my opponents entered the mainlines (each of those games has been discussed on my blog). My opponents had an average rating around 2450. The sample is very small so we can’t make real conclusions but I can tell that i won 5 ratingpoints despite that every opponent knew long in advance that they would play against me (i played all 11 rounds on board 1 !!). A pre-game preparation even by a 2500 rated player, can’t wipe away 15 years of practice, analysis,…
    In the mainlines of the Dutch stonewall I have plenty of possibilities to make small deviations which permit to exploit maximum the experience. I use the modern treatments with the fianchetto via b6 (as advocated in the book “Win with the stonewall Dutch” which I supported with some contributions) and then there are lots of acceptable setups possible in which I variate.

  10. @brabo
    It is obvious that Jacob knows what he is talking about regarding Lars Schandorff. They are both friends, both memebers of the national team and Lars had already wrote a book for QC.

    I can unsterstand several of your other arguments, but practice has shown that when GMs writte a book they rarely follow entirely the repertoire they are suggesting, at least for a brief period of time after the publication. Are they all wrong?

  11. @Nikos Ntirlis
    Well first you have to make a clear distinction between a repertoire book and a specific openingsbook. While Lars project was a repertoire book (not clear to me if this really can be considered as his repertoire or just a selection of games which more or less form a repertoire which is an important nuance) , the books of the Svechnikov and Tarrash are specific openingbooks.

    There exist no rules about what an author can do or not after publishing a book. I personally find that if you write a specific openingsbook that this should be done out of a sincere love of the opening which you are willing to share with other people. It is the reason why I agreed to help on the Dutch stonewall book but not on other books. So for me this love for an opening should be above winning points but hey maybe I am too much of a romantic person and just value rating/ money too little.

  12. @brabo

    As far as I understand it, the GM Guide series (unlike GM Repertoire) isn’t intended to cover anything and everything because that would be impossible to do. Ok, maybe not impossible, but a 5000-page book doesn’t sound very practical.

  13. Jacob Aagaard

    Dear Brabo,

    There are parts of the discussion and your points which are really interesting. But your general tone is unpleasant. The idea that I would write something I do not know, for example what Schandorff’s 1.d4 repertoire was at the Danish Championship, is not nice. I really do not want to enter a discussion under such conditions. A pity.

  14. @brabo
    What point are you trying to make? I don’t care if the author uses ‘just a selection of games’ or a ‘reportoire’. All I am interested in as a reader is a book which covers the most important lines in a coherent way (i.e. having a similar style), giving good verbal explanations and giving novelties, i.e., moving the openings forward. That’s all we can hope for and it is sufficient for me! The rest is up to the readre behind the chess board and in their home preparation :-).

  15. Hi just wondering if Kotronias as decided what volume II will be in his KID series.

    Or is it WAY too early to say 🙂

  16. @croflash
    Fully agree. 20 years ago it was still possible to provide a complete overview of a certain opening. Today you can only do such complete overview for a very specific sidesystem. An example is the recently released book of FM Luc Henris: The Complete Albin Counter-Gambit. This book alone has 600 pages.
    Clearly this format has passed its prime and has been replaced by guides on a certain opening or repertoire books. The 2 new formats have the big benefit that not everything of the openings is expected anymore. The author makes a selection of the lines which he endorses and only discuss those in detail.

  17. @Ray
    My answer consists of 2 parts.
    1) On the academic definition of what is a repertoire.
    2) Writing a book should be more than just earning money but that is my personal opinion of course.

    On point 1 I believe that I should clarify a bit. I believe a repertoire of somebody is something difficult to define with precision at least not to the level as one presents in a book. Even if the author wrote the repertoire book, I do believe that there will be serious differences with his repertoire.
    – In a repertoire book, one will normally provide 1 answer for each type of opening while in a boardplay we will often see many sort of answers of which a GM can select depending on the opponent, situation,…
    – A repertoire in a book presents a specific moment while a GM repertoire is normally continuously changing.
    – A boardrepertoire is seldom or never worked out like a repertoire in a book. I mean often the GM deals with the problems during the game and has no need to provide for each hypothetical question an answer. Even I would dare to say that if the hypothetical question would pop up during the game then it is well possible a different answer is given than what would be provided in a repertoire book.
    There are of course overlaps in both repertoires but stating that the 1.d4 repertoire of Lars book is matching what Lars onboard repertoire is, is a step too far for me. This is the correct interpretation of my previous statements and not something else which people seem to deduct.

  18. Being an owner of GM Rep 10, and looking at pages 112 and 114, looks like Jacob lost because he didn’t follow the repertoire! 😀

    22…g5 is Black’s answer to 22.Rd1. Here White played the other option, 22.Rc1, and the recommended response to this is 22…g6.

    Moral of the story? Memorize every move in the book and store it away in the brain, like becoming walking hard drive, and you’re golden! 😀

  19. @brabo
    I still think it’s clear that the series title ‘GM Reportoire’ doensn’t mean the reportoire of a specific GM, but rather a high quality reportoire, which could be played with confidence at GM level (just before the book has been published :-)). For us mere amateurs this is more than we can dream of. Of course it is also clear that any book on chess openings is ‘obsolete’ in certain parts shortly after it has been published, mainly because of the dreaded silicon monster. Still, I don’t think you can deduce from that that the idea of sticking to one opening is now obsolete, just because people like Carlsen are having success. When Kasparov still played you could have deduced just the opposite, and also players like Gelfand are relatively ‘predictable’ in their choice of openings, but they work very very hard on these openings to keep ahead of the competition. It’s a matter of generalists vs specialists and the batlle between these is (among others) what makes chess such an interesting game i.m.o. At any rate I still think the discussion is rather academic in that a reportoire can never be static in the first place.

  20. PS: of course writing a book should ideally be more than just earning money, but are you herewith implying that this is not the case for quality chess authors?

  21. Jacob .. basically you’re saying, that if the author is a weakish player, that can’t hold an equal endgame, then he should not play his repetoire in order not to hurt sales.

    In the other end of the spectre you have Korchnoi deliberately entering an inferior endgame vs. Nunn knowing that Nunn the endgame player is a lot weaker than Nunn the attacker and wins. Basically he could write a book on the french leading to shitty endgames and back it with a killer score.

    But why did you stop playing the Tarrash, stick to it … win a couple of games, publish them with comments on the Allan Stig game and sales should go back to normal (Its probably too late now and you’re retired, but in principle)

  22. off topic, but I encountered a position which I think would be a nice puzzle (or maybe two): 1. b3 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bb2 c5 4. Nf3 e6 5. d4 Nc6 6. Bd3 b6 7. O-O Bd6 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. a3 cxd4 10. exd4 Bb7 11. Ne5 Rc8 12. f4 Ne7 13. Qe2 Nf5 14. g4 Nh4 15. g5 Nd7 (this move loses, but why?)
    the answer: 16.Bxh7+ and now comes a real beauty: 16…Kxh7 17. Qh5+ Kg8 18. Qxh4 Nxe5 19. fxe5 Be7
    white to play and win…

  23. Kostas Oreopoulos

    A repertoire is (should) be

    a) a scientific proposition
    b) Have a underlying coherent theme. You cannot propose sharp lines here and endgame lines there. It does not make sense
    c) its a photograph of the current time. future my change the evaluation of the position completly (especially once it goes public)

    Once upon a time, the author was required to be extremely familiar with the lines proposed.
    Nowdays this is simply not the case.

    Writing a repertoire book is just a scientific work. Gather data -> analyze data -> organize data. As simple as that. No need to play the line. You just have to be good at the line of work.

  24. @Ray
    I agree that players like Carlsen, Kasparov are heavily influencing how chess is played. However I also do believe that they are a product of their time. This means that they are champions in their time because of the specific skills, methods they apply. This indirectly implies that the game of today is different than the game played in Kasparovs time. This is easy to prove as timecontrols have been speed up, no more adjournments, explosion of theory, enormous influence by computers, …

    The tendency which I see today is that more and more the generalists are winning territory over the specialists. Even players like Anand and Kramnik are more and more adopting a more general approach. Just 2 examples:
    1) Do you see the Kramnik of 2000 or before, play the 4 knightsgame (if we exclude his very first games) ?
    2) Do you see the Anand of 2000 or before, play 4 different systems in 1 worldchampionship against the Marshalldefense. Or that he picked up 1.d4 in his repertoire in another worldchampionship?

    Sure this is an academic discussion but that is why i have troubles if Jacob says that Lars followed his 1.d4 repertoire throughout. For me this is just too simplified.

  25. @brabo
    Maybe I shouldn’t speak for Jacob, but I don’t think this is what he meant. He just said that Schandorff has played the systems he recommends prior to the publication of his books. To me that is endorsement enough. You can’t expect him to keep on playing exactly all the proposed lines until infinity, because time (and theory) moves on and apart from that you don’t want to be too predictable. Just look at recommendations in older reportoire books and see for which lines the theoretical verdicts have been overturned. By the way, I as an amateur am doing exactly the same. all the time adapting my reportoire if there are significant new developments. E.g. I switched from the Winawer Warsaw (7…0-0) Rustemov variation, which was heavily analysed in Kindermann and Dirr’s book, some years later when it was more or less refuted in some new analysis. Sticking stubbornly to your ‘reportoire’ in a static sense would clearly only be foolish. I am by the way convinced that on amateur level you can stick to a narrow reportoire, simply because not all your games will be published. The 2700+ elite is an entirely different catagory, for which obviously other rules apply.

  26. Ray :
    PS: of course writing a book should ideally be more than just earning money, but are you herewith implying that this is not the case for quality chess authors?

    No idea as I don’t know any of the authors personally. I do know that lots of grandmasters write a book in the first place to earn some extra money. It is difficult to resist to the temptation to lower a bit or even a lot the quality so the book is written in less time.
    Anyway I do have the feeling that Quality Chess is the leading publishing house in terms of quality so my remarks have to be put in the right perspective.

  27. Ray :
    He just said that Schandorff has played the systems he recommends prior to the publication of his books.

    With that I can perfectly agree. However I understood something completely different from the text that Lars was following his 1.d4 repertoire throughout. At least I would’ve written this line completely different if this was the intended meaning.

  28. @Kostas Oreopoulos
    You can indeed write a good book without having any boardexperience with a system. However you can only write an excellent book if you have boardexperience with a system.
    If you are satisfied with a good book then the author doesn’t need to have boardexperience with the systems which he is explaining.

  29. @brabo
    I read again Jacob’s post and it says clearly that Schandorff followed his reportoire throughout the TOURNAMENT (which was before publication of his book). This does to me not in any way imply that he also follows it after the tournament – as Jacob indeed (and correctly i.m.o.) argues it would not even be that wise to strictly follow it after publication of the book concerned.

  30. I think this is a bit of an odd discussion.

    Yes, as romantics we would like to see book authors as mythical fighters for our favourite openings. Also nobody should ever play for a draw as black, top players should have feuds about the merits of the King’s Gambit and unicorns should exist.

    But in actual reality I don’t see how anybody can think authors somehow have an obligation regarding their opening choice in future games. Even Brabo only seems to argue that he personally likes the idea of authors continuing to play the opening, and that maybe it’s not as disadvantageous to do so as it first seems.

    The article opens with “Some people assert that the authors of chess repertoire books should not be allowed to play anything other than what they have recommended in their books.”

    Well, the people asserting that haven’t showed up, and I don’t think they could give us a halfway coherent argument anyway.

    So what are we discussing again? 🙂

  31. @Ray
    Neither does I state or imply that Lars follows it after the tournament.

    I see 2 possible scenarios:
    1) Lars had in advance a very well worked out 1.d4 repertoire with detailed analysis of all possible lines and used this during the tournament. In the book, Lars reuses the same detailed analysis but presents those analysis in a different format to make it better readable. This different format is found by using his recently successful tournament games.
    2) Lars didn’t have in advance a very well worked out 1.d4 repertoire with detailed analysis of all possible lines but just a lot of ideas of which he tested some in the tournament. Afterwards he selected the games with the ideas which were successful in the tournament, added some analysis and inserted them in the book.

    Now my personal feeling is that only in scenario 1, it has sense to say that Lars followed his 1.d4 repertoire throughout the tournament as in scenario 2 the 1.d4 repertoire is just too vague. I think in reality scenario 2 happened as it sounds to me the most likely one but maybe Jacob knows so well Lars that he can confirm that scenario 1 did happen (a question which i indirectly asked in my first comment, see point 2).

  32. @Remco G
    You first need to read the article ‘don’t be naive’ and the comments as this article is just the follow up.
    I wrote that if bookwriters don’t play their own recommendations anymore immediately after publication then there is something fishy about the quality of the book.
    This last piece has been interpreted by Jacob that some people (obviously myself included) claim that writers should play their recommended openings which obviously is a very simplified interpretation of my words.

  33. @brabo
    Well, the Danish championship 2012 started on 31 march 2012. The second edition of playing the Queen’s Gambit was published on 13 july 2012, and Playing 1.d4 – the Indian Defences was published on 7 september 2012. I’m pretty sure Lars must already have finished most of his books in april 2012, given the time needed for printing and final editing. So even if it is an academic question to me (because I really don’t care as long as it’s a good book), I think you’re jumping to conclusions if think scenario 2 happened. I think it’s impossible to test some ideas in a tournament and then finish two (!) books with detailed analysis only a few months later – unless of course your name is Jacob Aagaard :-).

  34. I don’t think Jacob’s original question is meant to be taken seriously. Obviously, authors should and will play whatever they think they will get the best results with. What is interesting is the perception created by their choice to: (i) play their repertoire lines; (ii) play different lines of the same opening(s); or (iii) play completely different openings. Jacob implies that some people get a negative impression if they choose (ii) or (iii), or if they choose (i) and start losing.

    I am only rated about 2000 and have never written a chess book, but my expectation would be that most authors would choose (ii). As mentioned above, if the book is well researched, there must be a lot of material and even complete systems which did not make it into the final book. Indeed many good authors (e.g. Marin, Delchev, Hilarp-Persson) seem to quite often write “I have always played A, but for the conciseness/coherence of the repertoire I am recommending B”.

    Of course, this might not apply to the Tarrasch, where any deviation from the repertoire might lead to immediate disaster for black. 🙂 I would be surprised if a single loss would lead to a sudden drop in sales. Are there any other examples of this, or the opposite? Was there a campaign against the book or the author, which used this loss as ammunition?

  35. @Ray
    We are only talking about the games played in the Danish championship. I do believe that inserting a few games from this championship together with analysis and notes into the books can be done in a very short timeframe.
    – Looking to the quality of the analysis/ notes in those respective games which are published in the books, I have the feeling most if not everything is done afterwards and not before.
    – Also between the tournament and the publishing dates of both books, there is more than sufficient time to do such minor job.
    So I still believe scenario 2 is most likely.

  36. @Steve
    That people variate in their repertoire, is fully understandable but it is something else to avoid systematically every recommended line from your own books.

    It is for sure difficult or impossible to proof that the drop in sales comes from 1 lost game. However having seen so many times how an insignificant piece of wrong information can destroy a complete career, I am not surprised that indeed the drop of sales is fully connected with the 1 lost game. Nowadays via the internet these kind of info spreads very fast.

  37. @brabo
    If a single loss can cause a significant drop of sales I understand the choice to avoid the recommended lines…but then I ask…didn’t Jacob expect that before or after he would have lost a game? Then why using that variation with the risk to kill the sales of that book? Or why don’t continue playing that variation in order to rehabilitate it?

  38. @garryk
    In my first comment I already answered a part of your question. I don’t think Jacob expected to see the sales drop after a loss and neither would I’ve done in his situation. It is a lesson for next time of course.
    To continue playing the opening to rehabilitate it, you need 2 conditions to be fulfilled:
    – you need to play tournaments for which I doubt Jacob has spare time
    – your opponents must give you the opportunity
    Also once the damage is done, it is very hard or sometimes impossible still to correct it. This is also the case in other areas of life.

  39. Jacob Aagaard

    @Paul Lubson
    No, what I say is that we all have bad days or bad tournaments. And giving your opponent your preparation in advance (including the new ideas, which Kasparov and Gelfand does not give out – so that comparison is not fair) is scary on those.

    Being an advertisement board because someone thinks that I did not do my job properly when writing the book, if I don’t give my opponent’s this advantage, just makes no sense to me.

  40. @Jacob Aagaard
    Reading somebodies book is not the same as reading somebodies preparation. There can be lots of overlaps but surely there are also lots of differences.

    Fine for me if you don’t want to discuss the points which I presented of which some you find really interesting. However now stating that my logic makes no sense, doesn’t sound consistent to me.

  41. @Jacob Aagaard
    It is a complete other discussion but recently I encountered also comments on how I was evaluating positions. Some positions are very clear but others are not and depend on taste. I have planned a blogarticle about different evaluationmethods and more specific the one that I am using to annotate.

    Also off-topic but I notice lots of copy past work on the internet. People are plagiarizing continuously. On chesspub there was recently a big complaint about chapters being plagiarized in the earlier mentioned mammoth of the Albin Countergambit. So I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody writes a first evaluation and many others just copy past this evaluation without even thinking. Annoying surely but what can be done against this?

  42. Jacob Aagaard :
    Do you have any names for this? Not in my database.

    It’s from one of my own correspondence games (yes, with engines) where my opponent just resigned, we only got to move 16:
    [Event “SM-2013-0-00261”]
    [Site “Lechenicher SchachServer”]
    [Date “2013.07.06”]
    [White “Pepermans, Toon”]
    [Black “Steinke, Rüdiger”]
    [Result “1-0”]
    [WhiteElo “2280”]
    [BlackElo “2203”]
    [EventDate “2013.06.14”]

    1. b3 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bb2 c5 4. Nf3 e6 5. d4 Nc6 6. Bd3 b6 7. O-O Bd6 8. Nbd2 O-O 9. a3 cxd4 10. exd4 Bb7 11. Ne5 Rc8 12. f4 Ne7 13. Qe2 Nf5 14. g4 Nh4 15. g5 Nd7 16. Bxh7+ 1-0

  43. @brabo

    Hi Brabo,

    “However now stating that my logic makes no sense, doesn’t sound consistent to me.”

    I have been following this “debate” vaguely and from a safe distance, but it is getting tedious and tendentious.

    In his post Jacob said: “In the Danish Championship in 2012 Lars Schandorff followed his 1.d4 repertoire throughout the tournament.”

    That is a statement of fact – not a wild guess or speculation inviting feverish debate. For Jacob, Lars is a friend, team mate and author. We know what our authors are doing.

    We also do not need a debate about what “repertoire” means. Lars played his 1.d4 repertoire throughout the 2012 Danish Championship, then the games he played there were a late addition to the books. Chess books take a while to complete.

  44. @Jacob Aagaard
    I think it’s fair to say that both Kaufman and Watson failed to prove any advantage against the Tarrasch in their books – and that’s rather telling I think, taking into account that they had your (and Nikos’) book to shoot on.

  45. My impression (and I have not looked into this with huge detail) was that Marin and Avrukh essentially started to play each other’s repertoires, after the publication of their respective series for white.

    And this struck me as being completely logical and fair…….after all, if you’d completely exhausted your knowledge base about an opening in the publication (and I think it is very dishonest if you “keep tricks up your sleeve”), you were giving your opponent a big advantage.

  46. @Ray

    Well, I think White is slightly better in the Tarrasch, but he must play well and precisely. The c4 variation given in the Tarrasch book is maybe “the last hope” as in all other lines White has proven an advantage, I guess, but I have no real confidence in this move and Black must play perfectly moves not easy at all and a few contortions to get to have a correct position, to have a position about close to equality. So, Black just plays for a draw with many difficulties, if White play well of course.

    By the Way, I guess even Schandorff in his repertoire says he doesn’t like the Tarrasch and is relatively critical to it…

  47. @Jacob Aagaard
    It was a mainly posted in as a joke (med et glimt i øjet). I have no problem with you finding it easier to keep fresh in a system, that you haven’t laid bare for the whole world to see.

  48. Phil Collins :
    @ John Shaw
    “Chess books take a while to complete.”
    How did you draw this conclusion? Is it based on evidence or speculation?

    My dream is the KG book, cover in human skin and a dedicated autograph of John with a citation like this one.

  49. Kostas Oreopoulos


    I strongly disagree. Tell me ANY position and provide me some time, also provide me with information such as target group and style of player and I will provide you with what I call scientific approach.

    Just make it a specific position, not a generic one, likeone you expect to find in a single book chapter and you will see how it’s possible. In 2013 you have all possible data and tools to make this happen

  50. @Blue Knight
    I don’t now – I think ít’s really equal, not close to equal. Maybe difficult to win with black, but that’s a different matter. People play the Berlin Wall and Petroff all the time, so is it that much different?

  51. @Kostas Oreopoulos
    You seem to forget that most openingguides start from a generic position which can be even 3 simple moves.
    Sure many specific positions are treated in such book but to come to these specific positions, the author has made choices. I am talking about this selectionprocess and not the analysis of the specific positions.
    I agree that we all can do a scientific project of any specific position. However to make a choice between what is really a critical specific position and what is not, for that I prefer to listen to somebody having many years experience and not somebody just looking to some statistics of thousands of games in the database.

  52. @Ray

    Well, I see these two openings as more solid, “easy” and “correct” than the Tarrasch. I find in the Tarrasch White has always “a little something”, if Black plays well of course because if not White has a clear plus. Really, and the Tarrasch book (yes, I bought it) doesn’t refute this, Black must play perfectly moves not easy at all and a few contortions to get to have an about correct position. And just in the c4 line from the book, if not White is more or less better in all other lines.

    So, just one line and one variation in it gives a position close to equal, or even equal or rather unclear if you want. No, really, Black is quite difficult to play and if White plays well, Black should just be able to hope for a draw, or a loss.

    By the way, in the Tarrasch White has always been better, more or less. Black, one day, find something which makes him to hope and sometime later White find another thing and the opening is again a plus for White in all lines.

    Other openings as the Petrov and the Berlin Wall are in a better way than this and they are quite more “correct”. No comparaison. Even Kasparov stopped to play the Tarrasch… And many tried it and have not had a always rosy life. 🙂

    Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t say the Tarrasch is a bad opening but I guess there are openings for Black more solid, less hectic (if you see what I want to say)… and in which they can hope more.

    And if you have not a high level, you’ll have some dificult times with it, I guess.

    But this is just my view. 🙂

    @ Jacob Aagaard

    > There is a real problem in one line.

    Well, precisely what I say above… Black finds something (for a draw) and then, soon or later, White comes again with something and is again better in all lines, a new time…

    P.S.: I’m French, English is not my native language. So, I’m sorry if my English is not completely correct and I’m not sure to express precisely what I want to say. But I hope everybody will understand my words, and post…

  53. @Blue Knight
    I understand what you mean :-). I play the Slav myself, so I’m not trying to promote the Tarrasch. I was just speaking from a purely theoretical point of view. From that point of view in my opinion, if best play by both sides leads to a draw that’s a good result for Black. But I agree with you that from a practical point of view it’s shaky if the assessment of the entire opening hinges on the verdict in one or two critical lines. But of course there are more openings like this (e.g. the Botwinnik, the Sicilian Dragon or the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn) in which both sides must tread a very narrow path.

    Regarding your point that if you don’t have a high level, you’ll have difficult tines with it: I think that’s true if you are playing against much stronger opponents, but if you are playing to about equally strong opponents I’m not so sure. I tried it a few times on the internet (I too own the book :-)), and got easy play in most cases. On somewhat lower levels I think white often doesn’t really know what he’s doing, whereas black has a clear plan and active piece play. On the internet nobody played the critical variations against me (which is true for most openings by the way :-().

  54. @Ray

    I agree with that. 🙂

    It’s true at low level, you can win with almost anything, with White as with Black. But when you progress and play progressively at higher level you’ll have more problems… Probably more than with another healthier opening.

    The Botwinnik? Well, it is not more or less refuted or at least quite problematic for Black today? I guess top players stopped to play it because problems with it and an advantage White and now instead play the Moscow.

    The Najdorf Poisoned Pawn is solid, I guess, and since a long time, even if time after White thinks finding something to kill it but quickly Black proves the contrary. In fact, here it’s exactly the contrary of the Tarrasch where it’s rather Black who tries to resuscitate it… I think it’s even one the best, if not the best, answers to 5. Bg5

    The Dragon? Well, it is extremely analyzed but at the end White has at least an edge, right? 😀

    But all these openings seem to me healthier than the Tarrasch. I don’t know, I have tried to play it several times, I have analyzed it but I have always the feeling Black is not easy, must wrestle and try some contortions for survive… I’d like be able to play it but I can not.

    Even after read the book, I always the same feeling, unfotunately. By the way, it seems just one variation is about correct for Black (I mean, it gives some hope to Black for equality): variation with c4 from the book. Yet, this move seems quite strange and I, at least like many/several book authors, can’t help me to think White must be better after this move, more or less, even if maybe for now with the book Black seems to have found again some good play…

    > “But I agree with you that from a practical point of view it’s shaky if the assessment of the entire opening hinges on the verdict in one or two critical lines.”

    At least…

    But all of this is endless and it’s just my view. I’m not a GM or an IM, my ELO is not 2200 or more, so I can be wrong. 😉

  55. @Blue Knight
    Your written English seems better than many native speakers.

    You are probably right about black having a narrow path to equality in the Tarrasch, but my problem with it is more practical. Sometimes things will go wrong whatever opening you play. In the Gruenfeld or Modern Benoni, you will still have plenty of chances to create trouble and make things difficult for white. In the Slav or QGA, you will still have chances to defend stubbornly in a passive position. In the Tarrasch, you will just be a pawn down for nothing.

  56. Kostas Oreopoulos


    I asked you not a generic position because i do not indent to write a 700 page book just to show you my point.

    I said pick a specific position so i would write a “chapter” of a book and not the whole book to show you my point.

    As simple as that.

    The collection of specific positions => the general opening.

  57. @Kostas Oreopoulos

    brabo said:

    “I prefer to listen to somebody having many years experience and not somebody just looking to some statistics of thousands of games in the database.”

    There are many things an author with many experience in the opening on which he writes, as for instance transpositions (sometimes quite hidden and only an experienced author in the opening can know and explain them) and/or move order to avoid such or such problem or bad transposition, new ideas, explaination in depth of the opening in all its details…

    The books with database dumps are often easily detectable and make generally bad books.

  58. @Kostas Oreopoulos
    Your point was that you can write any good book about an opening.
    A collection of well written chapters doesn’t make a well written book. So writing well 1 chapter doesn’t proof you can write a good book.

  59. Michael Wilde

    I have a question about the Kings Indian books. First is it a 1-3 book series, or more? And second in the intro the Author mentions something about using Nbd7 as the rep choice, is he referring to just this first book or the rep. in general?


  60. @Blue Knight
    I do not see that it is substantially with the Tarrasch different from the Grunfeld or the Modern Benoni in that respect. People like me who rely on dynamics cannot take a slightly worse position in the Queen’s Gambit and get away with it. With dynamic openings they always move between ok and dangerous. Take the Najdorf for example; which is well-respected.

  61. @Jacob Aagaard

    Yes but as you say, the Najdorf is well-respected, and it is one of the best sicilian and even one of the best answers to 1. e4 Idem for the Grundfeld vs. 1. d4. On the other hand, I see the Black game in the Tarrasch as significantly more “fragile” and difficult than in these openings, and others too…

    About the Modern Benoni, well, personally I must confess I have always had some doubts on its full and entire correction. I always found it quite suspicious. It’s a double-edge defence and a good practical weapon because very dynamic and not easy to play, counter, maneuver, for White at the chessboard but building his/her repertoire only on it is dangerous.

    But it’s just me, maybe. 🙂

  62. Kostas Oreopoulos


    My point is that scientific work is more important than familiarity with the position.

    There are so many tools to help you bridge that handicap.

    There are certain topics that indeed familiarity with set iPods is important. For example nimzo Indian systems. But even there, experts fail to organize the material correctly with very few exceptions (for example the Solomon book which unfortunately has other big problems)

  63. Jacob Aagaard

    The question is quite interesting. Obviously prior knowledge is an advantage; but sometimes you get prior knowledge and no actual analytical work on the project. I prefer the latter, if I cannot have both.

  64. @Kostas Oreopoulos
    Uhm, you say “which unfortunately has other big problems” when talking about the Sokolov book. What problems? “Winning Chess Middlegames” is in line with “Chess Lessons”, “The Grandmaster Battle Manual”, “Advanced Chess Tactics”, the Grandmaster Preparation series, and “Forcing Chess Moves” for being amongst the absolute best non-opening books written in the last 5 years!

  65. @Kostas Oreopoulos

    > My point is that scientific work is more important than familiarity with the position.

    > There are so many tools to help you bridge that handicap.

    No, no and no! I can’t agree with that, sorry. In fact, the ideal is to have both but just “scientific work” is not enough and is often just database dumps and make generally quite bad books. By the way, they are generally relatively easy to spot…

  66. @Jacob Aagaard

    Well, it also depends on the strength of the players who are supposed be the target of the work. You, as a GM, naturally prefer the analytical work, you know everything else, but for the common player, this is not sure and maybe another approach should be preferred…

  67. Kostas Oreopoulos

    @Blue Knight
    If you call scientific work a database dump sorry but we don’t mean the same thing.

    Scientific work means familiarize with patterns in the position, with endgames, analyze extensively with a computer and not just let the engine run for some minutes, filter possible variations based on human pattern habits etc etc etc.

  68. Kostas Oreopoulos


    Winning chess middlegames is what I was referring. Nice narration, but almost zero analytical work. Also is just an euphemism.

    Didn’t yet went through the nimzo book.

    For me a very good example of balance between analytical work and familiar are avruch (sorry go the tips but I am on mobile right now) books.
    Although I can tell that a big part of the book is more an analytical work than a familiarity project, and that is what I like a lot.

    Some times familiarity is a bad counselor. You repeat bad habits without an effort to find the truth

  69. In this months column on Mikhalevksi analyses 3 of his own games with the Open Spanish. In the first of these games, against Van Kampen, he reached a position from his book and made a mistake on move 23. Kampen had started his home preparation around move 20. Though very brave and principled from Mikhalevski, I still think it’s risky two give your opponent such an edge. By the way, in the second game he forgot the move from his own book and almost lost.

  70. Kostas Oreopoulos

    @Jacob Aagaard

    I hope all your replies (and qualitychess members) get the same styling as this post (consistently). Meaning your name on the right (mirrored). That way one can easily eye scan and spot your answers. Its much more pleasing to the eye (at least to my eyes 🙂 )

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