45 thoughts on “In depth review of the King’s Gambit by Smerdon”

  1. I think there are two kind of books; those that gives you what you want, and those that offer you what you need. Smerdon seems to have wanted one kind of book about the King’s Gambit but after reading the book he realised that the book could be just what he needed. Too many times you simply give up on a book if it does not give you what you want – I know I often do but that could be the reason Im rated 5 – 600 lower;-)


    Dear Jacob,

    Yesterday I finished my work on your GM Preparation book, and my results so far are:

    1. GM Preparation โ€“ POSITIONAL PLAY: 222 exercises; success ratio 33%;

    2. GM Preparation โ€“ STRATEGIC PLAY: 123 exercises; success ratio 29% ๐Ÿ™‚

    What do you think what my Elo rating should be according to given results?

    PS Mentioned books are top-notch! I wish you could write more about dynamic play and exercises, also to work on a MANUAL of Positional/Strategic play cause such one doesn’t exist on the market. Dare to enter the void first!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Michael Agermose Jensen

    @ le bruit qui court
    Rumour has is that… trolls are best left alone but please tell us what your self-referential post has to do with Mr Shaw’s King’s gambit book?!

    Congrats John on the nice review, I liked the book a lot as well!

    1. It was in the mail before then to some places. The books arrived early and Claire just had them out there. Some guys had it Friday already.

  4. Michael Agermose Jensen

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Sorry, wasn’t trying to moderate, just couldn’t help it even if I knew the reply and tone beforehand.
    I thought David’s review was spot on, kudos well-deserved (even if John did refute a few of my favourite lines) and would have liked the book at 800 pages as well ๐Ÿ˜‰
    It seems inappropriate to mention my own stuff here, so I will just say I also look forward to our book coming out.

  5. Wonderful book, having read John’s Ruy Lopez book too, wished he would turn seriously to the Ruy Lopez, and not, as I am afraid is coming in the repertoire with 1.e4, a sideline like 2.Bc4 or similar vs 1…e5.

    So much effort into the KG feels it would have been wonderfully spent in the Ruy Lopez. And I played the KG for 30 years!

    Obviously the Starting out was just a primer…

  6. @Ray Well, that’s my point, I played vs Ni Hua (2657) at the time in Benasque, he played the Scotch… and I didn’t draw cause I blundered a pawn in a very equal endgame… Point is, Scotch gives you nothing… But I understand it is hard to recommend anything vs the Berlin these days (and the Marshall!)

    It will be good to see what John Shaw has to say about the Scotch. Yelena Dembo and Palliser Scotch book doesnot refute Gustafsson’s repertoire at all.

  7. I thought it’s a pretty good book, most of his recommendations seem sensible. It does seem a bit confused at times as to whether it’s a repertoire book or a definitive guide.

    A game of mine from the Quaade (by transposition)

    [Event “Lancs Forever v Stockport Man Lg Bd 2”]
    [Site “?”]
    [Date “2001.11.22”]
    [Round “?”]
    [White “Hague, Ben”]
    [Black “Beach, Richard”]
    [Result “1-0”]
    [WhiteElo “2219”]
    [ECO “C34”]
    [PlyCount “35”]

    1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h6 4.d4 g5 5.g3 d6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.gxf4 g4 8.Rg1 Kf8 9.Be3 gxf3 10.Qxf3 Nf6 11.e5 Ne8 12.O-O-O Nc6 13.f5 dxe5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Rxd8 Nxf3 16.Bc5+ Kg8 17.f6 Bg4 18.Rxa8 1-0

  8. Ben Hague :

    I thought itโ€™s a pretty good book, most of his recommendations seem sensible. It does seem a bit confused at times as to whether itโ€™s a repertoire book or a definitive guide.

    I would have hoped for better than “pretty good” and “seem sensible” but I will settle for what I can get. The latter point about repertoire book or definitive guide has been said before, so it seems I was not clear enough. In the book I write something like: “Not every move after 2.f4 is covered, but there is enough material to create several repertoires for White.” So the book is more than a repertoire, but less than complete.

    To give an example, which line do I recommend playing against 3…g5: 4.h4, 4.Nc3 or 4.d4 ? My answer is ‘all of them’. Vary and keep your opponent guessing.

  9. >so it seems I was not clear enough.

    It seems to me that you were amply clear enough and that your critics in this regard are morons.

    Be that as it may, an excellent effort – I would even go so far as to say it’s been worth the wait. I also applaud putting in lots of strictly irrelevant but interesting analysis. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing chess books, it is that you should write about what you want to write about and let buyers complain that you should have written a different book if they want to.

  10. @John Cox

    As there is “enough material to create several repertoires for White” why don’t outline at least some of them in a separate chapter? I think there was enough space in the book…

  11. In fairness I should say that I haven’t yet had time to really study the book, so “seems sensible” just means that it looks more or less like what I thought was best when I played the King’s Gambit.

    Due to certain personality quirks/defects “pretty good” is about as much praise as I ever give anything, so numerically maybe 9/10 (10/10 would be for proving an advantage for White).

    About the repertoire thing, it just struck me as a bit odd to cover roughly 90% of the King’s Gambit (So far I’ve not found the Hamppe-Allgaier or Pierce, and coverage of the Muzio and 4.c3 in the declined is a bit sparse) and not chuck the kitchen sink in as well and go for the full 100%. Also it did jar a little to have a hundred pages or so of fascinating complications in the 4.h4 line and then just when I was thinking that this was a line I had to start playing as soon as possible to find that the verdict after 5…d6 was “equal and joyless” and “unappealing for White”. Bit of a cold shower really.

  12. You can always find reasons not to play an opening or indeed, not to play chess at all…

    I am happy with John’s book and I agree with him that a repertoire should not be recommended, mainly because we do not want to give away those wanting to play the lines in the book.

    As said elsewhere today, forced draws happen very rarely in games where you don’t want them to.

  13. Jacob, you mention the 4th book of the Grandmaster Preparation series (I’m still only on the 2nd – Chapter 3 – and I must admit significantly simpler than Calculation was), but I have a question about another book that came out the same time.

    I’ve looked at the PDF from here. I’ve looked at the Website advertised. And yet, I don’t quite “get” (or understand) what “Pump Up Your Rating” is supposed to be.

    For example. “Advanced Chess Tactics” is just that, what the title says. “The Grandmaster Battle Manual” is about dealing with all the issues in open tournaments, such as not letting a bad loss impact your subsequent rounds, not gloating and sitting on that pedistal after a win as you probably had errors yourself, the geometry of chess, what to do against lower opposition, etc.

    But what is “Pump Up Your Rating” all about? Is it just a glorified title for a game collection or autobiographical book with a few problems sprinkled in? Is it a bunch of unrelated mini-lessons on Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame similar to the Yusupov series though more advanced, similar to the level of the two books I mentioned in the previous paragraph?

  14. @Patrick
    Not all titles can be explanatory; this one would have been “How to be your own Chess Coach” is not a title that works, but it is what the book is about.

  15. Thanks Jacob.

    Now that I at least have some idea what it is, this book will probably go on my “Find out what the reviews say first” list, especially given that when it comes to non-opening books, I do have time anyways as my pile of “To Be Read” books is getting pretty tall. I’m about half way thru GM Preparation – Positional Play, a third of the way thru the Grandmaster Battle Manual, and still have Advanced Chess Tactics along with the last 4 books of your Grandmaster Preparation series to read still, along with half of another book by a competing publisher and one more that just came out. I wish I could say I was a loyal “Quality Chess” reader, but I guess 80% will have to do. There are certain authors out there that are, in my humble opinion, phenomenal (Jacob, you are amongst that list, by the way), and it would be great if Quality Chess could round up and monopolize all of them, but I’m guessing the two authors among my favorites that publish outside of this company probably have contractual obligations. I won’t mention names since it would be wrong to advertise other publishers here, but one of them has written one book for Quality Chess with a title matching that of a torn down structure in Germany over 20 years ago while the other was the Yugoslav champion in 1988 and Dutch champion in 1995 and 1998.

  16. Another review here: http://reviews.dailychess.org/the-kings-gambit-a-grandmaster-guide-by-john-shaw-quality-chess-2013-680-pages/

    And no, he doesn’t say it’s a “pretty good book”. Instead , the conclusion is:” This book is key to the Kingโ€™s Gambit and the best book which was ever written on this opening and probably will be ever written! Some say itโ€™s hard to tell the truth in chess when it comes to openings, but Iโ€™ve got the feeling that this book comes extremely close to it in most chapters.”

  17. To the QC staff:

    This book is now available on a file-sharing site out of Russia (I think). And it does not appear to be an optical scan. I can cut and paste text from the PDF file into a text editor. Unless you are selling a PDF version that I don’t know about, I think you fellows have a leak somewhere.

  18. It could be OCRed. The point is that it’s as good as you would get if QC sold it. Too bad QC won’t make a dime off the PDF version, with their 20th century business model.

    By the way, I did buy a paper copy.

  19. I agree that a digital format should be available, but selling an unprotected PDF would be a no-business model as we would quickly be like another published I can think of, which sells only half the amount of copies and makes up for the short-fall by paying their authors poorly. The result can clearly be seen by the books they produce. I would rather work on a farm or something like that, than producing something no one needs…

  20. garryk :
    We all agree on this. But I think most of us also agree on wanting ebooks.

    I add a confession. I have some pdf of books I’ve bought . I love paper and I hate illegal sharing, but travelling a lot for work I can’t bring dozens of books with me, so pdf, even if illegal, is my only chance to read those books. Just my 2 cents to the discussion.

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