Grandmaster Repertoire and Grandmaster Guide – two different concepts

In New in Chess 2/2014, which finally popped through the door today, there is a longer review of Playing the French, as well as a glowing review of From GM to Top 10 by Judit Polgar (which in my opinion is a good deal better than the ECF book of the year winning predecessor; which obviously is quite great too!).

To get a positive review from such a great player (and reader) as Matthew Sadler is always a great moment for any writer. Especially Nikos and I are happy that he did not manage to put a dent in my weird 12…h6 in the French Tarrasch (which was played once before, so we do not call it a novelty, don’t worry):

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. Re1 Qc7 12. Qe2 h6!!

Like me, Sadler is enthrolled and disgusted with this move at once. Surely White should be able to refute it with active play? But the problem is that the bishop on c1 lacks an active outpost. Sadler does not manage to find anything after 13.b3 or 13.Bd2.

Sadler is very positive, but prefers out previous book together, Grandmaster Repertoire 10 – The Tarrasch Defence. He specifically mentions what is probably the highlight of that book, Nikos’ discovery in the 11…h6-variation:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 c4 10. Ne5 Be6 11. b3 h6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. bxc4 dxc4 15. e3 Qa5 16. Qc2 c5!!

There we had 10 pages of analysis, proving the validity of the variation (which I famously never memorised properly…).

This leads us to the point of this post. Basically we are talking about liking one concept over the other (though Sadler has 1-2 points of criticism that seems very valid). In the Grandmaster Repertoire series we seek to present the reader with an in-depth, deeply analysed and detailed repertoire. In the Grandmaster Guide we aim differently; to give some essential information, with the understanding that many people will prefer something that is easy to take in, because they have those weird things called jobs that eat away the time they should be spending on learning the ins and outs of the French Defence. It is especially poignant that Sadler comes with this reflection in this opening, as the Emanuel Berg 3-volume series exists in the same territory 8-). I personally share Sadler’s taste, but this does not mean that I think it is the only way to do things. I know some of you ask quite focussed questions, based on a clear understanding of what we are trying to do with these two concepts, but maybe we need to make it a bit clearer about what we are trying to do at times.

Anyway, we are very pleased and humbled by the fact that Sadler found our book interesting enough to both review and to scrutinize to the degree he did. Simply put: it is an honour.

39 thoughts on “Grandmaster Repertoire and Grandmaster Guide – two different concepts”

  1. You read my mind. I wondered about the difference when someone asked for a “guide” on the Caro-Kann and I thought to myself: “well there is the Rep book by Schandorff—hmm—what is the difference.” I think it is an important one. So, yes—we do need a guide to the Caro-Kann. 😉

  2. I guess the difference is rather gradual, and it also depends on the book. E.g., i.m.o. John’s Grandmaster Guide on the King’Gambit is much more detailed than Schandorff’s Grandmaster Reportoire book on the Caro-Kann. It’s interesting to note that Arne Moll on Chessvibes had more or less the same point of criticism on Playing the French not being detailed enough. I disagree – for a Grandmaster Guide it is on the contrary quite detailed, compared e.g. to Schandorff’s books on 1.d4. In summary, I can see what you are trying to do with both series, but (for understandable reasons) the concepts overlap to some degree dues to differences between authors’ personal styles and preferences. To be honest, for me as a customer it is no problem whatsoever, because I want to have both books anyway for my favourite openings.

  3. Is the second diagram correct? I think the move pair 15…Qa5 16.Qc2 is missing.

    Or is it a example for not memorizing correctly? 🙂

  4. I don’t think a Grandmaster can be satisfied with a “guide”, so another title would have been better…for example “master guide” or something less pretentious…

    I’d like to clarify one thing. Every book contains mistakes but I feel that in some “Grandmaster guides” not always everything has been done to avoid them. If you analyze the Botvinnik variation of the semislav you can’t claim equality in a line that is busted by force…

    If the Grandmaster Guide format doesn’t permit to analyze everything…ok…then don’t mention lines you haven’t properly analyzed…focus on ideas…plans…

  5. @garryk
    Luckily GM Repertoires are available at around $34.95./€27.99 usually. If anyone for real do not think that strong grandmasters read these books, reality would make them quite surprised.

  6. @garryk
    Come on guys, the GM Reportoire books are as good as it gets imo. I dare anybody to write a better book! Of course every opening book contains lines which are ‘obsolete’ before the print has dried up, but that’s besides the point. And also, the target adience of these books can be expected to have an active attitude to studying openings, i.e., also do some significant work themselves (or by Houdini etc.) – you can’t expect everything to be handed over to you on a plate from here to eternity. And @ garryk: most of the GM Rep as well as the GM Guide books are full of text on ideas / plans! So what’s the problem?

  7. @Ray
    I start from the last question. I appeciate ideas/plans but I don’t like conclusions about something you haven’t analyzed as deep as it seems. I’m not speaking in general terms, in Schandorff book I stumbled upon a line in the Botvinnik that is said to be “equal” and instead it’s completely busted….I mean busted by force. This is not only a big hole but a illogical hole in the sense that nobody would ask for such a long variation in a “guide”. Sometimes “less is better” in this kind of books.

    Regarding the other question…obsolete is one thing…harmless or buster is another thing…you can claim an edge for white in a line and then later an improvement is found for black…if it’s an improvement that leaves the position enough complicated and rich it’s ok…as a GM I’ll do my homework and improve against the improvement…but if you write 400 pages on a variation and then an improvement is found on page 10 that brings a dead draw ending or a sharp counterattack for the opposite side…well…you have wasted 390 pages of analysis.

    I repeat that QC books are BY FAR the best books on the market…but IMHO there is still something to be improved to be called “GM something”…

  8. @garryk
    There is no doubt that we can do better. We try all the time. I personally try very hard with my books and we try to push our authors as much as we can. Obviously no strong GM will follow a repertoire blindly; but they do read some of the books. I am told a lot of things in confidence, so I cannot mention names. But we have nothing to be embarrassed about to put it mildly. But this does not mean that it is time to celebrate; only that it has not gone entirely wrong (too often) yet!

  9. Speaking of QC books, and I am the owner of the odd dozen or so, I would really like to see another work by Suba. I thought his book on sacrifices was very good. Gm Rep or Gm Guide I tend to buy then all. I don’t think there are any perfect books, but I do think they are definitely some of the better chess books being published.

  10. That 12…h6!! move, in the French Tarrasch Position, can it really be that simple to solve Black’s problems there?

  11. @John Johnson
    There are no books planned with Suba at the moment, but we are hoping to be able to publish a few really interesting “general” chess books in the coming year. There is of course Thinking Inside the Box, which people will either hate or love. There is a hope that Axel Smith can be coerced to do another book. We have a Polish author, who is working on a what seems to be quite a nice book. Grivas with The Grandmaster Program. Esben Lund with his in-depth investigation into bishops that can be either good or bad. Tibor Karolyi with a three volume work on Tal and finally Mating the Castled King, which I am typesetting at the moment. I think you should find something in this list that will sweeten your tooth…

  12. @Toppy
    I agree that it looks ridiculous. But the threat of Bg5 is so strong that it appears to be the best move. The position reminds a bit of various Sicilians where Black focuses on establishing the right structure before he develops. It always runs the risk of being mated; but if he isn’t then he will catch up with the development and stand easily equal.

  13. @Jacob Aagaard

    The introductive diagrams at the beginning of each chapter in Play the French is a good idea to learn an opening.
    Will you discuss this matter in Thinking inside the box? Especially how to select key positions from one’s openings and work on it.

  14. @Jacob Aagaard

    The introductive diagrams at the beginning of each chapter in Play the French is a good idea to learn an opening. Will you discuss this matter in Thinking inside the box? Especially how to select key positions from one’s openings and work on it.

  15. @garryk
    It depends on how you define opening reportoire. Can you e.g. speak of an opening reportoire if you don’t play the same variation more than once or twice (ok I may be exaggerating a bit but you get my point)? Because that’s more or les what Carlsen is doing i.m.o.

  16. before or after the variations will finish and he’ll have to start playing the same variation again and again…at least he has played the berlin quite often…I’m waiting for the moment Anand will crack it

  17. There is room for a few new opening book series:

    IM-Repertoire: “Not the best Openings, but still very good” Advertisement

    FM-Repertoire: “Openings easy to remeber for older players” Ad

    CM-Repertoire: Printed on toilet paper…

  18. I do not consider myself as inhibitor of an opening repertoire. I play random stuff, often decided at the board. Last night I was White in the Marshall Gambit, with latest update of theory being 1987 (Berliner Schachverlag – no kidding!). I was soon a rook up and under serious attack. I played well and won the game. The effort on the board do decide 99% of all games, I think.

  19. BREAKING NEWS! Jacob Aagaard says opening study decide only 1% of the outcome of the game! Stop reading opening books! 🙂

  20. @garryk
    obviously openings become more and more important the better the players. The 2012 World Ch. was partly decided with a strong novelty; while in 2013 the opening was close to irrelevant.

    Getting your own game is the most important imo.

  21. garryk :
    I don’t think a Grandmaster can be satisfied with a “guide”, so another title would have been better…for example “master guide” or something less pretentious…

    Perhaps “Grandma’s Guide”? I would instantly buy any chess book with that title btw.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top