Sales text and the literal unbending truth

A repertoire to last a lifetime

Karpov’s Strategic Wins

Tired of Bad Positions – Try the Main Lines

A review of GM Repertoire 17: The Classical Slav got me thinking. The review had a highly favourable conclusion but mentioned that GM 17 improved against the repertoire Avrukh recommended years ago in GM Repertoire 1. “So much for the ‘repertoire to last a lifetime’” as we had written on the cover of GM 1. The reviewer’s comment is half-joking (at least that is my interpretation), but it caused me to look again at some of the sales text listed above.

(I have not linked to the review as I am perfectly happy with it, and I do not wish to start another “Quality Chess disagrees with reviewer” extravaganza. The review is excellent – no complaints here.)

So is ‘A repertoire to last a lifetime’ misleading? Well, the GM1 repertoire could last a lifetime. You could play the variations it recommends forever, and with success (4.e3 against the Slav, Fianchetto against KID, Catalan against QGD, etc.). But that does not mean the details will never need updating. Did anyone seriously believe that Boris Avrukh had ‘solved chess’ and found the strongest possible move in every position? People rightly have a lot of faith in Boris, but that would be too much.

Karpov’s Strategic Wins? Are all the wins in those books ‘strategic’? Whatever that means. Still, great books, in my opinion.

Tired of Bad Positions – Try the Main Lines. A tagline on our GM Repertoire books. What is a main line? And not every sideline automatically leads to a bad position.

As an example, 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 against the Slav was not, I think, a hugely popular line at GM level before Avrukh recommended it in GM1. Was it really a main line? It certainly is now.

So here are my questions: how do you feel about such sales text? Do you ignore them as pointless sales waffle? Take them literally and absolutely, then search for loopholes to prove us wrong? Any other examples of our sales text you wish to debate?

53 thoughts on “Sales text and the literal unbending truth”

  1. Have no problem with it and frankly the repertoire ~could~ last a lifetime depending on your level of play (opponents below a rating will possibly not even know of new theory, let alone make that the decisive factor in winning a game…unless the suggested move was a clear blunder!) But agreed, updates are to be expected… we even see reevaluations of old endgame positions – and this is with just a few pieces on the board – to expect openings to not constantly evolve is silly.

    But – now that you mention it! – books like GM1 are now a few years old… would Quality Chess consider publishing books (pamphlets even if not enough material) on significant updates? I am not that interested in buying a whole new set to replace the original one, but would be very happy to buy an “upgraded lines” book every few years.

  2. I tend to see these sales texts for what they are: sales texts. But I don’t think you are overselling in either of these three examples, since in essence they are true (i.m.o. at least), and that’s what counts. A sales text should give the prospective buyer an idea of the proposition for the product they are about to buy, and in that sense I do think these texts are rather informative.

  3. @Bryan
    We often put some updates and corrections in newsletters and on this blog, but a pamphlet or small book just of updates is unlikely. For one thing, as a reader, I would find it annoying to need to have two books open at the same time – one to see the orginal content and the other to see which parts are updated.

  4. @John Shaw
    I think it would be interesting to do a poll on how many owners of QC opening books put their reportoire in a database. In that case you don’t have a problem because you simply compare the update with the lines in your database. This is how I always work with new opening books, updates on, etc. – I check it against my current reportoire database and change lines where appropriate. But perhaps I’m just a small minority?

  5. Considering that there are so many books out there with names like “Win With The X”, or “An Unbeatable Chess Repertoire For X”, worrying about sales text seems a bit petty. QC is much better than most in this regard.

  6. @Ray
    That’s a fair point. A lot of people certainly do transfer books to databases. I generally rely on books, even when I have database files to hand, but that is just my old-fashioned nature.

    Naturally, a big reason publishers wish to sell big new books instead of small new pamphlets is our insatiable greed.

  7. @The Lurker
    “Quality Chess: much better than most”

    As an advertising slogan it needs some work, but thanks anyway.

    I am not so much worried about sales text, as interested in whether it has any impact.

    My own approach, whenever we reprint a book, is to delete as much as possible of the back cover blurb (barring some basic description of content), and replace it with reviews.

  8. “A repertoire to last a lifetime” – I think this is fine, for exactly the reasons you have given. It could be extended to any of your books on openings which “will never be refuted”. For example, I think we know enough about chess by now to say that the Classical Slav will never be refuted, whereas I wouldn’t want to be so sure about either of the Marshall gambits (in the Slav triangle for White, and the Spanish for Black).

    “Karpov’s Strategic Wins” is just a book title to my mind; there were previous published collections of Karpov’s games and you had to come up with a different name for yours. “How you too can play like Karpov” would have been sales text.

    “Try the main lines” I see as more of a QC mission statement than as sales text. It tells us what to expect from you, not only from one particular book, but from the series in general – so for example, don’t go asking for books on the Colle or the Schmid Benoni. I have never felt the need to quibble about an exact definition of a main line; a general understanding that the line has been played by strong players in serious competition, and is not refuted, will do for me.

  9. Mauricio Flores


    I think that writing a 2nd-edition to some books in the GM repertorie series would be good.
    Maybe 10-years after publication of the 1st edition (if the author is willing of course). There could be a slightly reduced price for people who can prove they had purchased the 1st edition.

    Actually, publishing 2nd-3rd edition is something very common in academic textbooks, and for books which are more theoretical in content (as opposed to collection of games) then it might make sense to publish an updated/expanded edition. Of course, you don’t want to turn it into a business a publish 10 editions just to squeeze money, but 2-3 editions over a few decades seem good.

    But I have to agree with John in that GM1 (and GM2) can easily last for a life-time, with just minor-adjustments which players must make on their own. Personally, I have been able to put my IM-GM opponents under pressure using Avrukh’s lines, even 4-5 years after the original publication.

  10. Shurlock Ventriloquist

    My firist question to these sales lines: Who’s or what’s lifetime? hahahaha

    I treat it as I do all propaganda.

    I ignore it with regard to decision making.
    I mock it. (Deride & Conquer)

    When I fear the propaganda is or may be harmful to others I warn others that may be sucked in by it that it is indeed, propaganda.

  11. @Mauricio Flores
    Why charge less :-). Costs only go up, not down. If a second edition is worth buying, it is worth producing, otherwise not. I cannot see a way to “squeeze money” that would actually work. Especially not with such an intelligent audience as ours.

  12. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I am unsure how many do that, or anything, but what I usually do is carry the book with me and read the bold moves and imagine them playing in my head with no board, which I suppose is the old fashioned method. But it is very tiresome to transfer all of the moves into a big database file–I already lost my harddrive twice within one year, and two years ago my computer was so slow that it took 10-15 minutes to start, so it resulted cumbersome to use a database solely. I usually bring my hardcover GM Repertoires to review with me on long journeys. The problem is that if one goes on a journey and the computer fails completely, the database files get lost. I alredy lost all of my Microsoft Word files when my I lost my harddrives, but it probably depends on many factors. My computer skills are fairly poor, but even if they were good, I cannot “watch” things on computer screens for long times without getting eye discomfort and headaches, so I turn back to the paper book.

  13. I completly ignore the blurb. My main decision for buying a book used to be if i liked former books by the author, if it is an opening book which variations are covered, and if the author is a very strong GM I usually buyed the book nearly unseen.

    This has changed in the last few years, now my most important buying decision is the Publisher of the book 🙂
    On a serios note I find pdf -excerpts quite helpful.

  14. @John Shaw
    Other versions of that slogan could be…
    Quality Chess: The best available. (Still a bit weak)
    Quality Chess: Better than all the rest. (Sounds a bit like the song”Simply the best” !)
    Quality Chess: The best you can get. (That sounds better, and true. The 5-star Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai has a similar slogan but that’s not a bad comparison of excellence)

  15. As a marketing guy and an editor, I like the tags you mentioned, especially try the mainlines. Puts a challenge to the prospective buyer. Lasts a lifetime is less original, but useful and not misleading.

    (Less useful is the use of “concrete” in chess books. Can someone tell me what a “concrete” variation is? As opposed to…? Or a concrete position? Am I wrong or is it “signifying nothing”?)

    Thanks for this blog. It’s a great pleasure.

  16. Mauricio Flores

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I think my previous post might have been interpreted the wrong way. Sorry about that. But just as curiosity, is there a chance for future 2nd editions on the GM repertorie series?

  17. As far as 2nd, 3rd and 4th editions of opening books are concerned. I think classical examples are “Beating the sicilian 1-3” and “Play the french 1-4” which seem to have been doing well enough. (I own eds. 1-3 in both cases).

    The key here seems to have been to offer alternatives within repertoires every now and then when there was little point in updating the original suggestions. In the spirit of this thread: “Now with 30% new content and 300 moves never published before (by a respectable publisher)”

  18. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    It;s really not that much effort i.m.o. – you have to go through all the moves anyway to study the book, so it’s only a small extra effort to put them in a database. If it is compatable with one’s computer skills is another question of course, but in that case I would seriously suggest a computer course 🙂

  19. @Till Plewe
    Indeed – personally, with the speed at which theory in the ‘main lines’ is developing, I would buy updates of GM books (say 5 years after the first edition) blindly. By the way, of course there is a precedent at QC planned already, i.e. GM Rep Najdorf.

  20. In the past I already wrote about this on this blog and was almost scoffed. I understand very well that theory is evolving and that no repertoire can be used as it is for years. My opinion is that the quality of the repertoire is in the “critical line”, that is the line that constitutes the backbone of the repertoire. This line should be solid enough and rich of ideas to stand the test of time. I criticize some repertoire of QC because the edge (or the equality for black side) is found in a line that is evidently not solid enough and not rich enough to stand the test of time independently of the current theory. Some examples

    – Marin book on English opening. I like it very much but…I use it for the black side! After three books he finds and edge for white in a line that I believe is better for black! (and current theory in correspondence chess confirm this). The ideas in the books are fantastic but the lines he chooses are too optimistic in the sense that they are made to work with some “collaboration” on the black side.

    – Ftacnik book on Sicilian. Come on, you can’t make a repertoire for black against 6 Bg5 defending an ending a pawn down. He claims an equal ending while again correspondence chess shows an almost forced win for white.

    – Grunfeld book (Avrukh). I know the Grunfeld isn’t the most solid defence…but I couldn’t use Avrukh’s repertoire not even once before it was busted in the Russian variation. And now Kaufman destroyed also it’s recommendation against 3 f3.

    I’d like QC to advocate one side of each main lines or at least propose lines that permits further research.

  21. garryk :
    …but I couldn’t use Avrukh’s repertoire not even once before it was busted in the Russian variation. ….

    That “bust” of Giri’s is alive and well for Black.
    Swinkels’ Rc8 wasn’t too good.

  22. Kostas Oreopoulos

    I do not expect a book to be bullet proof. It cannot be unless you explore dull lines with no play.

    One cannot put but only a limited amount of work on many the critical positions.

    A book that has work behind it, shows off immediately.

    I have created a “book” on QGA Nc6 variation. Each time I revisit some positions I find flaws, improvements etc. This is very logical. Fresh eyes, fresh perspective, new motivation.

    Just got my Slav digital copy and I really like it. Flaws? Of course, but only in positions I have really explored deeply. The book is a great tool to base your exploration. Great book


    Where did you find Kaufman recommendations ?

  23. @garryk
    I think it is unfair to say that we are not covering main variations. You see busts of variations in World Championship matches and somehow you think that this will not happen in our books?

    Let us take this 7…Nc6 variation. It was recommended in almost every book on the Grunfeld for a decade. It was Rowson’s recommendationa and was played by loads of Grandmasters. Personally I always liked 7…a6 the most, but you cannot expect the publisher to always force their way through. We have to trust the authors as well! You have no idea the arguments we have with out authors when we do not like something that they are keen on. I am having two of those at the moment and it is no joy I can tell you. Luckily those two guys do not read the blog, so they will not take offence of me mentioning this (which means that if you read this – I am not talking about you!).

  24. @garryk
    I think you have a too static view on this (it has been debated before on this blog, when you asked for a book based just on ideas which would stand the test of time)… I.m.o. Avrukh’s recommendation against the Grunfeld Russian system is a main line rich with ideas (so it fits your criteria). Of course you cannot expect a sharp opening like the Grunfeld (which has been declared busted so many times in the past) to be ‘stable’. I agree with your point on the Najdorf however, and I would be very surprised indeed if the coming second edition would recommend the same line for black against 6.Bg5.

  25. @garryk
    I doesn’t matter what I play against a 2700.
    All those “busts” shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
    But you are never released from thinking and analysing yourself.

  26. @Ray
    Two choiches – play the Russian and avoid main lines (I mean accept an inferior position by avoiding the most critical lines) or – I agree – quit playing the Grunfeld. For the moment I choose this second option.

  27. @Ray
    I don’t expect the line to be “stable”…but a two volume repertoire in these years of computer assisted analysis should be “stable enough” for some years.

    Look for example at Kaufman repertoire. Even if it isn’t good as it was when was published, it’s still quite reliable.

  28. For me “A repertoire to last a lifetime” means a choice of opening that may need fixing now and then (since that is unavoidable in any popular and mainstream opening), but will be playable for a long time. The lines that never need any fixing nobody plays since they are either dead equal or clearly better for either black or white. I do not agree with garryk that you should abandon the grunfeld if the Nc6 variation with Qb4 leads to a win for white in one mainstream game.

    You have a number of options: play another line (I used to play a6 as well), just analyse the game and look for improvements for black (which I am sure there will be, after looking at the game I would look at playing a Knight to c4 or the Q to a6, try to harass the white Q and get b5 in maybe? instead of moving the rooks which clearly is too slow, now the black Knights turned out unstable and easy targets. Black should be able to put pressure on b2/c3 and get counterplay there.)

    To conclude that the Grunfeld is now unplayable is complete nonsense in my opinion.

  29. @Indra Polak
    This is the way I always understood this tag-line. And I think that matters a bit, as I came up with it.

    And obviously it was a joke we had with our friends at New In Chess. And they really liked it.

  30. @garryk
    Sorry, I don’t agree. Firstly, Kaufmann is recommending a main line against the Russian system of the Grunfeld, just like Avrukh – so what’s the difference? Secondly, Avrukh just showed in his book on the Slav that Kaufmann’s recommendation against the main line Slav with 11…g5 is totally innocent. I obviously didn’t check the rest of Kaufmann’s book against rhe current status of theory, but I hope you get my point. Honestly I think any opening book will need an update in the critical sections at least after 5 years and maybe even sooner. Of coure you don’t need to, but that will be at your own risk.

    1. Svetushin recommended this 3.f3 line that puts Avrukh’s recommendation under pressure. But still, Svidler refers to Avrukh’s books on the Grunfeld with reverence in his videos. I think overall we did ok; it is just a very sharp and complex opening.

  31. PS, whatever has happened to the old Kasparov as we used to know him? He would never abaondon the critical line of the Grunfeld but would simply repair them 🙂

  32. For me, the tag line is more or less irrelevant.

    I buy books based on author, publisher, interest in the subject matter and reviews.

    I like GM Rep books as a concept and buy most of them, but I pay little attention to anything on the back cover of any book.

    I do often look at the pdf previews before buying a book now, to get a feel for content and also to try to judge the level of the book.

  33. It’s difficult for me to explain myself (I’m not a native english speaker, you know).

    I know Kaufman’s book it’s not updated, it suffers the same problem on the Russian Grunfeld and some of its recommendation are harmless. I agree. But there is a big difference between Kaufman and, let’s say, Marin’s book on the English.

    Kaufman gives a reasonable advice based on general concepts and computer evaluations. You can find an improvement for the other side but the general concepts remain valid and most of the time if a computer evaluates a position as good for white it’s difficult that a single improvement for black equalizes.

    Marin gives a very narrow path for the edge, on 1 c4 e5, after 3-400 pages of equalizing lines for black he finally shows a single line for white that should give a small edge. But he forgets to analyze the most obvious answer of black (first choice of houdini since the first seconds) that give black a very good game (IMO even an edge). So what remains of Marin’s book? Everything was based on a narrow and single line. No general concepts can overcome 400 hundred pages of equalizing lines.

    Avrukh’s book. Against the slav he choose a very unnatural line (Nh4) and in the critical position he analyzes only inferior moves for black. Against a good defense White is left with clumsy pieces and no edge. Against the grunfeld he choose a line that was put off by a single innovation of (if I remember well) Caruana. No chance to save the line that in fact was again filled with unnatural moves to make it work at all cost (White Queen was pushed around for many moves)

    In ten years I’ll probably read again Kaufman’s book even if harmless while I’ll not see any point in reading 200 pages of Avrukh’s slav knowing that Nh4 isn’t going anywhere. And I’ll continue reading Marin’s book…from black point of view!

  34. @Ray
    @Indra Polak
    Of course you can play the grunfeld (black can’t be busted after 3 moves) but it’s a problem of consistence. If you know that you can’t rely on your main move-order because of a single specific problem, you are left with the problem to find a playable position game after game. If you are young you can do it, at my age I’d like to have a more “solid” repertoire, not solid in the sense of boring and drawish but in the sense of “reliable” and rich enough to improvise at the board.

  35. Kostas Oreopoulos


    Are you sure there is a problem the Russian system in Grunfeld?

    I cannot find anything that you can play for an advantage the Hungarian system ( a6 system) and also the that Avruch proposes is fine too.

    Unless there are some new developments that I missed and analysis the line

  36. @garryk
    Apart from advertisement for Kaufman I don’t see much substance in your posts.
    You repeatedly state that Avrukh or Marin are just offering inferior lines with which it is very hard to agree.
    Maybe you just mixed them up with your Eric-Schiller-library??

  37. @Thomas
    I hope you are joking.

    First of all I’m not advertising Kaufman, I’m just using it as an example. I don’t even play most of Kaufman recommendations but I liked his approach to the problem.

    Second, the problem isn’t that Avrukh’s or Marin’s lines are “inferior” but that they are “thin” in the sense that many hundred pages of repertoire rely on a single line. Or you analyze that line to death to be sure of it’s solidness or it’s a very dangerous approach (and certainly not suitable for a lifetime repertoire).

  38. @Kostas Oreopoulos
    Honestly it’s some time since I haven’t check the status of the line. If I can be honest, I stopped using the Grunfeld after being disappointed by some books on the variation, Avrukh’s being one of them. I don’t have time and energy to keep my grunfeld repertoire updated. For the moment I enjoy playing the Nimzo.

  39. In general I think that a book should make you fall in love with an opening. For the moment very few books succeeded in this with me. QC has a very good success rate, so don’t misunderstand me, I evaluate QC as the best BY FAR. Perhaps I had too high expectations and sometimes I was disappointed. I played the open spanish when I was young and I hoped to play it again after the GM repertoire book but I didn’t like it. I really hoped to start playing the english as white consistently but the more I studied Marin’s book the more I appreciated his effort to equalize as black. QC of course published some “gems” but you don’t need me to remember this.

  40. garryk :
    Honestly it’s some time since I haven’t check the status of the line. If I can be honest, I stopped using the Grunfeld after being disappointed by some books on the variation, Avrukh’s being one of them. I don’t have time and energy to keep my grunfeld repertoire updated. For the moment I enjoy playing the Nimzo.

    How does this match your statement that the current evaluation of Avrukh’s line is “winning for white” ?

  41. @garryk
    Sounds like ‘ winning with the London is’ is more something for you :-). But seriously, I do understand what you mean, but I just don’t agree that Avrukh’s books hinge on a single move / narrow line. In the Grunfeld he recommended many main lines and the Catalan (for white) also seems pretty main line to me. As for his recommendation 6.Nh4 against the Slav: maybe you’re right this is equal, but so are all white lines against the Slav. Please show me a line in which white is better against the Slav. The same goes for Mikhalevski’s book on the Open Spanish. Ok, maybe the opening is not to your taste, but the reportoire he offers is sound and main-line only. Besides, black has many other options should white find an improvement in one of the variations. So again, what’s the problem?

  42. Isn’t there a famous quote: with white everything seems equal and with black everything seems to give an edge for white?

  43. @Ray
    “Please show me a line in which white is better against the Slav.”

    You are right! This is the point, I prefer a solid repertoire without any claim of an edge but based on general concepts that I can refine in the details day by day than a “sideline” (as in my opinion is Nh4) repertoire that claims an edge in an obscure and thin line that – if refuted – leaves me with nothing in my hand.

    I mean…I don’t like playing Nh4 in general terms…I play it only if concrete analysis show me an edge…if the edge disappears for an improvement of black…what have I learned? What is left in my repertoire?

  44. Thomas :
    Apart from advertisement for Kaufman I don’t see much substance in your posts.
    You repeatedly state that Avrukh or Marin are just offering inferior lines with which it is very hard to agree.
    Maybe you just mixed them up with your Eric-Schiller-library??

    Without even knowing which line garryk is talking about, I can still say I understand what he means. Have you checked the lines in Marin’s books? It seems to me that he might have used a computer at the end of the lines, but dismissed many “side-alternatives” that are better and easily found by e.g. engines. I use the books and love the explanations, but in many lines there are nothing mentioned on Black’s best options.

  45. A book title is always shorter as the content if there is content. So what?

    A salestext is a salestext is a salestext …. So what?

    To be content with the review is astonishing. This guy cannot judge any opening, reads fast and according to him are more than 90% of all chess books worth the money. Friendly words to get review copies?

    The salestexts of Quality Chess are all right in my opinion. They say what you want to be judged for. That’s fair.

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