Opening books in practice

We have published a number of opening books, and I would like to hear from readers how well (surely not badly?) they have worked when you put them into practice.

I also like to keep an eye on whether top-level players are using the lines our authors have suggested, and the new ideas that they uncover in them. For example, Avrukh’s chosen line against the Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Nh4) was rare when we printed and now seems to be the favoured choice of the elite (Topalov, Carlsen, Morozevich, Wang Yue, etc.). I am not suggesting they are all simply following Avrukh (Topalov played it before the book, and he is a trend-setter), but it’s good to see the lines are relevant.

If you have spotted an interesting new idea played in one of our lines, then feel free to post it (or just the game reference) in comments.

John Shaw

17 thoughts on “Opening books in practice”

  1. At first, the repertoire was too subtle for me (Class A) but this made me happy because I knew I would improve more by playing it and understanding it. I wanted a book that was very high quality, honest and detailed so I didn’t expect it to be easy. Now, I’ve already improved my chess understanding a lot and my openings are going well too.

    As you probably know from the 20+ thread on, I have a lot of feedback. I’ll give you some of my quick thoughts.

    I’ve found an inaccuracy on p. 128:

    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. Bg2 a6 6. O-O Nc6 7. Nc3 Rb8 8. e4 Be7 9. Qe2 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Qxd4 11. Rd1 Qc5 12. e5 Nd7 13. Ne4 Qb5 14. Bf4 O-O 15. Rac1 Nb6 16. Qg4 Kh8 17. Bg5 f5 18. exf6 gxf6

    Avrukh gives 19. Bh6 which seems fairly unclear to me despite the weakened kingside. All manner of engine matches show that Black is not really worse. Rybka, Fritz, and the other engines I used give:

    19. Nxf6 Rxf6 20. Bxf6+ Bxf6 21. Rd8+ Bxd8 22. Qd4+ Bf6 23. Qxf6+ Kg8 24. Qd8+ Kg7 25. Qxc7+ Nd7 26. Rxc4 with a close to lost position. Black draws a some but never wins any. Others on chesspub also haven’t found errors with this Nxf6 line. There may be some improvements for Black earlier such as 14. …c3 but then White still continues the attack with Qg4.

    In addition, some improvements have been found:

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.Qc2 b6 9.Rd1 Ba6 10.b3 Nbd7 11.a4 c5 12.Na3 Bb7 13.Qb2 Ne4 14.Be1 Bf6 15.e3 and now IM Greet (in his new QID book) suggests Qe7 instead of releasing the tension with cxd4 as in the Piket – Kramnik game Avrukh cites. I was actually surprised that Avrukh did not consider this move since it is recommended by Rybka 3. Every opening book author should have the latest engines and very good hardware (Quad at least). Anyway, I’m not sure what to do against this line but the combination of b3 AND Qc2 is not favorable to White. In standard Ba6 QID positions, either move is a concession and having to play both just means White can’t get an edge. 8. Qb3 or a4 should be considered too.

    I still haven’t finished the book and probably won’t for a while but I hope this much helps for any future second printing or second edition.

  2. I’ve also tried to implement his probable recommendations against 1. d4 Nf6 but I’m having real trouble against similar responses like g6. For example, this variation seems impossible to crack for White and no worse for Black: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 (more flexible if White intends this anyway) c6 4.Bg2 d5 The problem is that the light squared bishop is free to roam as it pleases (unlike in the Catalan), the c4 pawn is really threatened, the long diagonal is blocked and Black’s dark squared bishop is placed on a more active diagonal. It’s like an improved Schlecter Slav since White wouldn’t usually go with g3 systems against it. It seems that universal g3 systems are less threatening to Black when he has so much flexibility with N6. The standard lines like Bayonet attack and the Rb1 line against the Grunfeld can probably generate better chances for advantage. Of course, maybe there are approaches I didn’t consider also but this is a serious problem for me so far. I’ve even played a far weaker opponent OTB in that line and couldn’t do more than draw.

  3. I should add that the Modern Benoni is no walk in the park either. By transposing to the fianchetto variation, Black frees his problem light squared bishop and rules the long with his g7 bishop (which will be further enhanced by Q-side play with a6-Rb8-b5). To add, Black gets the e-file with murderous ideas for White’s king. Of course, White is no worse as he has an extra central pawn but his g2 bishop starring at the d5 pawn is not inspiring. It’s hard to get an edge as White in this line and even then, the positions are mind-bogglingly complex. In addition, if White does not go for the critical lines, Black will have a comfortable position with a viscious attack to boot. I hope Avrukh will go into a lot of depth for this because the Modern Benoni is Black’s primary way to show that White’s Catalan aspirations are in vain since Black retains more flexibility with the Nimzo-Indian move order. And, if Black is right that his flexibility makes White’s Catalan idas impotent, then White would need to play the QID or Nimzo instead – big subjects – so the stakes are high.

    Here’s a critical line I’ve been analyzing (which seems like best play for both sides):

    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O a6 10. a4 Re8 11. Nd2 Nbd7 12. h3 Rb8 13. Nc4 Ne5 14. Na3 Nh5 15. e4
    Bd7 16. a5 Qxa5 17. g4 Nf6 18. f4 (In his game with Kamsky, Avrukh suggests this is the way to play and that g5 is just bad.) Nexg4 19. hxg4 Nxg4 20. f5 (The only way! Nc2 and others seem less challenging.) Bd4+ 21. Kh1 Nf2+ 22. Rxf2 Bxf2 This line is insanely complicated but so far it seems like White is doing OK in my analysis. Although, I certainly can’t assess it as more than unclear.

    Maybe Avrukh can delve into the mysteries of this line and maybe find some more firm answers.

    I am not sure if anyone is reading all my feedback. While I’m learning by writing it I really hope that Avrukh and others involved with GM Repertoire 1. d4 will consider what I have to say. I’ve worked countless hours with the best tools to provide this feedback and it would be a shame if it wasn’t given some thought.


  4. Alex,

    Thanks for your efforts. I can assure you we certainly are reading it and taking note.

    We will have a look at your possible improvements in the Catalan for Volume 1.

    I haven’t yet seen all the details of Boris Avrukh’s planned lines for Volume 2. Yes, g3 systems are the basis, and when I see the early analysis, if Boris has not already addressed the lines you mention, then I’ll ask him to look at them.

    This is the way it worked in Volume 1: when Jacob or I had a question (either our own ideas or something we saw in a book) we would e-mail Boris and he would fire back a reply (often a refutation). It was great fun for us and Boris loves to analyse.

    And Alex, just to show that I really am paying attention: the wild line of the Modern Benoni you mention was played by Boris in 2008 (after the Kamsky game) all the way to 20.f5 when Black (R. Bar, 2425) varied from your line and later lost. So you can be sure that Boris has plenty of analysis in this line, as well as the others.

  5. Ok, great. 🙂 I wasn’t aware of that game but it’s interesting that Boris is playing the same line. It took me a long time to figure out that 20. f5 is strong since engines seem to prefer other moves. Rybka actually thinks it’s favorable for Black but all my analysis shows the opposite.

    BTW: Regarding this line, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O, if Nbd7 Qc2 like Avrukh suggests. 8. a4 ideas are premature because Black retains too much flexibility with the pawns. However if 8. …c6 then a4 works well. Also, if 7. …c6, going to the main line, then 8. a4 works again. This also insures that the timing is such that Ba6 can be met with b5. There are often ideas of b4 and a5 or b4 and b5. For instance, if Black tries to go for the Ba6 lines, White hits him with b5 forcing Bb7. White might also increase the pressure with Qb3. These lines with a4 make use of the bishop on d2 but try to refrain from generally not that useful move combinations in the QID like Qc2 or b3. White immediately gets a big space advantage and I haven’t found a way for Black to equalize. Thus, I prefer 8. a4 against 7. …c6 and 8. Qc2 followed by 9. a4 (if Black goes back to normal lines) against 7. …Nbd7. The Qb3 alternative I mentioned in my post doesn’t seem as promising. This also has the advantage of being a new way to handle the position (or I haven’t seen any games anyway).

    The sad part is that I have to face the Catalan and now I know of no way to equalize completely. Although, I can go for some aggressive (Benoni) or solid positions (the above).

    I’m not sure why I’m giving all this analysis away. I spent a lot of time on it. I guess it’s because I’m very happy with the book and am not to the caliber of the players here so I wouldn’t benefit too much from keeping it to myself. At the 1900-2100 level, it’s rare for such interesting theoretical discussions to occur. Although, I still enjoy trying to find the mysteries in some lines.

  6. I am sure the 6 other people reading this blog will not be your next opponents!

    Boris has just finished the Benoni-Chapter, and it does have a lot of stuff on 20.f5 as John predicted.

  7. In the past, Quakity Chess have been good enough to issue .pdf updates online for improvements/errors etc with some books, but it strikes me that if there are things to be added to Volume 1 of the Avrukh book (before any reprint) it would be a nice idea to include them in a small section of Vol 2. I myself own Vol 1 and will buy Vol 2, as will most people who own the first one, I imagine, and rather than have people complaining about omissions and errors etc and possibly even waiting for the second print run of Vol 1 before they purchase (I did this with Chess Stars QGA book, waited until 3rd edition …) if a couple pages’ worth of changes/additions were included in Vol 2 (and even possibly a .pdf online, too) I think people would be even more pleased to own both Volumes. Mind you, I’m speaking as someone who approaches chess the old fashioned way, via printed books rather than at my PC all the time, so I may be in the minority, but i think it’s an idea that might be worth floating at, say, Chesspub forum.

  8. Oh, I’m not too worried. 🙂

    However, I’ve found that my Bd4+ idea in the Benoni probably isn’t best. Now I favor 20. …Ne5 and if Bg5 (Avrukh’s choice against Bar) then Qc7 followed by Bh8 (a bit unpleasant) if f6. This seems much tougher to crack. Does Avrukh cover Ne5 and Qc7?

  9. Here’s a game from today with 4. e3:

    (7) Alekseev Evgeny – Svidler Peter
    Grand Prix Nalchik (1)

    1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.d4 d5 4.e3 a6 5.Nc3 b5 6.b3 Bg4 7.Bd2 Nbd7 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 b4 10.Na4 e5 11.Qd1 Ne4 12.Bd3 Nxd2 13.Qxd2 exd4 14.0-0 Be7 15.cxd5 cxd5 16.Bf5 Rb8 17.Qxd4 Nf6 18.Rac1 0-0 19.Rc6 Bd6 20.Rfc1 Re8 21.Qa7 g6 22.Rc8 Rxc8 23.Rxc8 Qe7 24.Qxe7 Bxe7 25.Rxe8+ Nxe8 26.Bc8 Nc7 27.Bb7 Kg7 28.Nb6 Bc5 29.Nxd5 Nxd5 30.Bxd5 f5 31.g4 f4 32.exf4 Bd6 33.f5 gxf5 34.gxf5 a5 35.Kg2 h6 36.Kf3 Be7 37.Ke4 1/2-1/2

  10. Yeah, Avrukh recommends Bd3 instead of Nc3. Although, according to engines, White was still close to winning if he didn’t go for simplifications. I’m using engines as a reference because I am nowhere near 2700 or even master level so my own thoughts are not sufficient to offer a judgment.

  11. A few recent games in the Slav caught my eye, and the start of one of them is given below. White follows Avrukh’s recommendation for 13 moves until Black (a 2700 player) varies out of the book. I think White would still have been a little better if he had used a positional idea Avrukh mentions:

    06.03.2009 Budva
    Arsovic (2475) – Akopian (2700)

    1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Be2 Nbd7 8. O-O Bd6 9. g3 O-O 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Qb3 Rb8 12. Rd1 Qe7 13. Qc2 Rfe8 14. Bd2 a6 15.c5 Bc7 16. f4 Ba5 17. Bf3 b6 18. cxb6 …

    The game is maybe level and Black eventually won, but it’s White’s 17th that I don’t like. 17.Nb1! is one of the main positional ideas, according to Boris in a similar position. It keeps control of e4: if Black takes on d2 White takes back with the knight. Also, White can keep his space-gaining pawn on c5, as it can be supported by b2-b4.

  12. I have heard rumours on the chess publishing forum of a book on the Najdorf by Ftacnik which is going to be published by you. Is this true? When will it be published? What will it recomend. Anyway I really like the books you guys publish. Keep up the good work.

  13. Gordon,

    I think that rumour sounds plausible, but more details will have to wait until everything is sorted out.

  14. I have just got through Avrukh’s 1.d4 book Part 1 as part of a switch to 1.d4 (Amazing book – huge well done to both Q Chess and Mr Avrukh). I am due to participate in an Open in a few weeks time and am now giving thought to lines I should be playing against Grunfeld, K Indian, Benoni & Dutch defences. I know Avrukh will be recommending g3 systems against most of the above but is there any chance the publishers can release the outline of the recommended repertoire in advance of publication to assist people like me?

  15. Jacob Aagaard

    Not really. Once we have more details, it will be out only a few weeks later. We don’t sit on the books.

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