Top 3s

Today I saw NIC Yearbook 100 for the first time. It had some very interesting stuff and is far beyond what you normally can expect from this aging publication. Even if you have been wondering in the past why you bought one of them, please do get this one.

Interesting for us is the article by Glenn Flear on 23 interesting opening books from the last decade or so. I was a bit surprised that there was no space for Rogozenko’s THE SVESHNIKOV SICILIAN RELOADED or John Cox’ THE BERLIN WALL, especially as there was space for some books I don’t rate highly (no, I will not comment on that part). However, most enjoyable Glenn did credit Boris Avrukh with the most influencial opening book in what I figure must be this millennium for GRANDMASTER REPERTOIRE1-  1.d4 VOLUME ONE.

So, I was wondering: what are your top 3s? Please speak freely; we shall not judge you – unless John Shaw: THE KING’S GAMBIT is on your list, in which case we shall put our considerable resources into tracking you down and donating you a 400 page draft for internal use…

Anyway, back to the studio. My top 3 opening books in the 21st century is:

1. Avrukh: GM1 – 1.d4 Vol 1

2. Marin: GM3 – 1.c4 vol 1

3. Hillarp-Persson: Tiger’s Modern

I honestly stood in front of our considerable selection of opening books, and did not find a book from another company I liked as much as our 10 best books. The main reason is probably that I have considerable influence on how our books look, so they are made the way I like it, but I also genuinely think that at their time, these three books were something special. I look forward to hear other people’s opinions. I know that John would probably go Marin, Avrukh, Hillarp-Persson, but keep the same list :-).

118 thoughts on “Top 3s”

  1. It is difficult to not agree, that the books by Boris Avrukh and Marin are the best opening books published, I personaly also like Schandorffs Caro-Kan book.
    Maybe it is interesting to give my top 3 non-quality chess opening books:
    Georgiev: Squeezing the Gambits (probably this book can compete with some of QC books)
    Delchev :the safest sicilian
    and the third one is already not so easy, there are some books which are quite good, maybe de la Villa Dismantling the sicilian

  2. In an abstract sense, yes, QualityChess publishes the most thorough and groundbreaking chess opening analysis and literature. However, any evaluation of chess material is relative to the intended audience. For me personally i find the depth of Marin/Avrukh to be quite overwhelming and excruciating for my modest purposes (club player, 2076 USCF). Schandorff’s book on the Queen’s Gambit is excellent (would love to see one for 1…Nf6!). I also think Larry Kaufman’s “Chess Advantage in B&W” deserves credit for its sheer scope and practicality. Finally, Paul Van Der Sterren did a magnificent job on Fundamental Chess Openings. I suppose i’ll make those my top 3 of the last 10 years. I know they are not the “best”, but they have been interesting or useful to me, speaking personally considering my level and my modest goals in chess.

  3. @katar
    This was exactly what I was looking for. People’s personal views, not my views. I have my own views, but obviously they are based on being me.

    One thing that wondered me was that there were no Starting Out books on Glenn’s list of 23 moves. To me these were the most important books of the last 10 years. Not necessarily the best, but they created the trends of the 2000s as much as the SOS books did.

  4. My personal top 3 opening books of the last decade, based upon a few carefully studied books and many I’ve looked at for a couple of minutes.

    Wahls’ Scandinavian book is too old (1995 or so), Play the French 1st ed. too and the current book is “just” a very good update.

    1.) Shipov: The Hedgehog 1 & 2
    Clearly a labor of love by a strong GM. This project will never earn him a fair compensation for all the time spent writing. IMHO the best opening books ever.
    2.) Kindermann & Dirr: FR Winawer with 7. Qg4 0-0
    Actually quite similar to Shipov, although less excessive. The authors teach their opening and provide the latest theory including many new suggestions (as of ca. 2002).
    3.) Vigorito: The Semi-Slav
    For me that’s the perfect mix of deep variations and verbal explanations in a theory heavy opening. Vigorito is believable (he plays this stuff with both colors). His repertoire choices are consistent and he gives good reasons for them.

    Honorable mention:
    – Avrukh & Marin for the most influential books.
    – Cox for his superb book about this fucking boring opening line which gave Kasparov a bloody nose. Since this book Cox is on my short list of authors I give enough credit to consider a blind buy.
    – A lot of people for Experts on the Anti-Sicilians. That’s true cutting edge. I can’t remember any book which covered so much new ground.
    (This list wasn’t meant to be QC exclusive.)

  5. My opinion about some book changes all the time. I find it very hard to mention my top 3 but I will do some effort to mention my favorite books.

    For me the greatest openings books are the ones that combines a good theoretical part with a lot of verbal explanations, original ideas. I want to be inspired by a book.
    Most books have only one of these. For example I like the books of chess stars which are mostly very good solid books. I like the books of Khalifman, Dreev, Vitiugov, Sakaev, Bologan which are very good study books but I miss some spirit in it and find them sometimes hard to read.

    I will mention some of my favorite books:
    -Not suprising Marin, this book comes close to my ideal openingsbook.
    -How to beat the sicilian
    -Wojo’s weapons
    -Dismantling the sicilian
    -Experts vs the sicilian
    -Tiger’s modern
    -Playing the queens gambit
    -Squeeze the gambits
    -Sicilian attacks

    Some books which I liked but not my favorites:
    -The berlin wall
    I find all the endgames and themes too much and I lost the thread about which endgame is ideal and which one not.

    -Avrukh GM 1 & 2
    In the beginning I was very enthusiastic about this books. After a while I realized that a lot of stuff is too difficult to learn for me and now it has the same function for me as the khalifman books. I use it occasionally as an encyclopedia.

    -Moskalenko Wonderful winawer/flexible french
    I like these books for the fresh and original ideas but i find these books too chaotic.

    -GM 6 Ftacnik
    I like the book but it is theoretical the least GM book with a lot of omissions.

    -GM 7 Schandorff
    A good book but small book. Some variations are in my opinion too optimistic and less objective.

    -Experts vs the anti sicilian
    It’s a nice book but imo not as sensational as the first experts book.

    -I have most of the ‘ chess explained’ books by gambit chess, and I like especially ‘the classical sicilian’ by Yermonlinsky and ‘ the queens indian’ by Wells.

    -Chess Openings for white/black explained
    I have a love/hate relationship with these books. A lot of variations are totally crap but some variatians are great and easy to learn which brought me succes on the board.

    I haven’t got the book of Shipov about the hedgehog because I don’t play that opening, but I hear of everyone who read the book that this book is great.

    For some reason I have the feeling that the future GM rep book of Kotronias will also be one of my favorite books.

  6. Gilchrist is a Legend

    If you mean Top 3 opening books of all time (regardless of publishing house), then I think:

    1) Grandmaster Repertoire 1 and 2: 1. d4 (Quality Chess). No explanation necessary 🙂

    2) Grandmaster Repertoire 8 and 9: Grünfeld Defence (Quality Chess). The best books I have ever seen on the Grünfeld, especially in repertoire form.

    3) An Expert’s Guide to the 7. Bc4 Gruenfeld (Chess Stars).

    Just as an addition, I could give my list of no. 4-10:

    4) Grandmaster Repertoire 3, 4, and 5: 1. c4 (QC)
    5) The Berlin Wall (QC)
    6) The Sharpest Sicilian (Chess Stars)
    7) Grandmaster Repertoire 6 (QC)
    8) The Complete French (I forgot the publishing house.)
    9) The Safest Grünfeld (Chess Stars)
    10) Experts Vs. the Sicilian (QC)

  7. Not an easy choice …. I won’t speak about Grandmaster Repertoire I do not have (read) and so on, so let’s go (without any particular preference) :

    – Marin : Beating the open Games
    – Emms : Starting out Sicilian 2.c3
    – Watson : the Mastering series

    I hope to add GM 10 the Tarrasch soon ! 😉

  8. @Michel Barbaut
    GM10 will be a bit dense. It is the nature of the series, and also we have to prove that this opening with a dodgy reputation is actually fully playable. However, playing the opening is great fun; I am really enjoying it. I might stick with it for the rest of my career. And since I am retired and only playing under threats of violence, this is easy to keep…

  9. Very interesting lists from everyone. Regarding the level of the GM Repertoire books – I have always said that for the amateur we recommend to skip most of the details and make your own files with the essential things you need to remember. I have done it with students and it really works. You need to know the main line and main points, not what to play against bad moves – you will work that out on your own.

  10. This is a difficult selection (more or less more than 2000 books considered) but if we are reffering strictly to opening books i can give you a selection of three older and three recent books.
    Older books 1) Mastering the french series(Cadogan) 2) The complete semi slav(batsford) 3) the complete richter rauzer (batsford)
    Recent 1) Apart from the excellent Quality chess books Larry Kaufmann’s opening repertoire for black and white for it’s originality and comments
    2) A strategic op. repertoire by J. Donaldson 3) The Scandinavian 2nd edition by M Wahls are i think very interesting books.

  11. Sigurbjorn Bjornsson

    The opening books I have used the most are:

    1. Dismantling the Sicilan by Jesus de la Villa.
    2. Play the Semi-Slav by David Vigorito.
    3. The Moscow and Anti-Moscow variations by Alexey Dreev.

    These three books are very good and I would say that for an 1. e4 player, de la Villa’s book is a must buy. The Moscow book is fun to analyse, but not very practical because at an amateur level noone dares to play the Anti-Moscow variation.

    Vigoritos book is of course very practical and I can’t wait to see the second edition – who knows maybe there will a game by me there 🙂

  12. Top 3 books?
    1. Marin’s GM 3, 4 & 5
    2. Ftacnik’s GM 6
    3. Vigorito’s Challenging the Nimzo-Indian

    Although I am sure that ‘GM 10 – The Tarrasch Defense’ would stand as clear first once released!

  13. As I’m a little club player with only 1770 FFE, I very probably don’t have the same awaitings as strong players have here. So my top books are more or less opening books which are speaking about the ideas in the openings, rather than developing deep opening variations.

    So here are my 3 top books:
    1. Marin: Beating the open games/a spanish repertoire for black.
    I love these books and especially the spanish repertoire book. I never loosed a spanish game since I studied it (I only play team tournaments against players who have the same level as I +/- 200 elo)
    2.van den Sterren: FCO.
    It’s a modern version of the “the ideas behind the chess openings” from R. Fine.
    3.Shipov: The complete Hedgehog, vol.I (I don’t have yet the 2nd volume).
    I love the style of writing from Shipov. I could only “test” one time a hedgehog against a stronger player and had a nice draw against him.

    Now I’m awaiting a book like the one from Marin, but for white. Why not “Playing the open games” and “a spanish repertoire for white” or something like this ? 🙂
    Although I think that it is difficult to write only 20 pages about the sicilian.

  14. @katar
    Re level of Marin’s GM repertoire.
    Parts of Marin’s books are complex but I find his GM 3, 4 & 5 useful even to humble club players in the 1700-1800 range.
    Apart from his originality, his key skill is to explain the good and bad consequences of each move, which makes his logic and recommendations easier to understand and remember.

    To give an example, in a match a few nights ago I was able to use a fully-understood plan for the first 9 moves, and thereby keep an initiative all through the game. As Jacob says in #11 above, I select the lines I am comfortable with and ignore the more complex “knife-edge” lines which I might not be able to follow up properly.

  15. Well, let’s see…
    When I read Marin’s books I feel crystal clear, so I must award to him first place.
    1- Beating the open games and the spanish one (which are GM rep. + lots of verbal explanation, you cannot ask for more).
    2- English rep. books, same reasons, even harder work.
    3- goes to John Cox tremendous work on the Berlin, really impressive, incredibly deep.

  16. I´ve lots of books, but these are the only books I really worked through.

    1. Igor Stohl – Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces (2nd edition)
    2. Delchev – The safest sicilian
    3. Avrukh – GM 1

    Best books for an immediate sleep: every endgamebook

  17. I’ve been waiting at least two years for Shaw’s book on the King’s Gambit. So, I put it as #1 on my list of most anticipated opening books.

    Seriously, my list of best opening books:

    1. In the category of the best complete opening repertoire: Larry Kaufman, Chess Advantage in Black and White.
    2. In the category of the opening book I learned the most from in an opening I don’t play: Matthew Sadler, Queen’s Gambit Declined.
    3. In the category of the opening book (sort of) that I most enjoyed reading: Sergey Shipov, The Complete Hedgehog.
    4. In the category of opening book which resulted in the most wins: the Center Game chapters by Andrew Greet in Dangerous Weapons 1. e4 e5. Greet’s book on the Queen’s Indian is excellent as well.
    5. In the category of the opening book that led me to understand (sort of) an opening that I previously could not grasp: Gawain Jones, How to Beat the Sicilian Defence.

    Sorry, none of these are Quality Chess books. Although I think they are great, most Quality Chess books are not on openings I play very often [With Black: Petroff versus e4 and the Queens Indian and Nimzo-Indian versus d4 (although Challenging the Nimzo Indian is good, but not great). With While 1. e4 and then the Tarrasch versus the French, Bb5 versus most Sicilians, and the Scotch (and occasionally the center game) versus 1…e5].

  18. My top 3:

    1) Understanding the Grunfeld (Rowson)
    2) The Berlin Wall (Cox)
    3) Starting Out: The Accelerated Dragon (Greet)

  19. I like all QC books, but I want to mention some others:

    The reprint of “ZOOM 001: Zero hour for operative opening models” by Bent Larsen and Steffen Zeuthen. It’s the “Avrukh for the poor”. You can say 4 GM-Rep books in one.

    If Kostens book on the English opening is the “Marin for the poor”, you can say Carlstedts book on the English is the “Kosten for the poor”.

    The books of Bronznik are quite good.

  20. My top 3:

    1) Moskalenko’s “The Flexible French”
    2) Shipov’s “The Complete Hedgehog, V.1”
    3) Avrukh 1 or 2.

    Here’s why:

    1) my performance rating as Black went up almost 400 points when I switched from Watson’s repertoire to Moskalenko’s.
    2) changed my classical understanding of the importance of space in a middle game from (roughly): “extra space is good so long as you have the pieces to defend it”, to
    “extra space is nothing if the opponent has no weak squares and you have no passed pawns”.
    3) Excellent treatment of off-beat defences. Of course they’re insanely over-detailed for a non-professional like me (as they should be, given their stated aims).
    For me, the most interesting lesson to come from keying in and testing Avrukh’s analysis on my computer is that he does not show an advantage for White in the KID, Benoni or even Budapest (…Bc5 lines). This is interesting because if the most detailed attempt to prove += after 1.d4 fails, then it shows that good OTB play will still trump superb opening preparation — exactly the opposite of what many chess trolls grumble about. 🙂

    FWIW I would list Matthew Sadler’s “Queen’s Gambit Declined”, Rowson’s “Understanding the Grunfeld”, and (maybe) Larsen’s “ZOOM” as others have done, but they are all first published before 2000.

  21. The Centre Game–it’s nice to play a bad opening once in awhile for surprise value.

    My three favorite opening books:
    1. Chess Advantage in Black and White. Lively writing style, and it the was the last quality publication from McKay. Hopefully the new edition will be as good as the first.
    2. GM Reps 1 & 2
    3. Dembo & Palliser’s book on the Scotch Game. One of Everyman’s best efforts.

    Honorable mention goes to Lev Gutman’s 4…Qh4 in the Scotch Game. Not so much for it’s quality, but how such a questionable move can be so deeply analyzed.

  22. Not in any order, I love the following 3 (along with many others)

    San Luis 2005
    The Flexible French
    Creative Chess Strategy

    I am also very interested in the GM 10 – Tarrasch Defence, but I fear it may already be out of my price range! – I see an Amazon Seller already has a copy in stock, at the princely sum of £82.43 . . . . of course I am surprised that they have the book in stock and ready to dispatch before it has been published, the wonders of modern technology – lol

  23. 1. Wojo’s weapons
    2. Leningrad system by Kindermann
    3. Tiger’s modern

    Honorable mention to Safest Sicilian/Squeezing the Gambits/Playing the Queen’s Gambit [A Schandorff’s follow-up would be awesome]

  24. In no particular order:
    Van der Sterren: Fundamental Chess Openings. A complete survey of modern openings, with exactly the right amount of detail and verbal explanation.
    Emms: Play the Open Games as Black. Gave me the confidence to play 1.e4 e5.
    Keilhack: Knight on the Left. Comprehensive, original, personal, and totally honest.

  25. I’d pick the ones that cover the lines I play, but objectively speaking:

    1. Delchev, Safest Siclian
    2. Avrukh, GM1 1.d4
    3. Kasparov, Sicilian ..e6 and ..d6

    With some exceptions, the best opening books are written by GMs and IMs who actually play the line in questions. Delchev’s book was maybe the best of this kind. He revealed his own personal improach to the Taimanov. He explained the plans and ideas well. And he repaired some lines that needed repairing. All in one book that you could take with you to a tournament. This is the best opening book of all time, despite the horrible format and the klunky English.

    GM 1 was truly unbelievable. I think people have gotten spoiled. I remember hearing that a new opening book was going to come out with literally hundreds of novelties. Nobody believed it. Up until that time, even the really good opening books had at most a handful of novelties. Avrukh had one on almost every page. This book not only set new standards, it shattered the old ones.

    Kasparov’s book is 30 years old and it still gets quoted today. This book was my Scheveningen bible for years and it has a warm spot in my heart because I won my copy by winning a tournament.

  26. My Top books are:

    1) “Play the King’s Indian” by Joe Gallagher
    – top explanations plus consistent repertoire except Fianchetto variation

    2) “Leningrad System” by Stefan Kindermann
    – Qe8 variation written by one of the most prominent practitioner, who abandoned this variation!

    3) “The Fascinating King’s Gambit” by Thomas Johansson
    – a 2200 Elo player dissects one of the hardest opening line suggesting Fischer’s Bc4 line
    – so Mr. Shaw should look after his work while finishing his manuscript

    4) “The King’s Indian” by Victor Bologan
    – high caliber expert with highly theoretical work

    5) “The Philidor – A Secret Weapon” by Christian Seel
    – written under the tutelage of GM Karsten Muller

    6) “GM Repertoire 1.d4 vol. 1 & 2” by Avrukh

    7) “Beating the Open Games 2nd edition” by Mihail Marin

    8) “Opening for White according to Anand” by Alexander Khalifman
    – full analysis of St. Petersburg chess school, deep and steady

    9) “GM The Sicilian Defence” by Ljubomir Ftácnik

    10) “The Sharpest Sicilian” by Kiril Georgiew, Atanas Kolev

    11) “Attacking the Spanish” by Sabino Brunello

    12) “The Berlin Wall” by John Cox

    13) “A Spanish Opening Repertoire for Black” by Mihail Marin

    14) “The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black” by Sverre Johnsen, Leif Johannessen

    PS for Aagarrd: Shall 2nd edition of “GM The Sicilian Defence” by Ljubomir Ftácnik include various omissions pointed out on this forum and on forum? Most importantly, shall we finaly be awarded by missing chapter Be3 e5!!!

  27. Jacob,
    What did you min wit this comment: “Today I saw NIC Yearbook 100 for the first time. It had some very interesting stuff and is far beyond what you normally can expect from this aging publication. Even if you have been wondering in the past why you bought one of them, please do get this one.”

    NIC Yearbook is not good book compared with Informator or Chess Evolution by Naidsch?

  28. I liked

    Hedgehog 1+2-Shipov
    Flexible French, Wonderful Winawer-Moskalenko
    Scandinavian-Wahls; Scandinavian-Bauer
    Leningrad Dutch-Kindermann
    Avrukh and Marin books
    Dismantling the Sicilian-De la Villa
    Winning with the Queen’s Gambit;Caro-Kann Schandorff

    and many more

    Mike Yip

  29. @hotstuff
    Often I find that most of the stuff in there is a database dump to be honest. Sidelines that are hyped to a point they cannot bear. But at times there are really good articles as well. But if you cook it down, there are about 15-20 new games analysed on a varying level. However, at times there are really great stuff there too. My main problem is when there are endless articles on a system, where version 4 comes with the not too difficult refutation of the whole thing.

  30. @hotstuff
    I don’t want to go into comparing others books with ours. We are not without flaws either and I don’t want to give that impression. However, I am allowed to express a general opinion on other publishers books.

    Actually, a few years ago I reviewed books for Chess Today, but other publishers had me removed. I thought this was rather unpleasant, as I on principle did not write a bad review ever. If I did not like a book, I did not review it…

  31. I like many of the books already mentioned but want to add to the list the books by Peter Wells on the Trompowsky, the Caro-Kann and the Queen’s Indian. Especially the latter two feature some of the most brilliant strategical explanations I have ever seen.

  32. @xyz
    There will be no more books from Pavlovic from us. The chemistry was not there so we seperated company. We hope to do the 6.Bg5 book somewhere at the end of next year.

  33. I hope Quality Chess doesn’t take this the wrong way. If this were a top 10, they’d have at least 3 representitves from me, but none of my top 3 are by Quality Chess.

    I looked at a number of factors when setting my top 3 of the 21st century:

    1. Does the book cover what it is supposed to cover and meet “expectations”? In other words, does a “Starting Out” book by Everyman explain to the reader why, say, in the Slav, we play Bf5 in some lines, and Bg4 in others? Does a “Grandmaster Repertoire” book include all legitimate responses by the other side (i.e. Is it complete?) My “expectations” are of course different. I would expect a course on how to play the Najdorf in “Starting Out: The Sicilian Najdorf”, but I surely wouldn’t expect some recent novelty on move 14. In something like the Cutting Edge book on the Najdorf with 6.Be3, I would expect that novelty on move 14. BTW, that cutting edge 2 book would be in my top 10! The one negative I have for Marin’s English books is mainly in GM4 in the Reti lines. I don’t expect every Black response available at move 17, but move 4? Completely missing, and played with GREAT results for Black it seems (0 wins, 3 losses, 2 draws for White in NICBase Online) is 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 a6! (Marin move order would be 1.c4 c6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 a6)

    2. Does the book title and introduction properly indicate the nature of the book? For example, if a book has complete games, a book on Beating the French, or some kind of “Play the …” book, I would expect one side to have heavy winning results, but you take a book like the Nigel Davies book on the Alekhine by Everyman from around 2001 or 2002, it says nothing about “Winning with” in the title, and the introduction says it’s not a masterpiece on all lines, but that it covers the major lines for Black and White. If it covers for Black and White, why is Black scoring 80%? I could see if Black wins most the games in lines not considered very good for white, like the Chase or 4 Pawns, but even in the respectable Exchange and Classical lines, Black scores WAY heavier than it should. If it claims to be a book for both Black and White, results should reflect accordingly (i.e. A chapter on 4.Nf3 Bg4 might have say, 7 games where White wins 3, Black wins 2, and there are 2 draws.

    3. If a book is clearly intended for one side, does it cover the best options for the other side? Or does it leave out the best options to disguise the fact that the line advertised just isn’t that good. My #1 below I put at #1 because it does cover Black’s best lines as well, and I love the 11th move alternatives for Black in the Chicago Defense. I mostly play 1…e5, but the occasional times that I play something like the Taimanov Sicilian, I have my favorite line in the Chicago Defense covered!

    4. Was the “Cookie Cutter” approach avoided? In other words, did the author recommend 9.d4 in the Ruy as White to avoid having the book be more pages? Yes, I’m calling you out Gary Lane with your horrible Ruy Lopez book for Batsford! Or did the author actually recommend legitimate lines. I love Neil McDonald’s writing (all the way back to when he wrote on the French). He gives a great starter approach in my #3 below, and then shifts over to main lines. Give the reader a foundation, then go into the main lines. This is the first time I’ve seen a book on the Ruy for White recommending main lines in for ever. In over 1900 career games, I played 4 Ruy Lopez’s as White, 2 exchanges, 1 by transposition to a Steinitz Variation, and 1 Worrall attack. His book is EXCELLENT for a first time Ruy Player. In Washington DC, 2 weeks ago, Round 9, I destroyed my opponent in 28 moves playing the Ruy Lopez with an early d3 (McDonald’s First Chapter), and it’s someone I’ve played many times with a losing record (that win put me at 3 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses against him).

    Therefore, my top 3:

    1) The Modern Morra Gambit: A Dynamic Weapon Against the Sicilian – Hannes Langrock
    2) The Ruy Lopez: a Guide for Black – Sverre Johnsen and Leif Johannessen
    3) The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move – Neil McDonald

    Quality Chess Books that would be in my top 10:
    – Berlin Wall (A little too heavy on lesser-played lines, a little light on popular lines 9…Bd7 and 9…Ke8 – This would be my #6)
    – GM Rep 1.c4 (Major omission already mentioned above – #9 in my top 10)
    – Cutting Edge 2 (This would literally be my #4)

  34. While I’m at it, might as well give you my top 10 opening books of the 21st century:

    1) The Modern Morra Gambit – Hannes Langrock
    2) The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black – Sverre Johnsen and Leif Johannessen
    3) The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move – Neil McDonald
    4) Cutting Edge 2 – Pavlovic
    5) Attacking Chess: The King’s Indian 1 and 2 – David Vigorito
    6) The Berlin Wall – John Cox (Excellent Endgame Introduction – Light on 9…Bd7 and 9…Ke8 vs less popular 9…Ne7)
    7) Win With the Stonewall Dutch – Sverre Johnsen and Ivar Bern
    8) Play the French 3rd Edition – John Watson
    9) GM Repertoire 1.c4 – Marin
    10) How to play against 1.e4 – Neil McDonald*

    * Mastering the French with the Read and Play Method is even better, but that’s 1997, not 21st century literature.

  35. Not an NIC employee

    I don’t understand why Aagaard regularly takes gratuitous shots at his competitors. Even trying to give a compliment to the latest issue of NICY he has to throw in a pointlessly snide remark about the “aging” NICY series. This habit is both off-putting and unnecessary: QC has earned its bones and has a large and loyal following already. (See below!)

    The following may not constitute my all-time top four opening books, but each is excellent in its own way and worthy of emulation. In alphabetical order by author:

    Avrukh’s Catalan book, for its utter professionalism.

    Cox’s Berlin book – or rather, its long preliminary presentation of typical Berlin endings and positional themes.

    Marin’s 3-volume series on the English: deep, full of original ideas and clearly a labor of love.

    Yusupov’s Edition Olms volume on the Petroff. I liked this for its pedagogical value, cramming four book styles into one: a traditional “talky” presentation, a convenient re-presentation in ECO tables for quick reference, deeply annotated games and substantial sections with exercises. The book could have been better in various ways, but I like the concept a lot. (Overall, the execution was very good too.)

  36. @Not an NIC employee
    Aging? It is volume 100 – the jubilee issue. I am aging myself and I take deep offense to the fact that you think this is a bad thing. The issue as far as I see it is that I am having a normal conversation here about books, good and bad sides, while others think it is really really important what I think. I don’t – and clearly nobody agrees with me on my choices of top 3 either :-). Just because I am a publisher does not mean that I don’t have the freedom to have an opinion. We buy almost all NIC books and the magazine – clearly we find it relevant, although it is not always top notch. Neither is our stuff and we have never claimed that it was.

  37. @Jacob Aagaard

    I see where you are coming from, but in general, the term “aging” often has a negative connotation to it, as it’s often a sensitive topic to many people (not myself, but many others). In some areas, can’t speak for where you are, “aging” can also simply refer to look, not physical number. For example, if you look the same at 40 as you did at 30, people will say that you haven’t aged one bit. However, there is a common old wive’s tale that the President of the United States ages 8 to 10 years in a 4 year term, so while Barack Obama may only be 3 years older than he was when he was elected, the stress has caused him to put on some extra wrinkles, and many will say he has “aged” 6 to 8 years, even though his actual age only increased by 3.

    For non-living objects, aging can often be viewed as being down-graded, past it’s prime, etc.

    So it is possible you just happen to hit a sensitive nerve of “Not an NIC employee” by using the wrong choice of words, even though it’s not what was really intended.

  38. Quite an interesting topic.
    This evening I was preparing a line of the english attack which is not mentioned in cutting edge 2. I used the ‘ the sharpest sicilian’. I was suprised (I bought the book some years ago but I never used it) by the very clear explanations and also the very good analysis. I thought sometimes that I could prove an advantage for white but at the end I had to agree with mr.Georgiev conclusions.
    I will study this book more carefully but it seems that this book will also be one of my favorites.

  39. @Patrick
    There is also another point worth mentioning: if we are to have this forum and it is to be anything else than endlessly dull, we have to be able to have opinions, likes and dislikes; in other words, be human beings. I do actually take offence and get truly hurt whenever someone trashes me for not having thought through all angles of possible insensitivity when I write about something that interests me.

    What people like Not an NIC employee seems to be implying is that I am a person like him, but only out to make money or increase our own standing compared to that of our competitors. Everyone who knows me knows that this is not true. On the contrary, I am very sensitive to not being unfairly offensive to other people. But if I never mentioned the existense of the rest of the industry, I would certainly get panned for this too. And if I only talked about our competitors in rosy images, how fake would that sound?

    I am pleased that there is a great variety of chess companies that keep the interest in our glorious game alive. I am glad that people do it in different ways and meet different needs. Does this meant aht I think everything they do is wonderful? No. Does it mean everything we do is wonderful? Not at all. What I most dislike with us is our total inability to predict how long we need to finish certain projects. I take a lot of beating for it; and justifiably so. This is one of the reasons I have changed roles, so I can have a more time to focus on the books I have promised the world. I truly want to deliver. Making people who like what we do happy is the best thing I know.

  40. @Raffie
    We like what Chess Stars are doing quite a lot and have an agreement of exchange of new publications with them; we send them our new books, they send us theirs.

    I would be very interested to know what line we are talking about here and how your game went. I just feel the itch to analyse :-).

  41. I haven’t played the game yet, it was just preparation.
    I tried to find an advantage for white in the variation with 8…Nbd7 instead of 8…Be7.
    I came to the same position as Georgiev in the sharpest sicilian: 8…Nbd7 9.g4 Be7 10.Qd2 0-0 11.g5 Nh5 12.0-0-0 Nb6 13.Rg1 Rc8 14.Kb1 g6
    In this position I had the feeling that there must be some positional advantage for white and I analysed both 15.h4 and 15.Qf2. Without posting the analysis (that’s for a forum like chesspub) I didn’t found anything special for white.
    My best line went 15.Qf2 Nc4 16.Bxc4 Bxc4 17.Na4 Be6 18.Nb6 Rc7 19.Qe2 Qe8 20.Na5 f6 21.gxf6 Rxf6 22.b3 and Nac4 which seems slightly better when Houdini gives +0,15.

  42. Agreed with Patrick that The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move is outstanding. It may very well crack my top 3 by the time I finish it.

    I’m surprised that Watson’s Mastering the Chess Openings series isn’t getting more love. It’s not my cup of tea (its depth and breadth are too inconsistent for me to get a handle on it), but I thought it was regarded by many as a masterpiece.

  43. My choices are about excellent books with explanations and at the same time good openings.
    My Top 3:
    1- Understanding the Grunfeld (Rowson) and Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black (Sverre Johnsen & Leif Joahnnesen) – These two books are a mirror of each other!
    2- Understanding the Queens Indian (Soltis, Mednis, Keene, Grefe) The old RHM Press! It´s a pity that nowadays we cannot find books like these! It´s easy to find computer generated books but really good explanations are more dificult to find maybe because it´s more work!
    3- Berlin Wall – John Cox

  44. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I saw the GM10 excerpt and it looks like the book will be excellent. Would you consider the Tarrasch as playable on the same level as other openings that are commonly played by GMs now, such as the Slav or Grünfeld?

  45. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Yes, I actually do.

    There are a few positions where you might debate if they are equal or if they are a bit under pressure – and where you will have to choose which one you want to play. To my experience all openings have this somewhere – where you say, “never mind, if he wants to play like this, I will keep him out easily enough.” These positions are in my preface and will be available with a later excerpt.

  46. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I am guessing there will be improvements on Avrukh and Schandorff–how difficult did you find that task?

  47. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Sort off. The Avrukh line is of course very challenging, but we found that there were more difficult lines to deal with than 13.Nc5, for example 13.Nd4. However, we have found equality everywhere. Schandorff’s 15.Rdc1!N is still the only way to get an advantage after 11…Qa5, and although we think the ending can be held, there is really no way this can be part of a repertoire. Anyway, we had lots of lots of novelties in the 11…h6 line, so this is where we have put our efforts. Besides just mentioning Schandorff’s as yet untested move, we don’t talk about 11…Qa5 in the book at all…

  48. As a continuation off my message 42 and dfan’s message 56, I’m starting to see a separation in intended audience, and that while Jacob seems to think his top 10 Quality Chess books are the top 10 overall, I wonder if he’s looked at either of the Move by Move books by Everyman. I’m further into the Ruy Lopez book than I am the Slav book, but what I am concluding is the following:

    – The “Move by Move” series is a thousand times better than the Starting Out series
    – That customers that try to remain loyal to one publishing company is missing out big time!
    – That Aagaard is narrowing his judgment to one level of audience (1800+ players that have years of experience with the opening they are studying), or else he hasn’t checked out the “latest” books from his competitors.

    Here’s my conclusion, and suggestion to everyone else reading this:

    1) If you are studying an opening for the first time or have minimal experience OR if you are under 1800, look into the Move by Move series by Everyman. It beats anything published by Quality Chess, Gambit, or Chess Stars at explaining the nuts and bolts of an opening, and explains ideas from the resulting middlegame.

    2) If you are an experienced player (2+ years) with a certain opening and over 1800, and are looking to expand, or get that latest update with the latest and greatest theoretical novelty at move 13, Quality Chess is the only place you need to look. Their analysis is far deeper than any other publisher out there! You have this 2300 player you need to beat in the last round coming up, and you have White, the ideas by QC will increase your odds at getting that win.

    3) As for Gambit and Chess Stars, some of their books are absolutely EXCELLENT (i.e. The Ruy Lopez as Black, Win with the Stonewall Dutch, etc.). They are more detailed than Everyman, and not intended for first time players of a given opening, but they also don’t have the latest novelties that QC has in theirs. They should be able to get anybody who is willing to put in the work to Master. Beyond that, they probably have to look elsewhere.

    So the publisher of the best opening books depends on the audience:

    Under 1800 or New to the Opening – Everyman
    Experience and looking to reach master – Gambit/Chess Stars (Certain QC books, though some can be a little overbearing, even for an 1800 player)
    Actually get over that master hurdle and go far beyond – Quality Chess

    Are there exceptions? Of course! The Berlin Wall (QC) has excellent sections on Endgames (typical of the Berlin Wall, not how to win KQ or KBN vs K) and Strategy for someone 1800 to 2200. Vigorito’s 2 books on the King’s Indian (Everyman) has great analysis and would recommend it to any experienced KID player. So on and so forth.

    So what’s the ultimate solution? Buy every chess opening book ever published, and you’ll be covered! 🙂

  49. My top-5:

    1. Beating the open games – It has improved my results no end. Giving an overview of each opening while providing new and deep analysis & motivation for the choices given.
    Plus – and this is important to me! – it is a sound repertoire that with a few tweaks and updates can last a lifetime!
    Also like the fact that Marin writes about the values of tempo/material/initiative/development in a concrete way for these openings.

    2. Tiger’s Modern – Funny, original and intresting! A great opening if you simply want to “play chess”. Too bad the opening is too sharp for my taste…

    3. A spanish repertoire for black – The same as for “Beating the open games”. The only thing I miss is more complete games to provide a better feeling of how to handle the middle/endgame in these positions.

    4. Win with the stonewall dutch – It really tries to educate & involve the reader. I like this approach!

    5. Marin’s GM books about the english – The level of analysis/explanation is just right for me.
    The greatest merits of these books is that I now understand that I won’t ever have the time to learn enough opening theory to try for an advantage with White. Instead I will have to settle for “playing chess” in an position I’m familiar with!

    About me:
    Rating between 1700-1900, +30years & with family

  50. @Patrick
    Hi Patrick. I sympathise a lot with your comments and clearly stated that my choices were based on what MY preferences are.

    Don’t forget that we have published the Yusupov series and Understanding Chess Tactics, which I think are more valuable for club players than most of Everyman’s catalogue (again persornal preference, of course).

    Don’t forget that I wrote more than 15 and edited about 12 books for Everyman. in 2003 or 2004 I made 35% of their catalogue – making the jump to independence natural.

    Also, don’t forget that I came up with the idea for John Nunn’s original Move by Move book. I have wanted to do something like that on the opening for five years, but have not had the time – and now Everyman got their first. Good for them! As long as the chess is correct, I am happy with any presentation, calling them “styles”.

  51. George Hollands

    Any idea if GM 6 second edition will have different lines in against for exaple the Najdorf or will it be more an update of the same lines taking into account recent GM practice etc

  52. George Hollands

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I drew a game against a 2411 rated correspondence player with a line striaght out the first edition so any improvements to the existing stuff should prove very useful. Great stuff!!! Looking forward to seeing some new lines too!!

  53. My Top 3 books:

    1.Grandmaster 6 The Caro-Kann by Lars Shandorff
    2.Experts Versus the Sicilian multiple authors
    3.The Safest Sicilian by Alexander Delchev

  54. Top 3 QC:
    1. GM Repertoire 1. d4 by Boris Avrukh
    2. The Berlin Wall by John Cox
    3. Challenging the Grunfeld by Edward Dearing

    Top 3 non-QC:
    1. The Nimzo Indian: Move by Move by John Emms
    2. Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black by Johnson and Johannessen
    3. Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni by John Watson

  55. 1) The complete hedgehog. Both volumes
    2) The safest grunfeld. Sorry I didn’t buy the quality chess grunfeld books, I will eventually, but I just found so much interesting stuff in this book that I couldnt move past it.
    3) I can’t pick between The Benko Gambit by Pinsky, How to Beat the French Defense by Tzermiadanos, Dangerous Weapons (French and Sicilian), Revolution in the 70’s, and Sicilian Kan by Hellsten (which is also in the running for worst binding of all time).

  56. @wuvmuffin7 How do you know NimzoIndian move by move is such a good book? It has been released for only a day!

    It looks good, and I have ordered it, but is it a nr. 1??

  57. @Andy
    I think we are speaking four weeks now. The work has ended and we are checking the details. Maybe tomorrow will be another chance to add to the material!?

  58. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    No. I am in Greece and cannot provide anything. But I am sure that Colin will update the excerpt when the book is sent to the printer. I have read the book in its current form (the typeset is not finished) and it looks as if it will be about 344 or 352 pages. I am very happy with it.

    Obviously I played the Tarrasch again in round 3 and got an easy draw against Johannessen from Norway. It turned out that he had seen endless amounts of things I did not. Tactically my play here has been very poor, but I still have not played a really bad move. For example, I could have gained a significant advantage against Berkes according to John, but it was with a move neither Berkes nor I considered as anything special. So, really it was not poor play. If I get a strong draw against a 2700 player I feel I am ok. I don’t have to play as well as the computer on our really fast machines to be happy…

  59. I was forced to order “Meeting 1 d4” today in order to start learning the Tarrasch (I ordered GM10 long ago). I am sure other people are doing this too, so delaying publication might help Everyman 🙂

  60. @student
    Obviously we are not delaying anything – but I am sure you don’t want entirely blank pages between the covers! We are almost there and it will be out in just over three weeks. The best chapter in the Everyman book is on how to meet the Reti. I think it is valid today too, as long as you check the more forcing lines.

  61. @Joeri

    I’ve had a copy of NID: Move by Move since the 26th of October actually, even though the Everyman website says that the release date is the 31 of October.

    Even though I have only read around first the five to six chapters of the book, I am pretty convinced that this book is my favorite. And compared to Sadler’s QGD trilogy and the other Move by Move books, I believe NID: Move by Move to be a lot more theoretically detailed. Unfortunately Emms uses up most of his energy in teaching us the Nimzo rather than provide us with original analysis (although in some variations he does provide original analysis, like his back up line against the main line Rubinstein for instance).

    But what made me love this book is that Emms has this strange knack for teaching patzers like me the hows and whys. Although I have been playing the Nimzo before this book even came out (I never really understood the opening, but there’s a lot of room for improv if you do get a chance to enter the Nimzo), I decided on buying this book anyway because Emms is writing about an opening that he plays and loves which I figured would be a quality book. I have read other works by him like Play the Open Games as Black, and his Easy Guides to the Nimzo and Ruy, so I figured, “why not?” So when I received the book, I was surprised by the quality of the modest theoretical depth, prose and quality of the exercises. My expectations were confirmed nonetheless. At the time it seemed to me that the only players that could balance prose and theoretical depth well were Dearing, Cox, Marin and Khalifman. But I have always liked books by Emms, but this book really did surprise me.

  62. I ordered the NID – move by move today too. I stopped playing chess when I was 19 years old and began again after having a break of about 17-18 years. Since then I felt very attracted by the NID, but unfortunately there were no actual books about it.
    Unfortunately for QC, I will therefore not buy the Tarrasch, but you can be sure that the QC-NID book will be mine 🙂

  63. @wuvmuffin7
    Thx for the info. I got the book yesterday. Looks to me like your review and assessment is spot-on.
    The nimzo is truly a great opening.

  64. I am going to counter that it’s not “spot-on”. I own the ones on the Ruy Lopez and the Slav. The one on the Slav is no lesser quality than the one on the Ruy Lopez. Both give multiple options, and as for the Slav, being a former Semi-Slav player, I have faced the exchange variation many times, but this book actually explains move order issues that others don’t, like the early Bf4 before Nf3. I had originally thought the exchange chapter wouldn’t be of much use, but it’s just as helpful as other chapters involving lines I’m playing for the first time, like the Dutch Variation.

    When I was a 1.d4 player, back in the late 90s, all the hype was in the Bishop Sac line, which is not a line covered here. I have played the Exchange and 6.Ne5 as White back then, so for someone who is new to other aspects of the Slav, like me, this book is EXCELLENT.

    I will not speak for the Nimzo-Book just based on a Preview, and so I can’t say that the Slav book is better or worse than the Nimzo book, but don’t discredit something you’ve seen a few sample pages of. Maybe the sample pages chosen in that book vs the sample pages in the Ruy book didn’t meet your standards, but that’s a few pages out of a 400+ page book!

  65. Keep in mind I never said anything about “quality.” I was merely referring to the theoretical coverage/depth given in a book. Granted, I will admit, whenever I open up a repertoire book I do judge the quality of a line being recommended by the author. I myself do own The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move and I personally found the theoretical coverage on the Ruy very much sparse at times but highly appreciate the fact that McDonald will at times give his readers an overview of what variations are important and what to watch out for. I only have three problems with the Ruy Lopez: Move by Move which are his chapters on the Zaitsev, Chigorin and his small chapter on the small center against the Berlin. I honestly really like The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move but even I wished McDonald would admit that his book has space limitations and just recommend a way for his readers to expand on their Ruy Lopez research. I admit The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move is the best way for anybody to dip their feet in the Ruy Lopez, but that’s about it. A lot of lines in that book are sparsely covered and are quite poor in tackling transpositions and other specifics (chapters on the small center Berlin and Chigorin) while some chapters I felt were disappointingly badly written along with bad recommendations (Zaitsev).

    I will admit that I have only judged The Slav: Move by Move from sample pages, but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Slav: Move by Move is better written and/or more detailed than the Ruy Lopez: Move by Move. I will cut McDonald slack because he just tackled a very ambitious project and realized that the only way for an amateur to get by is through route learning in the Ruy Lopez complex, whereas Lakwadala is only working on a full repertoire after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 and John Emms only worked on a third of a Black repertoire after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6. If anything I would say that it is fair to say that The Slav and The Nimzo get away with being better books because of it’s ability to narrow it’s own scope due to being plan based Black repertoires while McDonald had to deal with an entire main line opening complex for White (which means no Wormald and yes main line Chigorin (which is a headache for White btw)).

  66. Hello, nice ideas from everyone about chess books. Can anyone please inform me if the new edition of Kaufmann’s opening repertoire book will cover some new lines ,not the same as the first book,or he will simply give a more detailed coverage of the existing ones? Also a very interesting new book for the french is going to be published soon by GM Antic from NewinChess, i can assure you it will be good.

  67. In my view the Marin English books are the best in this century. I greatly prefer his humble and explanatory style to Avrukh’s. Rogozenko’s Sveshnikov book is also exceptional.

    Something I place value on is writing the ‘first’ book on an opening. Having done both this and the other thing I know how much harder the former is.

    With that in mind, my other two would be Moles’ Winawer French and Keene (yes!) and Botterill’s Modern Defence. Honourable mention for Bellin’s Classical Dutch and Watson’s English books.

  68. Obviously I’m going to have to change identity, as message 89 is mine, 91 is not.

    #90 – I wouldn’t in the slightest bit be surprised if there are any areas that are sparse in any of the Move by Move books. I think the problem is that too many people have expectations that are way too high.

    I get questions from local people and people I don’t know at tournaments who see that I’m rated over 2000, and they are rated, like, 1600 or less, and ask me for advice on books, and at least 1/2 of those people have the expectation that 1 book will solve all their problems. That just isn’t the case.

    “The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move” (and even the others in that series) are a prime example. They are not the “end all, be all” of opening books. They explain the nuts and bolts. You ever see those opening books that show these novelties at move 15, but moves 10, 11, and 12, ones they assume you know, make no sense? That’s the point of the Move by Move series. It explains the basic nuts and bolts. It’s not intended for people that have played the Ruy or Slav for years. If you are new to the opening (I always played the Ponziani and Vienna prior as White against 1…e5), the Move by Move books are a life saver, but they are just 1 step of a large mountain to climb, and once the GM Rep books on 1.e4 come out, and more specifically, the one on the Ruy Lopez, a person that either has played the Ruy for 5+ years as White, or someone that has read “The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move” will be better prepared than someone who tries to use the GM Rep book to study the Ruy Lopez for the first time ever, cold turkey.

  69. So I guess we have come to an agreement that when learning an opening, ideas are more important? And we both agree that preparation requires much more than just copying opening moves on a spread sheet? And that we read these kinds of “nuts and bolts” books so that we feel that we can find ideas ourselves?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love opening books based on ideas (middle game books on a specific position, I guess), and I still use all of Kotronias’ Opening manuals as primary inspirations for analysis when updating old lines that he has recommended. I guess my expectations were high upon receiving Ruy Lopez: Move by Move, but I genuinely felt that the book could have been better. Better as in better lines being recommended and further guidance as to how we can further our research. I originally bought McDonald’s book with the expectation that I would learn how to handle the White side of the Chigorin and the Breyer as well as a solid introduction as to how to play the d3 systems. I admit that I find McDonald’s coverage of the d3 systems after 3. … a6, chapter on the Breyer and facing offbeat systems to be brilliant, but wish that McDonald would be more in-depth and specific when discussing the Chigorin.

    Despite how I feel about the Ruy Lopez: Move by Move I would still recommend it to a 2000+ player who wants to dabble in the Ruy Lopez for the first time. Of course, I would tell that player how I feel about the already previous expressed chapters. And I will probably recommend all the Move by Move books published so far to 2000+ just because they’re a lot more complicated to digest than the Starting Out series. Sometimes I go through the exercises just so I can feel dumb.

    I know there’s some original analysis in The Slav: Move by Move in the 6. Ne5 Na6 line. That could probably make some strong players really happy and maybe happier with Lakwadala’s writing style assuming that reader has a sense of humor. I would definitely recommend Nimzo-Indian: Move by Move to any player between 1600-2300 seeing as I have already accepted that book as something of a personal bible on the black side of the Nimzo-Indian.

  70. Gilchrist is a Legend

    How do you learn an opening if you only know the ideas but not the precise nuances and familiarities needed, usually only accomplished with at least a minimal level of memorisation? I have tried to learn openings with ideas only when I was rated lower, and it was difficult because I felt I needed to memorise the exact lines in certain openings in order for the ideas to succeed. There are also certain opening variations where common sense does not seem to be productive as the only method of learning the opening. An example is the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf, which I played for years. I doubt anyone can play the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf without memorising anything. Another line similar is the Botvinnik Semi-Slav.

  71. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    There is a reason behind the fact that it is recommended that when a lower rated player first learns openings beyond just “opening concepts”, like controlling the center, that he or she learn openings where the ideas are most in line with general concepts, like the Ruy Lopez. After 1.e4 e5, 2.Nf3 (Attack loose pawn), 2…Nc6 (Defend loose pawn), 3.Bb5 (Attack defender), 3…a6 (use fork tactic to justify attack of the Bishop as 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5? is no good because of the fork after 5…Qd4), 4.Ba4 Nf6 (attack loose pawn), etc., and NOT the Botvinnik Semi-Slav or Sicilian Najdorf.

    I actually cringe when I see 1200 players playing the Sicilian Defense as Black. They have no business playing the Sicilian. Same thing goes for the Botvinnik Semi-Slav, Grunfeld, King’s Indian Defense, Alekhine’s Defense, Scandinavian Defense, or any other complicated line that bends the general principles of opening play. Yeah, they may be sound, but they violate general principles.

  72. I have always been a general ideas kind of man when it comes to openings. It is for this reason that from my early books, the Panov and the Dutch Stonewall were the best books, simply because I was able to show this strength off. I still believe that it makes sense to look into the general strategies of openings and think that I have done not too badly playing in this way. Obviously some openings are better styled for this approach than others.

    However, over the last few years I have come to the conclusion that at my level it is imperative that you come to the board with ideas for all openings and with an extensive amount of knowledge. I can do ok with preparing quickly (2-3 hours) from scratch against players up to 2550, but from there on it gets really tough. On the other hand – when you have good ideas against u2500s you have a massive advantage.

    I am not sure exactly where my playing strength is at the moment. I made 50% at the European Team Championship and won +0.2 rating points. In turn I played some of the worst chess in my life on the way and made 0.5/4 in rounds 5-8, and was lucky to do so.

    I think I could be in the high 2500s with some basic training and a decent opening repertoire. I think a lot of 2500s like me could make this transition with the same effort.

    Back in 2005 Esben Lund and I made an experiment. We prepared 5 juniors each to play each other in the King’s Indian, two games each. He tought them some hard theory in 60 min – I went through the general concepts. I am sad to say that my kids were annihilated.

    About the Sicilian as a 1200. I did this and I don’t think my play suffered.

  73. Jacob Aagaard :
    About the Sicilian as a 1200. I did this and I don’t think my play suffered.

    In my experience, I can tell you first hand, having learned how to play the game in 1983, playing my first tournament in 1996, getting a rating of 1177, and shooting up to 1400 by end of 1997 and 1750 by end of 1998 that opening concepts are far more important in that stage than opening theory.

    Playing the Sicilian as a 1200 player won’t hurt your game, but you also aren’t learning what’s important at that level in my humble opinion.

    When you play another 1200 player, it’s not like he or she is going to know these Najdorf lines 25 moves deep, so what good does it do you to memorize complicated lines when you will never reach those positions anyway?

    When you are facing a 1900 player (i.e. Round 1 of the US Open, or possibly a rated game at a club or small single-section tournament), yeah, he or she may know the Najdorf 15 moves deep instead of 5, but what good does that do you? Great, you memorized some moves. Do you even remotely understand what you did or why you did it? Probably not. It’s a lot easier for a 1200 to understand the “Attack/Defend” concept of the Ruy Lopez, or the static position, minority attack, backwards c-pawn, etc of the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, than it is to understand the difference between 9…b5, 9…h6, or 9…other in the Sicilian Najdorf. So again, concepts are more important than theory here, even though you’ll likely get beat since your opponent is 700 higher than you.

    I can tell you that when I first played in the mid-90s, I learned opening concepts, and played certain openings not even knowing what they were called, or even if they were book lines. It was all about controlling the center. I ended up playing the QGD Exchange as White, and the QGD and French as Black, all established the same way that a baby establishes being left- or right-handed. The solid e6-d5 pawn structure, with the concept of having 1 good bishop and 1 bad bishop, and keeping tabs on the center (i.e. …c5 and …f6 in the case of the French) just made perfect sense, and I actually understood what I was doing.

    Then, come 1997, I played the King’s Indian Attack for about 8 months (via 1.Nf3), and had a few good games, but I realized I was playing moves out of habit, and not understanding, so I went back to 1.d4.

    In addition to that, I tried to play the Sicilian Kalashnikov, looking at McDonald’s book from 1995, but again, I never knew what I was doing, other than occupy d4 and avoid endings unless it’s a Q ending, so I went back to the French.

    It wasn’t until I was over 1700 that I really started to hit opening theory pretty hard, and played just about every opening you can think of. Even then, the openings that follow the general principles of opening concepts, like the French, Caro-Kann, 1…e5, QGD, Semi-Slav, now the Slav, etc, have lead me to far more success than the wild lines like the Sicilian, Alekhine, Modern, Grunfeld, Benko, Benoni, etc. The only exceptions to that are the King’s Indian Defense, which has lead to a number of spectacular games for me, and the Taimanov and Scheveningen Sicilians, which aren’t really in the same league as the Dragon or Najdorf.

    Wild lines like the Najdorf, Dragon, Alekine, Benoni, Grunfeld, King’s Indian, etc can be fun, but I went thru a stint of about 3 years trying to play each and every one of those lines, and it really did nothing for my game. From 2004 to 2007, I remained in a rut, fluctuating between 1950 and 2020. Also, from 2005 to early 2010, I was playing wild lines as White like 1.Nc3, 1.b4, 1.f4, etc, and in years like 2008, I was getting FAR better results with Black than White.

    The moral of the story? Everyone should get a basic foundation, and everyone should be able to play (“be able to play” and “play regularly” are not the same thing, I could play the French still today, but I choose not to) openings that follow the general concepts (i.e. Ruy Lopez, Petroff, Queen’s Gambit, and to a slightly lesser extent, French, Caro-Kann, Slav, etc.), and then of the others, give them a try, but if they don’t work for you, they don’t work. The Najdorf worked for Kasparov, Fischer, etc, but not for Karpov. Play what works for you, don’t play for a popularity contest (in my case, I wouldn’t call the Taimanov or Scheveningen Sicilians popular, and the KID was popular, but has taken a step backwards since the mid-90s). Just because everyone else and their grandmother are playing the Najdorf and Grunfeld doesn’t mean you have to, and that’s what I see way too many people do (especially those under 2000), try to play an opening because it’s popular, not because it matches their own style of play at all. It’s like seeing a 78-year old woman trying to wear what the teenage girls are wearing! 🙂

  74. Patrick M: I feel like you’re moving the goalposts. First you say “I actually cringe when I see 1200 players playing the Sicilian Defense as Black. They have no business playing the Sicilian.” Then when you follow up, you’ve changed Black’s sins from simply playing 1…c5 to memorizing 15-move deep lines of Najdorf theory. I think we all agree that the latter is pretty silly for a beginner. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a 1200 player playing 3-5 moves worth of “theory” in the Sicilian against a fellow 1200 and then hacking away.

    By the way, I think White often violates more principles in the Sicilian than Black does… exchanging the c5 pawn for the d4 pawn is pretty principled!

  75. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I played the Sicilian Kan and King’s Indian Defence as a 1200. I improved faster than when I played the Chigorin Spanish and Slav…

  76. Gilchrist is a Legend :I played the Sicilian Kan and King’s Indian Defence as a 1200. I improved faster than when I played the Chigorin Spanish and Slav…

    Gilchrist, I think you just confirmed my statement here. You played the KID as a 1200, allowing White the big center, which goes against the “Opening Principles” that a 1200 player should follow (again, not that the KID is unsound, I play it myself sometimes), and switched to the Spanish and Slav, 2 openings that basically follow all opening principles (especially the Chigorin Spanish), and your rating went up faster than it did playing openings that violate what is taught to a beginner (even though those violations are sound).


    I’m not really moving the goalposts. I’m saying that a 1900 might know it 15 moves deep, as opposed to the equally weak 1200 opponent, but the point was that against a 1200 player, your “hacking away” approach at move 5 isn’t the best way for a beginner to learn proper strategy, while the 1900 player will lead you down the book lines, but odds are, with the natural complexity featured in the Najdorf, the 1200 player will have no clue what he’s doing because you can throw all strategy behind those Opening Principles out the window in lines like the Najdorf, and it’s a lot harder, once the 1200 gets past what he has memorized (say, thru move 12), for the 1200 to make out a plan of what to do next compared to say, the Chigorin Variation of the Ruy Lopez. The ideas are a lot simpler, which is what a 1200 player needs, simplicity!

    Once you get over that hump, and are significantly higher rated, only then is it time to explore more difficult defenses (like Gilchrist, from his past posts, appears to be one that advocates the Najdorf and Grunfeld) to see if they possibly fit your style better than openings like the Ruy Lopez or Slav, and for some, they stay with the simpler defenses, which is perfectly fine.

    It’s not that 1…c5 is “unsound” when 1200 and all of a sudden sound at 1900, but it’s just not the most efficient way to learn and master the game. Playing the Sicilian as your first ever opening, without a more solid base, is like jumping off the deep end of the pool the first time you ever learned how to swim.

  77. Gilchrist is a Legend

    No, it was the opposite; I switched from Spanish and Slav to Sicilian Kan (and Taimanov as I remember now) and King’s Indian. Spanish and Slav were my first openings when I first learnt chess. Sorry for the confusion, I may have worded the post awkwardly.

    But, yes, it is true that the Spanish and Slav are more orthodox than the latter. But the Sicilian and King’s Indian allowed me to learn about various differing positions with unique pawn structures, as well as sharp and complicated play. Maybe some prefer to keep orthodox openings solely as their repertoire until they reach 1800 or so, but I had no problems playing the sharper defences. I also used to play 1. e4 and all the main lines of the Open Sicilian since I started chess.

  78. @Patrick M
    Who said I knew any theory? To this day opening theory is not something I know, but something I acquire desperately before the game. I learned a lot about different positions to the one you describe. Basically, I just disagree with making your personal experience universal :-).

  79. I remember going through Sverre Johnsen’s blog and he was discussing the merits of playing the Chigorin or the Zaitsev (link is Johnsen here argues that when playing the Closed Spanish as Black it is a lot easier to play the Zaitsev than the Chigorin because “Experience pays well in the Chigorin and your results are likely to improve over time,” whereas in the the Zaitsev, developments and plans tend to be a lot more “natural” and doesn’t have the strategic complexity of having to regroup your pieces like in the Chigorin. Although to be completely honest, the Spanish complex is still a mystery to me and that only experience will reward me over time as either color.

    Although I must agree with everybody that the King’s Indian is very strategically complicated I will probably still teach it to a kid if he wants to play the KID only because experience will pay off for the kid if he’s motivated in chess still plans on continuing to play the KID. Eventually you will have to teach a younger player how to attack the center using wing pawns anyway and what better way to teach a kid how to play chess than to teach him/her the French, KID and Nimzo (even the Black side of the Ruy or Grunfeld might work too)? That kid when he gets better has to play against Black openings that want to attack the White center anyway and being able to play both sides to some extent is forever invaluable. How are you going to explain to a kid how to take care of a d4-e5 center on the White side of the French when Black just tears that White’s center to bits with …c5 and …f6?

    But before I yammer on about more personal nonsense, I will like to convey as to what I am trying to get at: I believe that the best thing for a new player (1200 player in this case) is anything the new player wants as long as that new player is willing to change and take those experiences with him/her. New players want simplicity if they feel that simplicity fits and new players want specifics when they feel that specifics fit. Improvement is the willingness to acknowledge the right and wrong things about their previous characteristics and integrate those rights things with what they consider to be the right track which is improving as a chess player.

    So teaching a 1200 player the Sicilian. Seems like a strange thing to do. When I volunteered to be a chess coach at a middle school last year a kid came up to me and asked me about the Sicilian Defense. I could lie and tell the kid that the Sicilian Defense shouldn’t be taken up until he’s at least 1600-1800 or I could teach the kid what he needed to know about the Sicilian Defense. I figured, “Well… I should probably congratulate this kid for being curious seeing as I might be a better fit for this kid’s curiosity than say, Wikipedia or a chess book.” So I took three chess boards and showed the kid some positions from the French and 1. e4 e5 that I felt were fitting and told the kid that understanding these positions are very important when starting out playing the Sicilian. So I assigned him some homework to study Dragon games from and made him study some specific games in the Anti-Sicilians. Happy to say the kid at a public school state tournament only had to play against random nonsense Anti-Sicilians and no Open Sicilians but the kid had a 2-0 record against 1. e4 with the Sicilian because he handle had a better idea of whats happening than the White player in these closed positions. Sadly he didn’t do too well against the more experienced players that were rated 1900 USCF to his being “unrated” in which he lost as Black and went 1-1-1 with the White pieces due to fatigue. Nonetheless after going through the kid’s incoherent hand writing, solid memory and well played games he won on auto pilot, I felt that the kid helped his own chess (or zest for life) than I ever did for him. During the end of the year I gave the kid two books from my own personal library and congratulated him for being just a cool kid. The kid’s willingness to just learn and his zest for life makes me think that in whatever field he wants to get into, he will succeed. I wouldn’t say simplicity was his greatest asset because judging from what I wrote of him, it was change and motivation. Speaking of which, Yermolinsky in his book, “Road to Chess Improvement,” also argued that there was a correlation between being a strong player with a uptrend rating and a confident and positive personality. Yermolinsky claimed that by being confident and positive, one’s learning capabilities and endurance during a chess game is significantly more consistent. Don’t believe me, just look at the rating curve of Aronian and Carlsen.

    As to how I improved, I started out with the French because it was the first opening I unknowingly played against a strong player who later told me that I played the French after our game together. I asked him if that was a good thing and he responded, “it’s like an instrument: just keep playing it.” I did after I became about 1200 and dropped the French to play the Najdorf, KID and 1. d4+2. c4 until I was around 1500 in which I switched over to the Nimzo/Ragozin/QID/Catalan, 1. e4 e5 and my white repertoire now consists of 1. e4, 1. d4 and 1. c4 after toying around with the Caro-Kann and Semi-Slav between the transition between 1200-1500. Why did I make the switch? Creative reasons. I figured in order to improve I should assimilate as many positions as possible with a strong idea of knowing how to play those positions from both sides. Also, a lot of similar positions show up in different openings as well as similar courses of action, so why not make the transition? What I feel that one should be studying when openings are the arising middle games and whether those middle games can be played in correlation with another position. For example, I feel that there are some lines in Shabalov’s Bayonet line in the Anti-Meran that are analogous with Morozevich’s Be7 line against the Tarrasch and the Poison Pawn Winawer. Or how about exploiting the b4 hole after White has played a4? Off the top of my head, I know the Slav, Zaitsev and Classical Sicilian make use of such motifs.

  80. Just to reconcile all the Everyman vs QC tensions here, I am thinking of adopting an Emms+Alterman black repertoire (Nimzo vs 3 Nc3+Blumenfeld vs 3 Nf3), at least for backup. It seems like the only serious line that is a hole is: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3, is there a good reply here that doesn’t take me to a Catalan? I guess I can play 3 .. d5 and then 4 .. c5, and play a Tarrasch?

  81. @csaba
    You can definitely do that!

    But if you go Alterman, you can go 2…c5 as well. And if they go 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 you have 3…c5 4.d5 b5. If they want to stay out of everything with 3.g3, you can go 3…b5! with the idea 4.Bg2 d5!, which I am pretty sure Avrukh is covering in his book. This is definitely equal.

    I am sure some people are overstating any Everyman v QC dispute. I have good relations with John Emms; Byron Jacobs sent flowers to my wedding (seven years ago, but although we are in contact only rarely, it is always pleasant). Mark Bicknell and I occasionally discuss aspects of our industry, although we are talking in very general terms to avoid violating any legislation.

    I think Everyman’s financial structure is ridiculous and leads to a lot of the bad books they do quite naturally, but at times they do some really nice things and I have not been shy to recommend these books or books from other companies on this blog.

  82. (1.) Marin’s series covering the English
    (2.) Watson’s books regarding the French
    (3.) Matthew Sadler’s book about the QGD.
    Honorable mention to Schandorff for his Caro-Kann insights, as well as Bologan’s work about the Chebanenko Slav.

  83. BTW is Tiger’s Modern still playable? If some lines are in trouble maybe you could do a second edition? I know it’s a very sharp opening so maybe there’s need for one?

  84. Oh yes, Matthew Sadlers book about the QGD is still nowadays a great book!
    Although it is rather old and and theoretical not up to date, everybody who wants to play the QGD MUST read this book.
    I have a german rating of above 2000, no fide elo, but I guess it would be around 2100.

    My strength is positional chess, i am not a good attacker/tactician.
    I was reading the chapter about Tartakower line in the last days and he really gives deep insight about the pawn structure and the corresponding pros and cons.
    I remember a position where white pawns on e3+d4 were facing black pawns on d5+c5. Black to move had the chance to play c5-c4 and create a pass pawn (open b-file).
    Amazing Stuff to be read! I will never ever forget this.

  85. I wonder how your lists have changed 3,5 years later.

    My top 3 list for what it’s worth:
    Cox – Starting Out: 1.d4!
    Vera – Chess Explained: The Nimzo Indian
    Gallagher – Play the King’s Indian

  86. Mauricio Flores

    My list:

    1.- Avrukh Volume 2
    2.- Avrukh Volume 1
    3.- Avrukh’s grunfeld books

    Still I think there are some lines in Avrukh 1-2 where White doesn’t really have an advantage, but it only happens in about 1% of the lines (say some lines within 6…dxc4 in the Catalan) which is why he improved the recommendation now that he is publishing a second edition. Either way, I have never come across any book which even attempts to match the quality of these ( I haven’t read Marin’s though).

    When I was a kid, I read many opening books, such as Dismantling the Sicilian by De La Villa, and I liked them, but I have the habit of putting all my opening books into Chessbase to check them with my engine, and my engines were able to refute many of the lines suggested, so these books were good guides, but not optimal since some of his lines weren’t good enough for an advantage.

    Actually, this complaint (books that don’t give an advantage, or even equality sometimes…) applies to most opening books that I have read (from editorials other than QC). This means you spend 50+ hours following a book and covering every detail, and then suddenly you find a big hole in the analysis the author provides. Then you spend 20+ hours trying to find an advantage on your own, and if you fail, you end up with what I call an “unsatisfactory opening preparation”.

    Oftentimes authors realize this, but they just don’t address it because they don’t know how to give advantage and they don’t want to admit they couldn’t find it. I think this mentality is what makes all the difference, and that’s why I like QC’s opening books, they don’t settle until the analysis is 100% satisfactory.

  87. It is an interesting discussion to see how things have changed in so many years.

    For my personal point of view, there are great opening books out there (Khalifman’s Kramnik serie, Ntirlis & Aagaard’s Tarrasch and French or Schandorff’s Caro Kahn). The most important point on this books are high quality of analysis and a repertoire on which I can rely.

    Other books are not that good because they do not meet the same quality of the chess. Two examples are Khalifman’s Karpov book or Marin’s serie on 1.c4. The first one is simply aimed at a lower level than my needs (or should I say my expectations), while Marin’s books, although otherwise great, lack impartiality in the suggestion of lines, often ignoring really good options for Black.

    These two flaws (not enough level of detail or not enough impartiality) is what breaks the experience for me. If the book avoids this, I would consider it high quality, and if I like it or not would depend entirely on if I like the chosen lines. Ntirlis & Aagaard’s French matches quite closely the options I already chose on the French, hence I think it is a great book, filling the gaps in my (very limited) opening knowledge. Avrukh’s first version of the catalan just didn’t appeal me, because I don’t seem to like the catalan.

    At the end of the day for me studying openings is a pain, hence I cannot possibly say in good consciousness that any of the above books is in my top 3 of opening books. For me excellent opening books should be enjoyable to read (Marin’s 1.c4, for example) while maintaining the quality of the chess.

    In that limited sense, I would put forward two books only:

    1. Shipov on the Hedgehog. An impressive two volume serie where it is clear the love and work involved, where the prose is outstanding and keeps a good share of humor in it and where the quality of the chess is spot on. It is a shame I do not play the hedgehog.
    2. Marin on the Spanish: I’m speaking only through a half an hour experience reading it in a book store. It has great prose (as with all Marin’s work), good insights and you get to understand the story behind the lines. I cannot speak about the quality of the chess involved as I do not play the spanish nor I own a copy of the book, hence I cannot check with an engine.

  88. Gollum :

    2. Marin on the Spanish: I’m speaking only through a half an hour experience reading it in a book store. It has great prose (as with all Marin’s work), good insights and you get to understand the story behind the lines. I cannot speak about the quality of the chess involved as I do not play the spanish nor I own a copy of the book, hence I cannot check with an engine.

    It is a good book on some aspects.It tells some historic knowledge about development of the spanish for example.But it has an important drawback in my opinion;the lines he offered for the Chigorin mainline are rather unpretentious and simple

  89. My top 3 from QC:

    1) Marin GM3 – Love at first sight, and the flame is still lit.
    (GM4+GM5 became a must and I enjoyed them almost equally as much, but of course the “new concept” of a much more educational/pedagogical chess book wasn’t new anymore, however – I swallowed all three books with BIG excitement and joy – they changed my chess career forever).

    2) Berg’s GM14 – was an eyeopener to me, I never liked the French before this book!
    A bit the same story as with Marin – I simply love it when authors manage to “get the main ideas through” by something more than just a few +/= signs. And yes, these books was and still am worth every minute I have spent on (and revisited) them.

    3) If I have to choose something ELSE than the above two authors, then my third choice falls on Avrukh’s (two) books on the Grünfeld.

    Why did I end up mentioning 3 opening books ? Well, honestly, because they were some of the most instructive/explanatory books I’ve ever read on chess. I do own other books from QC, but am yet to discover (not to say they don’t already exist!!) one on say middle or end-game which is AS instructive as the above authors managed to write their respective books.

    Would I love to have the same feeling about a middle- or end-game book ? Hell yes! Is it possible ? Probably, but I am yet to see someone who could catch my interest for long enough. Why is this so ? I can only guess. Opening theory is always “something new” somehow, and probably more managable for someone like me to understand – which leads to the classic statement that “studying the endgame” yields more.

    Honestly, I’d love to study endgame. But not by say buying a book with 1001 positions to be solved with no instructional text, no clues, no hints (other than the dry fact that you have to either play for a win or a draw.. drawn rhymes with yawn btw..). I am one of those kids (approaching 40 :D) who can’t sit still on his chair in class. I am the one who needs special attention in order to REALLY get what others either got the first time, or didn’t bother to ask about again because they didn’t REALLY care whether or not they really understood it. Thus, my biggest desire ? Bring about a book (or several ala what Averbakh did in his 5 vol. works) on the endgame which is “for kids who can’t sit still on their chair” – one which, when picked up is so darn hard to put down again, simply because the message gets through and doesn’t drown in “the russian chess school”-principle of setting a chess clock on 5 minutes and try to work out in your mind 5 different branches (still with no clue when shown the diagram) including all their subbranches blablabla.. zzzz.. I don’t mean to put down what the Soviets contributed to chess, but wishful thinking brings me to desire some OTHER method of learning.

    Maybe it’s time to pack the whip away and bring forth the carrots instead ? 😀

  90. If you want a good endgame book for ‘kids’, go for ‘100 endings you must know’ from de la Villa.

    I have read many endgame books (starting with Maizelis on pawn endings and Levenfish & Smislov with rook endings) and I think de la Villa’s work is the most enjoyable of them.

    On middlegame I enjoyed ‘Chess Structures’ quite a lot.

    Anyway you are right in pointing out that Marin’s books on the english are more a middlegame book than an opening book. For an opening they lack accuracy, but viewed as a collection of games of some kind (he eventually cuts the game off when the ending is starting to get interesting) it really is very instructive and I would rate it highly among other collections of games.

  91. I agree with Alexander about Berg’s French book(s). I have been playing the French since the first edition of Watson’s Play the french. There have been many French books I looked at since, but GM 14,15 were the books which had the most coherent approach to the Winawer I have seen so far. My only real complaint about Berg’s books is that Negi’s book were published too soon afterwards.

    So two of the top three books (series) for me are Berg on the French and Negi (restoring my belief in 1.e4). The third will probably be among Kindermann’s Leningrad system, Cox’s Berlin wall or Gallaghers Play the King’s Indian.

  92. If this thread is popping back into existence for re-evaluation, might as well throw in my two cents:

    1. Avrukh Volume 1 – I think that not only was the content and analysis top notch, there’s no argument that the GM Rep series as a whole completely changed the paradigm for what an opening book could be or should be.

    2. Marin Volume 1 – Similar to the above, but Marin showed how much insight you could really pack into one book, and that a great opening book can be a middlegame book that happens (italics) to focus on one specific opening. I wouldn’t say that Marin is the most rigorous analyst out there (he’s good, but not a Nikos, Avrukh, etc), but I think that’s one of the things that makes the book stand out – all of his lines feel very fluid, natural, and human-like even if there are some computer-like solutions to Black’s problems. Anyway, Black is equal in the English – no shocker there!

    3. Kosten’s English book – For me, this one is partially sentimental. The book is dated somewhat, but is one of the only books I’ve devoured more than once. I gave away my first copy, but it was in tatters. Great balance of analysis and insight, and in some ways, the perfect size for many club players – it refreshing to carry around your entire White repertoire in a very small 144 pages! In some ways I think opening books should move back in this direction, or at least a subset of them should. Before Marin’s book above, this was the gold standard for 1.c4 and 2.g3 for years and years.

    I am sure if I think about the question for another 5 minutes or so I’ll have to edit this post and re-evaluate, but I’m not going to.

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