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Mastering the Chess Openings: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Modern Chess Openings, Volume 1 Paperback – October 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904600603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904600602
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author


International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. His groundbreaking four-volume work on the English firmly established his reputation in the 1980s, and he has produced a string of top-quality works since. In 1999, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, Watson's first book for Gambit, won the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award and the United States Chess Federation Fred Cramer Award for Best Book. His former pupils include the 1997 World Junior Champion, Tal Shaked.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 27 customer reviews
I took this book with me over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.
R. L. Bauer
Game fragments and complete annotated games help to illustrate these deeper themes in a concrete fashion.
j clark
Watson concentrates on sound openings that will give the player good competitive chances.
Calvin Olson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 138 people found the following review helpful By j clark on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an opening book unlike any other. It is not an opening

encyclopedia. It is also not a repertoire book. It is not a survey of

a specific opening. Rather, it seeks to give the reader a holistic

view of openings, focusing on ideas, plans, structures, and even

tactical themes that cut across many systems. Those who are familiar

with Watson's award-winning "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" and

"Chess Strategy in Action" will find the same level of scholarship,

depth of thinking, and rich insights in this work. As an example, in

the early chapters we explore the importance of Black's d5 break in the

"open" games (i.e., those that begin 1.e4 e5). We go on in the Chapter

on the Giuoco Piano to see how this advance is tied to Black's quest

for equality. Then in the Ruy Lopez chapter, we compare the effect of

3...a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3, when the Spanish bishop is on the same diagonal.

Watson keenly observes that now the d5 advance lacks sting (it does

not attack the bishop, being on b3 rather than c4), and hence the Ruy

Lopez can be seen as a way for White to achieve the ideal two pawn

center while diminishing Black's ability to counter effectively with

d5. Very illuminating. And so the idea of the equalizing pawn break,

and many other ideas, weave their way through the treatments of various

responses to 1.e4. Game fragments and complete annotated games help to

illustrate these deeper themes in a concrete fashion.

Much of the material is quite sophisticated, and yet this book can be

of great use to advanced beginners and above.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Case on January 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
John Watson has written another amazing book. It's hard to believe that he could create another tome the equal of "Chess Strategy in Action" and "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy". Lo and behold! This new volume on the e4 chess opening is a masterpiece! IM Watson has a way of bringing a refreshing approach to tried and true openings. I have read lots of opening theory but this work illuminates the themes and strategies of openings in a way that I have never seen before. Watson also provides excellent sample games and analysis of the material he discusses.

I have not read the entire work yet, but I can highly recommend the chapters on the Pirc Defense, Philidor Defense, Caro Kan, Giucco Piano, Kings Gambit, and Sicilian. I think this book will be very useful for almost any level of player. Also please read the chapter on the "Significance of Structure"

Eevn though I have been playing chess for over 50 years (USCF-expert, when active), I feel that I have only gained a genuine understanding of these openings for the first time after reading Watson's book!!

Finally, this volume will not only increase your understanding of the e4 openings, but it will also deepen your enjoyment and love for the game.

I can't wait to read Volume 2 on d4!!

By the way, I should mention that I think the review by j clark very accurately describes the book.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book largely because I am such a big fan of Watson's "Secrets of Chess Strategy" and "Chess Strategy in Action". To be clear, this is not a complete e4 repertoire (Alburt/Dzindzi aside, this is probably outside the scope of any single book), it simply talks about specific common openings in the larger context of modern opening theory, and how to play openings in general. The key quote from the Introduction is "It is important to understand that the games and analysis do not always represent current theory; they are intended to illustrate underlying properties of the openings". This I think it does very well. While it is far more concrete and in-depth, I think the intent is more like the classic (but outdated and incomplete) "Ideas behind the chess openings".

As much as anything it takes its introductory chapters on basic topics like pawn structure and then uses certain lines to illustrate them. In other words this is a very theoretical book (which happens to be about opening theory instead of middle game), not a practical guide to openings.
I'd recommend it simply because John Watson is one of the best chess writers working. If that doesn't appeal to you, skip it.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Bauer on May 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by Randy Bauer

There are few chess authors who consistently deliver fresh and challenging works on what are sometimes oft-covered subjects; John Watson proves himself up to the task, again, and it is fitting that it arrived just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. All I can say is "thanks, John" for making it a special couple of days.

MASTERING THE CHESS OPENINGS: VOLUME 1 is, in many ways, the opening complement to Watson's earlier two volume middle game tour-de-force, SECRETS OF MODERN CHESS STRATEGY and CHESS STRATEGY IN ACTION. Here the author takes deadly aim at the sorts of concrete bits of chess knowledge that an aspiring player must possess to master the first stage of the game.

While earlier "mastering" and "understanding" the opening works tend to stress fairly basic concepts and themes, Watson, as always, digs deeper, and penetrates further into the topics he presents. Far from presenting a "Cliff Notes" method for studying or playing the opening, this book challenges the reader in uncharacteristic ways. For example, Watson delights in identifying structures and themes that cut across openings -- and these aren't your normal "opening cousin" pairings either. While we might expect to see similarities among, say, fianchetto defenses like the Pirc, King's Indian, and Dragon Sicilian, Watson confronts us with pairings like the Pirc and Open Ruy Lopez.

This book concentrates on what are generally called the King's Pawn Openings. Volume two will consider Queen's Pawn Openings. It should be noted from the start that this is not an exhaustive examination of all variations -- or even all openings -- within this classification.
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