Wrong Opening Books

People often buy and read the wrong books, as you will have seen from my previous articles. I suspect people often buy and read opening books which, while perhaps excellent in themselves, are pitched at the wrong level for them.

Broadly speaking, you could say that there are three types of opening book: 1500 books, 2000 books and 2500 books.

If you’re new to competitive chess, or a lower rated player, and fancy learning about a specific opening you’ll want a 1500 book, which will explain the basic positional and tactical ideas in simple fashion, demonstrating them with some sample games and as little solid theory as possible. Learning an opening in this way should take you up to 1500 strength, at least when you play that opening.

If you’re an established competitive player you’ll understand the basic principles of the most important openings, even those you’ve never played yourself. If you want to try something new, or improve your knowledge of what you already play, a 1500 book will be too simplistic for you. Instead you’ll need a 2000 book which will give you more detailed theory: enough to enable you to play the opening successfully against anyone up to 2000 or probably more like 2200. Authors of 2000 books will be careful not to overwhelm the reader with too much detail. If you’re a 2000 player or thereabouts you don’t need cutting edge theory: just enough to reach a playable position and understand the typical middlegame and endgame plans associated with your chosen opening.

If you’re competing at master level, and are prepared to study openings intensively, what you’ll need will, I guess (I can’t speak from personal experience here) a 2500 book. This will contain a lot of detail including references to recent top level GM games. It will also go out of date more quickly than a 2000 book, whereas a 1500 book will still be relevant, in most cases, for perhaps 10 or 20 years depending on the opening.

Within each of these categories there are, again, two types of book: complete books and repertoire books. Repertoire books will be written from the perspective of one colour, and will provide readers with one or maybe two recommendations against anything your opponent is likely to throw at you. Complete books, on the other hand, will tell you all there is to know about the most important lines, leaving you to choose for yourself which ones to play.

Many excellent chess books are written every year. One problem I have with instructional books is that authors and publishers tend to promote them as suitable for too wide a range of player, usually for players who would benefit from simpler books. Understandably so, I suppose, as they want to sell as many copies as possible, but one point of some of my articles here, and of many of my book reviews published on British Chess News, is to warn readers against wasting their time and money on books which are too advanced for them. Books suitable for 2500 players tend to be promoted to 2000 players, and, likewise, books suitable for 2000 players tend to be promoted to 1500 players.

If you’re on the lookout for a new opening book you may well want to visit publishers’ websites and look at sample pages to see if they’re at the right level for you before making your purchase.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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