By GM John Emms
It is becoming an extremely difficult task to keep on top of chess theory. Any player trying to take up a new opening will invariably be met by a veritable forest of information in which it is all too easy to stray from the right paths and end up entangled in an unmanageable thicket.
This new book from GM Emms attempts to use fairly simple principles to enable the reader to get to grips with the openings without having to learn the entire contents of unwieldy encyclopedias.
The first three chapters take a close look at ‘Central Issues’, ‘Introducing Development’ and ‘King Safety’.
Armed with the basics, the reader is then able to get to grips with some more advanced material in the subsequent chapters: ‘Delving Deeper’, ‘Pawn Play’ and ‘Chess Openings in Practice’.
The chapters do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.
The openings themselves are not covered in great depth; here’s a random example of how far the analysis goes:
All of the moves leading up to this standard French Defence position are explained in detail and then of course the reader will have to move on to other books in order to take things further.
There are plenty of entertaining examples to back up the advice.
In this position, Black doesn’t need to castle Kingside (he can always 0-0-0 quickly instead) and can instead launch a quick attack with 7 …g5!
Fast-forward a few moves and Black’s attack is close to ending the game in his favour, even though he has allowed his Queen to be taken…
13 …Nf3+! 14 gxf3 Bxf3 15 hxg3 Rh1 checkmate.
The author generally follows up such examples with some pertinent ‘Points to remember’. In this case he comments:
1) With a closed centre it’s sometimes not such a necessity to castle so early. In certain positions leaving your king in the centre for a few more moves can give welcome flexibility: your opponent isn’t sure which side to attack.
2) Pins in the opening are powerful weapons and they need to be handled carefully; that’s true for the piner as well as the one being pinned!
Experienced players will not need this book but it could be an excellent aid for juniors and club players who have always had plenty of questions regarding openings but have been afraid to ask. The explanations are excellent and the writing displays all the usual Emms polish.
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