Home > Publishing Schedule > Grandmaster Repertoire and Grandmaster Guide – two different concepts

Grandmaster Repertoire and Grandmaster Guide – two different concepts

In New in Chess 2/2014, which finally popped through the door today, there is a longer review of Playing the French, as well as a glowing review of From GM to Top 10 by Judit Polgar (which in my opinion is a good deal better than the ECF book of the year winning predecessor; which obviously is quite great too!).

To get a positive review from such a great player (and reader) as Matthew Sadler is always a great moment for any writer. Especially Nikos and I are happy that he did not manage to put a dent in my weird 12…h6 in the French Tarrasch (which was played once before, so we do not call it a novelty, don’t worry):

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. Re1 Qc7 12. Qe2 h6!!
[fen size=”small”]r1b1kb1r/1pq2pp1/p3pn1p/8/2BN4/8/PPP1QPPP/R1B1R1K1 w kq – 0 13[/fen]

Like me, Sadler is enthrolled and disgusted with this move at once. Surely White should be able to refute it with active play? But the problem is that the bishop on c1 lacks an active outpost. Sadler does not manage to find anything after 13.b3 or 13.Bd2.

Sadler is very positive, but prefers out previous book together, Grandmaster Repertoire 10 – The Tarrasch Defence. He specifically mentions what is probably the highlight of that book, Nikos’ discovery in the 11…h6-variation:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 c4 10. Ne5 Be6 11. b3 h6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. bxc4 dxc4 15. e3 Qa5 16. Qc2 c5!!
[fen size=”small”]r4rk1/p4pp1/4bb1p/q1p5/2pP4/2N1P1P1/P1Q2PBP/R4RK1 w – – 0 17[/fen]

There we had 10 pages of analysis, proving the validity of the variation (which I famously never memorised properly…).

This leads us to the point of this post. Basically we are talking about liking one concept over the other (though Sadler has 1-2 points of criticism that seems very valid). In the Grandmaster Repertoire series we seek to present the reader with an in-depth, deeply analysed and detailed repertoire. In the Grandmaster Guide we aim differently; to give some essential information, with the understanding that many people will prefer something that is easy to take in, because they have those weird things called jobs that eat away the time they should be spending on learning the ins and outs of the French Defence. It is especially poignant that Sadler comes with this reflection in this opening, as the Emanuel Berg 3-volume series exists in the same territory 8-). I personally share Sadler’s taste, but this does not mean that I think it is the only way to do things. I know some of you ask quite focussed questions, based on a clear understanding of what we are trying to do with these two concepts, but maybe we need to make it a bit clearer about what we are trying to do at times.

Anyway, we are very pleased and humbled by the fact that Sadler found our book interesting enough to both review and to scrutinize to the degree he did. Simply put: it is an honour.

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  1. AirChess
    March 24th, 2014 at 12:50 | #1

    Is the title correct? Shouldn’t it read GM Rep?

  2. Mark Moorman
    March 24th, 2014 at 14:15 | #2

    You read my mind. I wondered about the difference when someone asked for a “guide” on the Caro-Kann and I thought to myself: “well there is the Rep book by Schandorff—hmm—what is the difference.” I think it is an important one. So, yes—we do need a guide to the Caro-Kann. 😉

  3. Ray
    March 24th, 2014 at 14:24 | #3

    I guess the difference is rather gradual, and it also depends on the book. E.g., i.m.o. John’s Grandmaster Guide on the King’Gambit is much more detailed than Schandorff’s Grandmaster Reportoire book on the Caro-Kann. It’s interesting to note that Arne Moll on Chessvibes had more or less the same point of criticism on Playing the French not being detailed enough. I disagree – for a Grandmaster Guide it is on the contrary quite detailed, compared e.g. to Schandorff’s books on 1.d4. In summary, I can see what you are trying to do with both series, but (for understandable reasons) the concepts overlap to some degree dues to differences between authors’ personal styles and preferences. To be honest, for me as a customer it is no problem whatsoever, because I want to have both books anyway for my favourite openings.

  4. Jacob Aagaard
    March 24th, 2014 at 14:56 | #4

    Thanks. Fixed.

  5. Jacob Aagaard
    March 24th, 2014 at 14:56 | #5


  6. MHG
    March 24th, 2014 at 15:03 | #6

    Is the second diagram correct? I think the move pair 15…Qa5 16.Qc2 is missing.

    Or is it a example for not memorizing correctly? 🙂

  7. Jacob Aagaard
    March 25th, 2014 at 09:02 | #7

    You could have thought that it is a subtle joke; but actually I am just closing in on burn-out status…

  8. garryk
    March 25th, 2014 at 09:56 | #8

    I don’t think a Grandmaster can be satisfied with a “guide”, so another title would have been better…for example “master guide” or something less pretentious…

    I’d like to clarify one thing. Every book contains mistakes but I feel that in some “Grandmaster guides” not always everything has been done to avoid them. If you analyze the Botvinnik variation of the semislav you can’t claim equality in a line that is busted by force…

    If the Grandmaster Guide format doesn’t permit to analyze everything…ok…then don’t mention lines you haven’t properly analyzed…focus on ideas…plans…

  9. Jacob Aagaard
    March 25th, 2014 at 11:11 | #9

    Two points:

    1) I know a 2600 who have been following the Schandorff books.

    2) The idea is that the grandmaster is the guide.

  10. March 25th, 2014 at 13:48 | #10

    i suggest quality chess to create another opening series: “World Championship Repertoire” to be priced at 50.000 € ! 🙂

  11. garryk
    March 25th, 2014 at 14:08 | #11

    @Phil Collins
    50000 may be too much…but I’d pay a few hundreds euro/dollars for a world class repertoire…

  12. Mark Moorman
    March 25th, 2014 at 14:14 | #12

    Svidler wins with the Dutch! Hard to pin a name on the variation.

  13. Shurlock Ventriloquist
    March 25th, 2014 at 15:25 | #13

    You say potato and I say potato.

  14. Jacob Aagaard
    March 25th, 2014 at 17:13 | #14

    Luckily GM Repertoires are available at around $34.95./€27.99 usually. If anyone for real do not think that strong grandmasters read these books, reality would make them quite surprised.

  15. Shurlock Ventriloquist
    March 25th, 2014 at 19:14 | #15

    My suspicion is that a GM would be reading everything they could get their hands on.

  16. garryk
    March 25th, 2014 at 21:53 | #16

    @Jacob Aagaard
    GM is different from “world class”…I know many GM read those books…but many improve on them…and some improve so much to make dangerous play them…

  17. Ray
    March 25th, 2014 at 22:00 | #17

    Come on guys, the GM Reportoire books are as good as it gets imo. I dare anybody to write a better book! Of course every opening book contains lines which are ‘obsolete’ before the print has dried up, but that’s besides the point. And also, the target adience of these books can be expected to have an active attitude to studying openings, i.e., also do some significant work themselves (or by Houdini etc.) – you can’t expect everything to be handed over to you on a plate from here to eternity. And @ garryk: most of the GM Rep as well as the GM Guide books are full of text on ideas / plans! So what’s the problem?

  18. garryk
    March 25th, 2014 at 22:22 | #18

    I start from the last question. I appeciate ideas/plans but I don’t like conclusions about something you haven’t analyzed as deep as it seems. I’m not speaking in general terms, in Schandorff book I stumbled upon a line in the Botvinnik that is said to be “equal” and instead it’s completely busted….I mean busted by force. This is not only a big hole but a illogical hole in the sense that nobody would ask for such a long variation in a “guide”. Sometimes “less is better” in this kind of books.

    Regarding the other question…obsolete is one thing…harmless or buster is another thing…you can claim an edge for white in a line and then later an improvement is found for black…if it’s an improvement that leaves the position enough complicated and rich it’s ok…as a GM I’ll do my homework and improve against the improvement…but if you write 400 pages on a variation and then an improvement is found on page 10 that brings a dead draw ending or a sharp counterattack for the opposite side…well…you have wasted 390 pages of analysis.

    I repeat that QC books are BY FAR the best books on the market…but IMHO there is still something to be improved to be called “GM something”…

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    March 25th, 2014 at 23:53 | #19

    There is no doubt that we can do better. We try all the time. I personally try very hard with my books and we try to push our authors as much as we can. Obviously no strong GM will follow a repertoire blindly; but they do read some of the books. I am told a lot of things in confidence, so I cannot mention names. But we have nothing to be embarrassed about to put it mildly. But this does not mean that it is time to celebrate; only that it has not gone entirely wrong (too often) yet!

  20. John Johnson
    March 26th, 2014 at 02:18 | #20

    Speaking of QC books, and I am the owner of the odd dozen or so, I would really like to see another work by Suba. I thought his book on sacrifices was very good. Gm Rep or Gm Guide I tend to buy then all. I don’t think there are any perfect books, but I do think they are definitely some of the better chess books being published.

  21. Toppy
    March 26th, 2014 at 04:21 | #21

    That 12…h6!! move, in the French Tarrasch Position, can it really be that simple to solve Black’s problems there?

  22. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 08:16 | #22

    @John Johnson
    There are no books planned with Suba at the moment, but we are hoping to be able to publish a few really interesting “general” chess books in the coming year. There is of course Thinking Inside the Box, which people will either hate or love. There is a hope that Axel Smith can be coerced to do another book. We have a Polish author, who is working on a what seems to be quite a nice book. Grivas with The Grandmaster Program. Esben Lund with his in-depth investigation into bishops that can be either good or bad. Tibor Karolyi with a three volume work on Tal and finally Mating the Castled King, which I am typesetting at the moment. I think you should find something in this list that will sweeten your tooth…

  23. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 08:17 | #23

    I agree that it looks ridiculous. But the threat of Bg5 is so strong that it appears to be the best move. The position reminds a bit of various Sicilians where Black focuses on establishing the right structure before he develops. It always runs the risk of being mated; but if he isn’t then he will catch up with the development and stand easily equal.

  24. kieran
    March 26th, 2014 at 10:16 | #24

    @Jacob Aagaard

    The introductive diagrams at the beginning of each chapter in Play the French is a good idea to learn an opening.
    Will you discuss this matter in Thinking inside the box? Especially how to select key positions from one’s openings and work on it.

  25. kieran
    March 26th, 2014 at 10:17 | #25

    @Jacob Aagaard

    The introductive diagrams at the beginning of each chapter in Play the French is a good idea to learn an opening. Will you discuss this matter in Thinking inside the box? Especially how to select key positions from one’s openings and work on it.

  26. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 11:00 | #26

    I was not really going for the opening in this series at all. If I ever do, it would be in a separate book.

  27. Ray
    March 26th, 2014 at 13:08 | #27

    @Phil Collins
    I wonder if there even is something like a ‘World Champion’ reportoire. E.g. I don’t think Carlsen has an opening reportoire.

  28. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 14:35 | #28

    His favourite book seems to be the classic “from the opening to the endgame” by Mednis :-).

  29. garryk
    March 26th, 2014 at 15:36 | #29

    Everybody has an opening repertoire…Carlsen has a bad one…

  30. Ray
    March 26th, 2014 at 16:00 | #30

    It depends on how you define opening reportoire. Can you e.g. speak of an opening reportoire if you don’t play the same variation more than once or twice (ok I may be exaggerating a bit but you get my point)? Because that’s more or les what Carlsen is doing i.m.o.

  31. Ray
    March 26th, 2014 at 16:01 | #31
  32. garryk
    March 26th, 2014 at 16:03 | #32

    before or after the variations will finish and he’ll have to start playing the same variation again and again…at least he has played the berlin quite often…I’m waiting for the moment Anand will crack it

  33. March 26th, 2014 at 16:13 | #33

    There is room for a few new opening book series:

    IM-Repertoire: “Not the best Openings, but still very good” Advertisement

    FM-Repertoire: “Openings easy to remeber for older players” Ad

    CM-Repertoire: Printed on toilet paper…

  34. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 16:24 | #34

    I do not consider myself as inhibitor of an opening repertoire. I play random stuff, often decided at the board. Last night I was White in the Marshall Gambit, with latest update of theory being 1987 (Berliner Schachverlag – no kidding!). I was soon a rook up and under serious attack. I played well and won the game. The effort on the board do decide 99% of all games, I think.

  35. Ray
    March 26th, 2014 at 17:01 | #35

    @Jacob Aagaard
    🙂 I fully agree. I tend to prepare very well (I think at least), but 9 out of 10 times we’re both on our own before move 10.

  36. Ray
    March 26th, 2014 at 17:02 | #36

    On the other hand you shouldn’t say this too loudly, because it may ruin your business model 🙂

  37. garryk
    March 26th, 2014 at 17:04 | #37

    BREAKING NEWS! Jacob Aagaard says opening study decide only 1% of the outcome of the game! Stop reading opening books! 🙂

  38. Jacob Aagaard
    March 26th, 2014 at 17:31 | #38

    obviously openings become more and more important the better the players. The 2012 World Ch. was partly decided with a strong novelty; while in 2013 the opening was close to irrelevant.

    Getting your own game is the most important imo.

  39. March 29th, 2014 at 00:04 | #39

    garryk :
    I don’t think a Grandmaster can be satisfied with a “guide”, so another title would have been better…for example “master guide” or something less pretentious…

    Perhaps “Grandma’s Guide”? I would instantly buy any chess book with that title btw.

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