Review of Winning in the Chess Opening by Kalinichenko


It feels like every so often we get these books that are designed to show quick crushes in the opening.

Inevitably they always feel like they are taking on one of two tones. Either they show lopsided crushes which are due mainly to sizeable rating differences (i.e. simul games or first rounds of large opens) or they feature silly blunders.

It's quite rare to come across a book such as this one which is well done on both counts.

The games in Winning in the Chess Opening, subtitled 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent do feature some mismatches. There are old games in which there were no ratings in place so the strength of opponents could vary greatly. There are simul games, blind simul games, rapid games, blitz games, etc.

But those form only a part of this book.

Within, you'll also find games between GM's. Sometimes a couple of 2500 GM's, sometimes much stronger GM, and even games between Kramnik - Giri (Stavanger 2017) and Carlsen - Caruana (Bilbao Blitz 2012.)

So what's the point of a book like this? Is there anything to learn from a collection of miniatures in dozens of openings? The answer is a resounding "da."

There was a specific and a general use that I got from reading this book. The specific use was the particular openings that I play which are covered in this book. You quickly see where pieces should or shouldn't go in the openings you play.

The general use was from the games in the openings that I don't play myself. In those games it was easy to see how violating an opening principle could quickly lead to disaster.

Each of the 753 games in this book are annotated, though mostly quite lightly. Generally the annotations run along the lines of minor opening info and then the critical move(s) which led to disaster.

I should point out that since this book contains so many different openings, including rarities like the Danish, etc. there are sometimes games between very low rated players. 1500-1600, etc. This makes sense as strong players don't generally play those lines. However, the bulk of the games are between strong players.

So who would benefit from this book? In this case pretty much everyone, especially those who are sub-2200.

As for the author of this book...he is not only a strong Correspondence Grandmaster, but he is also the author of other excellent books such as Ivanchuk's 100 Selected Games and a Russian language endgame encyclopedia that Jesse Kraai says has almost brought him to tears many times.

I believe that any player who either likes looking at chess games for fun, or who is serious about improving, would be well served by this book.

Best Chess to You,

Patriarch Fan