Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory : Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

From the book’s rear cover :

“Spend more study time on what’s really decisive in your games!
The average chess player spends too much time on studying opening theory. In his day, World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker argued that improving amateurs should spend about 5% of their study time on openings. These days club players are probably closer to 80%, often focusing on opening lines that are popular among grandmasters.

Club players shouldn’t slavishly copy the choices of grandmasters. GMs need to squeeze every drop of advantage from the opening and therefore play highly complex lines that require large amounts of memorization. The main objective for club players should be to emerge from the opening with a reasonable position, from which you can simply play chess and pit your own tactical and positional understanding against that of your opponent.

Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins recommend the Old Indian-Hanham Philidor set-up as a basis for both Black and White. They provide ideas and strategies that can be learned in the shortest possible time, require the bare minimum of maintenance and updating, and lead to rock-solid positions that you will know how to handle. By adopting a similar set-up for both colours, with similar plans and techniques, you will further reduce study time.

Side-stepping Mainline Theory will help you to focus on what is really decisive in the vast majority of non-grandmaster games: tactics, positional understanding and endgame technique.

Gerard Welling is an International Master and an experienced chess trainer from the Netherlands. He has contributed to NIC Yearbook and Kaissiber, the freethinker’s magazine on non-mainline chess openings.

IM Gerard Welling
IM Gerard Welling

Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England, and a highly experienced chess writer and journalist. He compiled and edited The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement, the bestselling anthology of master classes from New In Chess magazine.”

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

The authors have divided up the content into six chapters as follows:

  1. The keys to successful opening play
  2. The Old Indian against 1.d4
  3. The Old Indian against Flank Openings
  4. The Philidor against 1.e4
  5. The System as White
  6. Tables of the main variations

So, what we have here is somewhat unusual : this is a complete repertoire book for the same player of both the Black and White pieces using essentially the same structure. Precedents have been previously set using similar approaches with a combination of the Pirc and King’s Indian Defences combined with the King’s Indian Attack or reversed King’s Indian Defence but, nonetheless, this is an unusual and welcome approach to building a repertoire.

So the structure for Black is essentially :

which could be so-called Modern Philidor when white plays 1.e4 and The Old Indian when White defers e4

and the structure for White is :

which is essentially a Reversed Modern Philidor / Old Indian or more correctly An Inverted Hanham.

All of these structures are sound, resilient and reward manoeuvring play where the better play will win. More importantly a player familiar with these structures will enjoy understanding of the plans and ideas is likely to enjoy a considerable advantage on the clock. This is particularly true for the first player based on the rarity of the Inverted Hanham.

The authors have organised their material very logically showing the reader firstly the way to play for Black against almost anything and only then (when the structures are familiar) do they demonstrate the way for the first player. I’m sure players will be more comfortable playing these lines for Black since it might seem somewhat unnatural to play 1.e4 and then play slowly after that.

The authors use a standard model to explain these systems : they take 92 high quality games and analyse each one in detail. Combined with this is a clear description of the themes and ideas contained within the Black and White structures. This is very much an ideas based opening book rather than based on rote memorisation. One of the issues analysing these lines is that they are very transpositional compared to say the sequential and forcing lines of the Sicilian Dragon or Slav Defence. Chapter six helps enormously the reader to navigate their way through the transpositions especially for the Inverted Hanham.

Here is a game from Istvan Csom, an expert on this system :

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

In summary, Welling and Giddins have produced an out-of-the-ordinary book which fills a gap in the market : complete opening book not based on rote memorisation. The middlegame starts very early in these lines and the ideas for White are particularly intriguing. if you adopt these suggestions then your middlegame play will benefit hugely. This is probably not a book for hackers or those who have no patience : highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (16th August 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918699
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918699
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.8 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.

This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here

The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :

  1. Warm-Ups
  2. Mate
  3. Double Attack
  4. Trapped Pieces
  5. General Tactics
  6. Hunting the King
  7. Development and the Centre
  8. Castling
  9. Does Bxh7+ Work?
  10. Advanced Exercises
  11. Tests

This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.

However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…

Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.

Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !

Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.

Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :

Example #5

White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?

See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.

For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465379
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.