An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Graham Burgess

Reviewer: John Donaldson
191 pages

“An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire” by Graham Burgess could be the answer for those seeking to minimize theoretical knowledge, but not wishing to play junk. This guide offers one-stop shopping for those looking to playing respectable openings for White and Black that don’t require memorizing tons of analysis.

Two of the three pillars of this repertoire don’t break new ground. Burgess is not the first to advocate playing the English with 1.c4 followed by a kingside fianchetto as White or meeting 1.e4 with the 3…Qd6 Scandinavian (often transposing into Caro-Kann like positions without having to face 3.e5). Where he deserves big credit is the way he has put together a Slav repertoire versus 1.d4 that avoids the Exchange variation (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5) which has a reputation as a tough line for Black to win against.

Burgess accomplishes this sleight of hand by meeting 1.d4 d5 2.c4 with 2…dxc4 and on 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.a4 heading into the Slav with 4…c6. This novel transposition was new to this reviewer.

The price to pay for avoiding the Exchange Slav, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 as well as 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3, is learning the QGA lines 3.e3 and 3.e4. The cornerstone of Burgess repertoire is the Slav variation 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 c6 4.a4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6, which has been played by many top players but is not nearly as theoretical as 5…Bf5. 

Those who like to play the Slav but don’t enjoy facing the gambit line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4, a variation Magnus Carlsen has used with success, may wish to consider the alternative Burgess proposes: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 c6 4.Nc3 b5 – a line he believes to be a more comfortable approach for Black.

“An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire” is well-researched and up to date but also offers plenty of explanatory prose to guide the reader. While this book is slightly less than 200 pages it feels bigger thanks to the dense but neatly laid out two-column format.

Who is this book for? Those above 2400 FIDE may learn some new things but they are not the target audience, nor are players below 2000 who would be better served learning important opening principles best picked up by playing 1.e4 and answering 1.e4 with 1…e5. “An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire” will be most helpful for those rated 2000-2400 who want to play solid and respectable lines that involve learning some theory but don’t require them to become full-time chess professionals.