One shouldn't be confused when buying this book without the luxury of browsing it. This isn't a book recommending a certain opening as such. It's geared more toward someone who doesn't have a opening repertoire, jumps from opening to opening, or have faced roadblocks in deciding what opening to play.
Steve Giddens introduces these possible familiar themes in the books introduction:
- Most of us blame the opening for our defeat, unjustifiably
- We never say, "If only I knew endgames better" or "If I could play fixed-pawn games better."
- We resign to saying, "It's that opening, I always lose with it. I'll have to give it up."
- Players under master strength spend a disproportionate time on studying openings.
- We gain very little from this time wasted, due to constant switching around of openings, rote memorization w/o understanding, trusting authority rather than our own ideas, etc.
- Too few players understand HOW to learn an opening and develop a repertoire.
- Due to spending too much time on the opening, we seriously neglect the other areas.
- When we lose, we usually blame the openings, oblivious to the fact that we lost because of our endgame, etc., then spend yet MORE time on another opening
- This book will help you develop an opening repertoire. It won't guarantee wins, but will set you down the correct path, and help you see the true reason for losses, which is rarely the opening.
The book then covers the following:
How building a repertoire allows a player to become very familiar in certain positions, but can result in a limited view on the game, being only proficient with certain pawn structures, etc. An prime example being Fischer, who played the Najdorf and KID almost exclusively. But how today, with the incredible ease of accessing games through computer databases, that masters can 'bookup' against players with fixed systems. This can happen at your local clubs, as well.
How growing pains exist in learning a new opening, and how it can take months or years to get comfortable with it. Example games are given when grandmasters have deviated from their familiar starting grounds only to show their lack of experience with their new opening show through in the middlegame (ie - Ulhmann, a French Defense player, starting out with the Caro-Kahn...Karpov, starting with a Sicilian Defense, etc.)
How a player shouldn't be concerned with memorizing the latest theory on move 13 of the QGD. A game of Nigel Short's (playing White) introduces a novelty in an opening where previous White tries resulted in difficulties. Nigel plays a move after assessing the position and following his plan. "I have a terrible memory," he explained, assuring the reader even more how great moves are made by understanding the position, and not through memorization or playing what's in vogue.
Whether to play 'Main line' or 'Side variations'. Whether to play offbeat opening or classical ones. Also, a chapter covering reverse openings (ie - King's Indian Attack, etc.), with a move in hand are discussed. He discusses the misconception of these openings - "If the King's Indian is good with Black, it must be fantastic with White." Yet, he give much explanation that these openings tend to lack the 'oomph', and that the extra move in hand, surprisingly, tends to be a disadvantage.
How a player should have his game assessed to determine his style and what openings he should consider playing.
When studying an opening, to beware of transpositions into lines you may be unprepared for (ie - Having mastered the Queen's Gambit, Exchanged variation and Queen's Indian, your opponent tricks you with 1. d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 d5!, and now you're in lines where your prepared Exchange Variation loses it's punch as Nc3 hasn't been played.
The book at the end covers a dozen or so players and their repertoire, and each chapter's main theme is supported by at least a few example games. The book itself is also made of good quality paper and should last for quite a while.
The book is an interesting read, with quite a few games backing up all of the book's major points. As mentioned, it isn't a book you go over in preparation for a tournament, but acts as more of a guide for those who have become lost in the sea of opening theory and need a little wake-up call. This book is not at all a must-have book, and if you're under expert, you shouldn't be concerned so much with booking up as you should be other parts of the game, as it's returns are diminished. But for those who have become addicted to opening theory (you know who you are), or if you're a strong player who has yet to developed a proper repertoire and isn't sure where to start, this book may be a decent guide.