Nowadays there are thousands or millions of books related to openings, from complete repertoires to books specific to a single variation, but today's review is the book Understanding the Openings by Sam Collins.
A book that by now is quite old and you probably have not heard of, this is because it is not popular, however, this is a hidden gem and that from this moment on you should consider having in your chess library.
Understanding Sam Collins
Before talking about the book, let's know a little about the author of the book, since he is an International Chess Master, and has 2 Grandmaster norms.
In his track record he has the national championship of Ireland in 2002, the championship of Japan in 2009. While in Bled 2002 (he won the gold medal).
He has participated in several youth championships in Europe and the world, has represented Ireland in multiple Olympiads and has taught at the Berkeley Chess School in California.
He is an International Master who at his highest ELO peak achieved 2495 rating, which positions him as the best Irish player of all time.
¿What is Understanding the openings by Sam Collins about?
This book focuses on all the openings that a chess player should learn, and is considered a very good guide to the main and most popular lines.
It is worth noting that typical strategies that work for both sides are explained, which means it is universal and useful for gaining information about the defenses of the black pieces.
After having read the book on numerous occasions, I can rule that it is a must-have manual for people who have recently started in the world of chess.
This is because a beginner can nourish himself with basic knowledge that will help him to develop correctly in the middle game positions and even discover his opponent's plans regardless of whether the position is tactically sharp or if it is a strategic game.
As this book goes into all systems in depth, this is not only a book for beginners, it is also a tool for those who want to develop a repertoire of their own.
At a glance, any chess player can read a couple of pages of a given opening and consider whether it is to his or her liking or even suits his or her style of play.
Features of the book (Understanding the openings)
Understanding the openings, is a very interesting and easy to understand book, and below we mention the characteristics of the book, for those who are interested in reading it and give their own opinion.
- Difficulty: Easy.
- Notation: Scientific.
- Focus: Openings/Defenses.
IMPORTANT: These are only the main characteristics of the book, and by difficulty I mean if it is difficult to understand or what level the reader would have to have to be able to understand and assimilate it.
Due to my personal experience with the book, it is an excellent source of information and with which every chess player can take his first professional steps in the world of chess.
Strengths of Understanding the Openings by Sam Collins
Every book brings benefits to every reader, and in the case of this book we can mention very high points compared to other books such as the following:
- You will learn the main lines move by move (Sam Collins takes care of explaining the idea behind each move).
- The author of the book dedicates important lines to unusual, sharp or dangerous secondary moves (plan of action).
- The reader of the book can learn the difference between lines for club level players and lines played by grandmasters.
- The general introduction at the beginning of each opening demonstrates the professionalism with which the author wrote the book and makes the reader aware of the spirit of the opening or defense.
- Sam Collins describes the plans of both colors at the end of each line (main variations).
- There are over 400 diagrams that facilitate the study of the book.
Disadvantages of Understanding the Openings by Sam Collins
Although this is a very good book, it does have a few downsides that many may not notice, but I will mention them below:
- It is a very old book (the first edition of Understanding the openings was released in 2005).
- As it is a manual of openings and defenses, it does not go deep into all the variations or sub-variants (as it would become an encyclopedia and it would be a very tedious book).
- Some lines have been improved or refuted over time and it is necessary to buy the newer editions of the book.
IMPORTANT: The fact that the book has some disadvantages or low points does not mean that it cannot contribute to your chess career, on the contrary, this review is intended to let you know if this book is the right one for you and for what you need at this moment.
¿Strategically or tactically is it a book that will help you grow?
Although the book is not focused on these points of the game, learning the open open openings will help the reader to learn the basic tactics of the King's Gambit or the Italian opening while the complicated Sicilian will test different types of knowledge and this is where the reader will be able to rub shoulders with other players at club level.
In closed positions such as the Queen's Gambit or some variants of the Spanish opening it is possible to glimpse the strategy with slow positions, where the triumph will depend on long-term advantages (squares, pawns, open columns).
So, yes, in a roundabout way, understanding the openings will teach you both tactics and strategy, although this is not the main purpose of the book.
Other books by Sam Collins
The brilliant Irishman Sam Collins has created a lot of content and has really dedicated himself to the initial phase of the game of chess, and among his books we can mention the following:
1. Move by Move: The King's Indian Defence.
Publisher: Everyman Chess
2. A simple chess opening repertoire for white
3. Move by move: Karpov
Publisher: Everyman Chess
4. Move by move: The Tarrasch Defence
Publisher: Everyman Chess
In conclusion, Understanding the Openings by Sam Collins is a perfect book for anyone who needs help in developing the first phase of the game of chess, the opening.
It is a very easy to read, didactic book that can be used to great advantage and can always be reviewed even though it is not as up to date in the lines used by the Grandmasters.
If you enjoyed this book on openings and defenses, you should consider reading the review of My System by Aaron Nimzovich.