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Ideas Behind Modern Chess Openings: Black by Gary Lane, Batsford (2005), Softcover, 192 pages, £13.59

Reviewed by the Duke of Brunswick

This book, despite its title, is an opening repertoire book for Black.  Gary Lane recommends playing the Chigorin Defence to the Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6!?) when facing 1.d4, and the 3…Qd6 variation of the Scandinavian Defence (1.e4 d5 2.ed Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6!?) when facing 1.e4.  Against the English Opening he gives lines with …Nc6 wherever possible.  Finally, Lane has chapters covering the Flank Openings (1 b3, 1 g3 and 1 Nf3) and Unorthodox Openings.

Lane likes to present openings through the use of games, placing explanations, alternatives and improvements in the annotations.  Each chapter has a summary.  As he says in the introduction, “The aim of this book is to give readers with limited time for study enough knowledge to play the openings as Black with confidence.”  I would recommend this book as an easy way to get into the ideas of the Chigorin Defence.  Then, if you like, you can move to the weightier tomes on the Chigorin by Morozevich and Bronznik already reviewed on this site at:


The Chigorin and Scandinavian are quite straightforward and can be learnt in a short space of time. Let’s take a look at the Contents list:

The Chigorin 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 and 4.Qa4
The Chigorin 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.cxd5 Bxf3
The Chigorin 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.Nf3 Nf6
The Chigorin 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 and 4.e3
The Chigorin 3.cxd5
The Chigorin 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6
The Chigorin 3.e3 and 3.e4
The English
Flank Openings
Unorthodox Openings
The Scandinavian – Main Line
The Scandinavian – Various
The Scandinavian – The Kurajica Variation 4…g6
Index of Main Lines
Index of Games

Much of the play with the Chigorin requires Black to go against many of the ideas you may have been taught in chess .  You must be ready to exchange Bishops for Knights.  You must be comfortable allowing White a large pawn centre, while planning to undermine it.  As compensation, you will find good piece play and many tactical opportunities in an opening your opponent has likely underestimated.

Playing the Scandinavian Defence gives Black a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting the possibilities of 1.e4, and it is for this reason that club players  have trotted out 1…d5 for decades.  By supporting the relatively new and lightly studied Queen retreat to d6, instead of sending her to a5, Lane gives you something that will puzzle many of your opponents.  Although it is almost 30 years since Krzystof Pytel wrote his article about the opening in The Chess Player, and five years since Michael Melts came out with Scandinavian Defence the Dynamic 3…Qd6, Lane’s notes to the games he presents have comments about White being confused and not really knowing what to do.  And remember that 3 … Qd6 has now found favour at the top level with Tiviakov and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu who have both played it with success.

Lane’s coverage of lines other than 1.d4 and 1.e4 seems adequate for the club player’s use in a repertoire – though there are some holes.  For instance, if you were to play 1 c4 Nc6 2 Nc3 e5 and now, 3 Nf3! you might shock a player who was only relying on Lane’s book for what to do.  But there are many good things in Lane’s book, so let’s end with an example of an instructive game which shows that he is aware of recent improvements for Black.


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