First look: Keep It Simple 1.d4 by IM Christof Sielecki

First look: Keep It Simple 1.d4 by IM Christof Sielecki

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In March 2018 Keep it Simple: 1.e4 was released on Chessable.  Chessable’s slogan is ‘bringing books to life’ by taking classic print books and turning them into fully interactive spaced repetition courses. With Keep It Simple 1.e4 the reverse process took place; it was first released as a course on Chessable and subsequently as a paperback. This process actually has a distinct advantage. Chessable is an interactive learning platform and students directly interact with the authors of the courses. The feedback of the nearly 1,600 Chessable students of KIS 1.e4 provided a strong quality assurance process for the variations that eventually made it into the paperback version.

In December I wrote a review of the KIS 1.e4 book in my blog. My conclusion was that Keep It Simple 1.e4 is an excellent book that delivers exactly what the title states: A relatively simple, solid and straightforward repertoire.  I noted that the book could be further enhanced by explaining the typical plans of tabiyas and by including model games and typical tactics.

The Keep It Simple 1.e4 book won the ChessPub 2018 Book of the Year Award and is rated on average 4.9 out of 5 stars by more than 200 Chessable students.

IM Christof Sielecki

Today Chessable released Keep It Simple 1.d4. The author notes that there are 2 main differences between a 1.e4 and 1.d4 repertoire. In a 1.d4 repertoire move orders and transpositions are very important, while in 1.e4-based repertoires this is not the case. The second difference is that play usually develops slower in a 1.d4 repertoire than in a 1.e4 repertoire, which gives added flexibility to both sides. With more options for both sides and also more possible move orders, the number of variations grew from 701 trainable variations in KIS 1.e4 to 1,031 variations in KIS 1.d4, an increase of almost 50%. There is also a second reason why the word-count (102,000 words!) and number of variations are so much higher. In KIS 1.d4 the author included many lines to illustrate typical ideas and middle game plans, so it's not just about some initial moves, but also a guideline how to play many positions after the opening. Good to see that one of my suggestions to improve KIS 1.e4 has actually been addressed in KIS 1.d4!

To achieve an easy to learn, solid and sound repertoire the author chose a certain set-up as the basis for the book KIS d4. The setup  is based on the moves 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.O-O and often 6.c4. The author is in good company as this set-up was often chosen by former world champion Vladimir Kramnik in many of his games.

I am a Grünfeld player and checked chapter 7 of the book which deals with this Black opening. The total chapter consists of 86 variations.  Unsurprisingly White selects a setup with d4, Nf3, g3, Bg2 and c4. Black's main moves that are considered are: 6... c6, 6... dxc4, 6 ... c5 and 6... Nc6.

The starting position for the Grünfeld main lines
The content (suggested lines for White and Black) cover all major lines and are all high quality. They even include the latest recommendations from LeelaChessZero! My only suggestion is that the name of the variations could be more descriptive of what is different for each specific line (see picture below) and that text does not repeat 90% from one variation to the next but highlights primarily what is different for each specific variation. These are lay-out issues that could improve the structure and thereby understanding of the book.

Conclusion: IM Christof Sielecki embodies the German word "gründlichkeit" - thoroughness. KIS 1.d4 is a solid and sound opening repertoire based on a standard opening set-up with the moves 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.O-O and often 6.c4. With over 1,000 variations and over 100,000 words it is difficult to call it still Simple though. This is a comprehensive opening repertoire and reference work. Consider it a one volume alternative to Boris Avrukh's 1.d4  Grandmaster Repertoire series from Quality Chess. The book is has an introductory price of $24.99 (regular $39.99).

If you get lost in the woods of the 1000+ variations then consider buying the 28 hours of optional video-sync instruction to help you understand the real essence of his opening choices. The 28 hours of video is currently $99.98 (50% off). 

The beta-testers at Chessable were all very positive about the book: a high quality openings book with some beta-testers a bit overwhelmed by the amount of material and with a (somewhat surprising) request for more: model games and typical tactics! 

Let me finish by by listing the contents of the books so you have an idea what is covered in the book:

Introduction (29 variations)
...d5: Sidelines / Tarrasch (83 variations)
...d5 and ...c5: Grünfeld Reversed (111 variations)
...d5 and ...e6: The Catalan (117 variations)
...d5 & ...Bf5: ...Bf5 Setups (64 variations)
...d5 & ...Bg4: ...Bg4 Setups (35 variations)
...g6 and ...d5: Grünfeld-style Setups (86 variations)
...g6 and ...d6: King's Indian Setups (80 variations)
...e6 and ...c5: Benoni Declined with ...e6 (65 variations)
...g6 and ...c5: Benoni Declined with ...g6 (38 variations)
The early ...c5: Benoni Systems (64 variations)
The early ...b5: The Anti-c4 approach (52 variations)
The early ...b6: Queen's Indian Setups (87 variations)
The early ...f5: Dutch Setups (89 variations)
Black plays something else: Odds and Ends (31 variations)