Review: Coffeehouse Repertoire 1. e4 by GM Gawain Jones

Review: Coffeehouse Repertoire 1. e4 by GM Gawain Jones

GM Gawain Jones has released a complete 1. e4 repertoire
Coffeehouse Repertoire Volume 1 offers a repertoire against the Sicilian, Caro-Kann Scandinavian and Alekhine Defenses.
Volume 2  covers 1... e5 (Scotch gambit and Forcing Italian), the French, the Pirc, the Modern and the Philidor Defenses. Volume 1 was published on June 30 and volume 2 came out on September 29.
As an author, GM Gawain Jones is most well known for his books on the Dragon, the Sicilian Grand Prix Attack and most recently his Kings-Indian lifetime repertoire on Chessable. The latter has been very well received with an average review rating of 4.9 out of 5. Jones is known for his typically English attacking style and that has influenced his choices for his 1. e4 repertoire.
The title of the series is misleading. Coffeehouse chess is associated with risky, positionally dubious play. In his introduction, GM Jones explains his criteria for opening selection:  sound, with a genuine punch and relatively offbeat. So no dubious gambits but a 2600+ fighting repertoire following less well-trodden paths. A typical example is Carlsen's recent choice in the Sicilian: 1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 followed by b3 and Qd2
The next 2 diagrams are an overview of the most important variations in Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Each chapter is structured in the following way:

- Introduction including an Overview of the key variations and 'What we're hoping for' describing the plans behind the opening tabiyas;

- Model games showing the typical plans in the opening;

- Black's best defences checking the latest publications and top games from the Black side;

- Theory: main lines, alternatives and early deviations.

My only critique of the book relates to alternatives. They are not worked out completely enough to be a real alternative.  For example, the Chameleon variation is given as an alternative to the main Sicilian repertoire. The variation starts with 1. e5 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nge2. After 3. Nge2 the most frequently played move by Black is 3... g6 but this is covered with the following comment: "4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 with a transposition to an Accelerated Dragon." This makes the Chamelon for me not an alternative but just an interesting idea.

Personally, it was a nice validation to find my recommendations in my Scotch Gambit - mini-course back in the Coffeehouse Repertoire, sometimes as novelties.

Conclusion: If you are looking for an original, GM-level, 1.e4 fighting repertoire then I wholeheartedly recommend these two books. GM Gawain Jones has played many of the variations in this repertoire himself so he combines practical experience with theoretical analysis. I enjoyed his casual style of explaining the opening to his readers. This makes it accessible for the average club player.

Coffeehouse Repertoire Volume 1 and 2 are now available on chess e-reader ForwardChess for $21.99 or as a paperback at Quality Chess for € 27.95