Book Review: Vincent Moret "My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black"
The French children's chess teacher Vincent Moret has written two excellent opening books intended for beginners and intermediate players (both translated into English by Tony Kosten). What sets them apart are extensive verbal explanation of the typical plans in each line and the use of games by his students to illustrate the choices. This sort of material is much more useful for the people likely to read the books than heavy theory or master games.
The first book, "My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White" (New in Chess 2015) provides an aggressive e4-based repertoire for White. You can watch IM John Bartholomew's review of it here.
The second book, "My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black" (New in Chess, 2017), provides a similarly aggressive repertoire for Black. It consists of some surprising, yet convincing choices which I'm going to comment on in more depth below.
Against e4 - Scandinavian with 2...Nf6, Icelandic Gambit & the Portuguese Variation
Moret starts the book by discussing what to choose against e4. He thinks that for a beginner e5 & c5 are too much to learn while e6 & c6 are to too passive, and it's hard not to agree. He therefore recommends the Scandinavian which is easy to learn and allows Black to fight for the initative.
I've always liked the fact that with the Scandinavian Black immediately tells White that the game is going to be wholly on his terms. However, I've never felt comfortable with the main line. Moret dedicates the first chapter to briefly introducing the Scandinavian main line with 2...Qxd5 and 3....Qa5. He shows Black's dream position with Nc6, 0-0-0, and an e5 break, explains why you usually can't get it (because of the need to play c6 to give the Queen an escape route), and suggests that playing 2...Nf6 instead allows you to strive for the dream position anew.
White can respond to 2...Nf6 either by 3. c4, 3. d4, or 3. Nf6. In the second chapter Moret looks at the greedy 3. c4, which is to be met with the Icelandic Gambit 3...e6. He covers typical beginner lines in depth and uses a novelty from Smerdon's Smerdon's Scandinavian to make the main line playable:
In chapters 3-5 it's time for 3. d4 and the Portuguese variation 3...Bg4. Very usefully, Moret discusses the White responses to this in the order they're most likely seen at this level: 4. Be2 ("The Quiet"), 4. Nf3 ("The Classical"), 4. f3 ("The Critical"):
There are puzzles helping you to review the material at the end of each chapter. But there's more. For example, one of the topical things in many lines of "The Classical" is Black's 8...e5 break. In the end of the relevant chapter Moret provides a systematic summary of positions where this is playable and when something else shoud be preferred. These sorts of things make this book really stand out.
In the final two chapters of the section, Moret discusses situations where White tries to avoid all of the above with 3. Nf6 (The Modern variation, still met by Bg4), 3. Bb5+, 3. Nc3, 2. e5, 2. e4 (the infamous BDG), and 2. Nc3.
In sum, I really like this part of the book. Could you use it as your sole reference to the Scandinavian Icelandic/Portuguese Complex? If you're in the intended rating range, say, up to 1700, then yes. If, you're higher-rated or regularly play against higher-rated people then you probably also need to look at Smerdon's book.
Against d4 - Albin Countergambit & Stonewall
As before, Moret thinks that most of the main responses to d4 are too much to learn for the beginner. Thus, against the Queen's gambit he recommends the Albin Countergambit 2. ...e5!?.
Adolf Albin (1848-1920)
This is again supposed to be easy to learn while allowing Black to fight for the initiative. Moret covers the famous trap with 3. dxe5, d5 4. e6, the Spassky variation 4. e4, 4. f4, and 4. Nf6 followed by a3 or g3 as well as White's ways to decline the gambit:
Moret also provides a systematic analysis when the sac is sound in looking at different white piece placements: Be2 + Ne1 (like in the above game), Be2 + Nd2 (like in the notes), Bd3 + Ne1, Bd3 + Nd2, and, finally, when the White Q is not on the 2nd rank to defend. Again, this is great stuff.
Other plans he discusses are a rook sacrifice on h2 like in the famous Maroczy-Tartakower game from 1922 (see here), and how to use the f-file after the exchange on e4.
My only criticism is that most of the coverage is of lines in which White plays an early e3, against which the Stonewall is strongest. He does cover lines where White plays Bf4 or Bg5 and the main line with g3 and Bg2, but rather lightly. This means that if you're at a level where people will play this against you, then you need to look at something else like Johnsen's Win With the Stonewall Dutch.
English, Reti, and the Irregular Openings
The last two chapters are dediceted to providing responses to English, Reti and irregular openings like the Polish (1. b4), Grob (1. g4), Bird (1. f4), and the Nimzo-Larsen Attack (1. b3) with a wealth of interesting material. Let me here highlight two of the non-theoretical responses he provides against the Polish that are relatively easy to remember (which is what you want against such rare lines), and lead to a good game:
To conclude, this is a great book! If you're in the intended rating range and are looking for a Black repertoire then you should get it immediately. However, even if you're higher-rated, you could still get it because I'm sure you'll enjoy it and learn a lot.