Negi's 1.e4 Repertoire Volume 1 Book Review
I vividly remember when I first looked at the quality chess blog publishing schedule that first announced the GM repertoire 1.e4 series just about a year ago. I, a 1.e4 player who used a bunch of books to complete my repertoire, always felt a bit annoyed by the lack of unification between my books. But when I saw quality chess was pursuing a 1.e4 series similar to Boris Avrukh's legendary 1.d4 series, I got really excited.
Thing was, at the time, Jacob Aagard and the other chess players running quality chess did not actually announce who the author was! In the chat under the publishing schedule, people wondered who was going to write it. The frontrunner was Shirov if I remember correctly. But alas, our author is Parimarjan Negi, a former chess prodigy and very strong grandmaster from India (who led the dark horse Indian team to 3rd place in the last Olympiad).
So let's get down to the work. This is Negi's first book where he covers the French, Caro-Kann, and Philidor Defense in about 600 pages. Sounds like a lot, right? Well Negi really constructs a world class repertoire here based around all of the big main lines. Let's just say that the fact he could fit all of this in 600 pages is a true miracle!
That being said, Negi does not waste an inch in his analysis of each of these lines. He recommends 3.Nc3 against the French, 3.Nd2 against the Caro-Kann (although 3.Nc3 should transpose almost all the time), and the Hanham variation against the Philidor (that being Nf3, Nc3, and Bc4 after 1.e4 and d4). Fotunately, Negi does not cower under the challenge of analyzing such sharp lines thoroughly and does an excellent job in the detail department. What more, Negi introduces so many novelties in very important positions for nearly every important line. And, if Negi is not satisfied with just one option in a line, he'll give you two depending on what type of position you prefer (e.g. sacrificing or going for a positional advantage).
But the most important aspect about Negi's first book is the way he explains his choices and the positions surrounding them. Negi tops his world class analysis off with truly world class expanations that make you understand how to play the positions he reccomends. Of course, other opening books explain positions as well. But Negi does it so often that you cannot help but become a real master at the structures and piece placements in question. This is what sets Negi's book apart from the rest. These explanations make it truly world class.
So let's see an example of this:
This is one of the big main lines of the Winawer. It is also one of the very sharpest lines of the Winawer, often with simple choices having huge repercussions for both sides. For a player scrolling through just the moves quickly, they would get very confused very quickly about such a dynamic position. So Negi comes to the rescue.
He explains that that the key here depends on whether black plays ...h6. If he doesn't, white will play the simple Qe2, g4, and h5. He mentions typical sacrifices too, especially how ...gxh5 ideas may be met with the typical Nxh7! sacrifice to open the h file.
But Negi doesn't stop there. He states that if ...h6 and Nh3 are inserted, white will employ the same plan. But here he goes into more depth, stating that ...gxh5 from white will be met with g4-g5! to further the attack. And if h4-h5 from white is met with ...g5 from black, white will slowly prepare f2-f4 to open the f file and continue the attack.
But there are always two sides to a chess game, and so Negi also explains black's ideas. Black's play is based around getting ...b4 in at some point. Negi explains that white can just casually meet ...b4 with Kd2! as the king can recapture on c3 if ...bxc3 occurs. And the king will stay safe there for the most part!
That's just a taste of the sort of explanation Negi's going to give you if you buy his book. He realizes that you can go through a huge opening dictionary thoroughly twice over and still have zero understanding of the positions at hand. Explanations are necessary, and I have learned over time that the best books have the best explanations.
As far as technicalities are concerned, the book is in the typical fantastic condition that quality chess is known for. There are plenty of diagrams to supplement the moves, and so it is not terribly hard to read the book on the road. You can also buy the book on the forwardchess app if you want to go the electronic route. Either way, the book itself is in fine condition.
So now for some concluding thoughts. Never underestimate a new author! This is Negi's first chess book, but the text doesn't show that. It's clear that Negi's language and ability to write to a general audience is exemplary. Moreover, the analysis and explanations are practically perfect. Even if all the main lines appear daunting, his way of explaining things will make you understand the positions. Simply put, this is one of the best opening books in years. In my opinion, it definitely ranks as one of quality chess's greatest works yet, and that's really saying something.
A nearly perfect opening book!
This review represents my humble opinions on the book after a full reading. Nobody had any influence on the review but myself. I bought the book myself (nobody shipped me a review copy or anything).
Link to more on the book, including a pdf sample: