“widely regarded as one of the most influential chess writers in the world.” - IM John Donaldson, USA Team Captain

“arguably the most important writer in American chess history.” - Pete Tamburro, Chess Life

Such has been the acclaim for John Watson’s ground-breaking works on modern chess strategy and his insightful opening books, that it is only natural that he now presents a strategic opening repertoire.

It is the chess-player’s holy grail: a flexible repertoire that gives opponents real problems but doesn’t require masses of memorization or continual study of ever-changing grandmaster theory. While this book can’t quite promise all of that, Watson offers an intriguing selection of lines that give vast scope for over-the-board creativity and should never lead to a dull draw.

The repertoire is based on 1 d4 and 2 c4, following up with methodical play in the centre. Watson uses his vast opening knowledge to pick cunning move-orders and poisonous sequences that will force opponents to think for themselves, providing a true test of chess understanding. Throughout, he discusses strategies for both sides, so readers will be fully ready to pounce on any inaccuracies, and have all the tools to decide on the most appropriate plans for White.


White avoids an early Nf3 in most lines, to give maximum flexibility, especially vs the QGD, Nimzo, KID and Grünfeld. Move-order issues are given great prominence, even potentially awkward sequences that as yet have not been tried much in practice. In most cases, more than one option is presented for White, and there are a great many additional suggestions that the reader may wish to investigate. Material is scrupulously researched and up-to-date. Many ideas for Black are discussed, and remedies proposed, even when they have not yet caught on in practice as yet, thus future-proofing the repertoire to some degree. Dangerous gambits and sharp counterattacking lines are dealt with, as far as possible, in ways that avoid excessive complications. The overall aim in each opening is to reach an interesting position (ideally with some advantage, of course) where there is scope to outplay the opponent, while avoiding getting embroiled in a do-or-die tactical battle.

QGD: Exchange with Nf3/h3 (Karpov/Yermolinsky)
QGA: Main line with 7 Bd3
Slav: 3 Nc3 and 4 e3
Semi-Slav: Anti-Meran system with an early b3
Tarrasch: Main Lines with g3
Nimzo-Indian: 4 e3 with 5 Ne2 (in most cases)
King’s Indian: 5 h3 with Be3 or Bg5
Grünfeld: Exchange with 7 Qa4 or 7 Bg5
Modern Benoni: Bd3, h3 and Bg5
Benko: 4 Qc2
Dutch: 2 Nc3 (but all move-orders covered, and therefore some lines with c4)
Modern: 2 c4 and 3 e4
English Defence: 3 a3
1...e6 2 c4 Bb4+: 3 Nc3
1...d6 2 c4 e5: 3 d5

International Master John Watson is one of the world’s most respected chess authors. In 1999, his Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy won ‘Chess Book of the Year’ awards in the USA and the UK. He reviews chess books for The Week in Chess and hosts a weekly radio show on the Internet Chess Club. His bestselling four-volume work Mastering the Chess Openings has reaffirmed his reputation as a perceptive and authoritative chess opening writer.

Download a pdf file with a sample from the book.

“No skimping in this book of more than 250 pages in the well known and attractive Gambit style. Includes the Queen’s Gambit (Declined and Accepted), Nimzo, Benoni and Benko, and even the Fajarowicz Gambit, which I’m pleased to note is not refuted” - Bab Wilders, Nederlands Dagblad

“A sparkling text that overflows with sound advice” - James Pratt, British Chess Magazine

“...Watson at his inspirational best. Club and tournament players should be able to use the recommended repertoire with confidence, whether or not they have prior knowledge of 1 d4 openings. Moreover, it is a repertoire that will stand the test of time.” - Sean Marsh, Chess Magazine

“It requires a very skillful selection of lines to meet all of Black’s defenses major defenses to 1.d4 in the space Watson has to work with - and still have them pack a punch. He is up to the task. He has selected lines that while well-respected are not on the cutting edge of theory. By doing so he has limited the amount of theory that must be learned but in such a way that Black is not given a free pass” - IM John Donaldson

“Watson’s approach is to avoid as far as possible well-analysed theoretical main lines and to recommend less popular but perfectly playable alternatives. This has a two-fold advantage from White’s point of view. First, it avoids recent theory and prevents a theoretical ambush, but more importantly it confers a psychological advantage on White, as he will probably be better prepared than an opponent who concentrates on the main lines. I know that club players love this kind of book, especially those who have neither the time nor the inclination to develop their own repertoire” - Alan Sutton, En Passant

“With this book you will have a full, serious and sustainable opening repertoire for White. The recommended systems are thoroughly thought out and put the reader into the comfortable position where he has a reasonable and playable position after the opening, which he understands and he can deal with, against any opponent. An absolutely great work by John Watson.” - Martin Rieger

“Watson once again proves his reputation - one of the best books I have seen for a long time” - Uwe Bekemann, www.bdf-fernschachbund.de

“Watson’s Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy I consider as one of the best books ever written! So for me Watson is the big star among chess book authors and I presume that all his books are best sellers - and that this last one, A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White, also will be that” - GM Simen Agdestein

Gambit books by Watson: The Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, Chess Strategy in Action, Mastering the Chess Openings volume 1, Mastering the Chess Openings volume 2, Mastering the Chess Openings volume 3, Mastering the Chess Openings volume 4, Chess Openings for Kids, A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White.