For many chess-players, opening study is sheer hard work. It is difficult to know what is important and what is not, and when specific knowledge is vital, or when a more general understanding is sufficient. Tragically often, once the opening is over, a player won't know what plan to follow, or even understand why his pieces are on the squares on which they sit.

In this highly-acclaimed and popular series, John Watson helps chess-players achieve a more holistic and insightful view of the openings. He explains not only the ideas and strategies behind specific openings, but also the interconnections of chess openings taken as a whole. By presenting the common threads that underlie opening play, Watson provides a permanent basis for playing openings of any type.

This third volume focuses on the English Opening while also drawing together many threads from the first two books in a wide-ranging discussion of general opening topics. Particularly in the context of reversed and analogous forms of standard structures, we understand why certain ideas work and others don't, and experience the concept of 'Cross-Pollination' at work in even more varied forms than seen in the first two volumes.

International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. His groundbreaking four-volume work on the English firmly established his reputation in the 1980s, and he has produced a string of top-quality works since. In 1999, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, Watson's first book for Gambit, won the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award and the United States Chess Federation Fred Cramer Award for Best Book. He reviews chess books for The Week in Chess and hosts a weekly radio show on the Internet Chess Club.

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.

Download a pdf file with a sample from the book.

"Watson is an icon in chess publishing ... There is nothing to be compared to the approach presented in this book." - IM Frank Zeller, Schachwelt

"...ranks among the very best openings books I have seen lately. I can honestly recommend its purchase." - Uwe Bekemann,

"In exemplary fashion, Watson communicates with his readers, gives outstanding examples, summarizes the most important details, and best of all: when you have finished the book, you really feel you understand this opening." - Martin Rieger,

"Quite indispensable for anyone studying the English" - Dr. W. Schweizer, Rochade Europa

"In my time as a chess writer, I have found myself with no shortage of high standard chess literature, and this series from Gambit Books, has since its conception, stood out with me, as one of the finest. ... Watson implements the use of illustrative games in order to guide and educate the reader. You will see such names as: Kasparov, Shirov, Larsen, Timman, Aronian, Karpov, Petrosian, and Seirawan all getting to grips with the English, unleashing ideas, and highlighting the popular themes and essential points. I am very impressed in that while Watson is very forthcoming in his own feelings regarding a specific idea or variation, he is careful not to lead or influence, very much preserving the independence and own thoughts of the reader. ... In short, whether you are already an English Opening player wanting to brush up on your repertoire; or, you are looking for a good alternative to 1.e4 and 1.d4, you would be making an excellent move (pardon the pun) in buying this book." - John Lee Shaw, Chess Check E-zine

"At the end of his introduction to the book, Watson addresses what his aim has been in this work; 'My objective with this work is to provide instruction and analysis ranging from that for a low-rated developing player with, say, one or two years' experience, to a long-time player who is familiar with a good deal of theory. That is an ambitious goal, to be sure, and whether this volume fulfils it is a matter I leave for you to judge.' I guess I fall into the latter category (although the good deal of theory I'm supposed to know is questionable!) and I can say without a doubt this book is going to be a huge aid to me when preparing, or trying to get to grips with certain English positions, with both White and Black! I can also see how the book is going to be of much benefit to someone who is just starting out on the English Opening, because there is a mass of explanation on the motives for both sides in each position.
Watson is very thorough with his analysis, covering most, if not all, early options for both sides. He doesn't hold back with regard to his personal preferences, and in a lot of instances he points the reader in the direction of which he thinks is the most promising way to handle a given position. The book is very up to date. For example, it even includes some coverage of the following crazy line which first appeared in 2008. 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.g3 Qb6 7.Nb5 Ne5 8.Bf4 Nfg4 9.Qa4!? (Novelty introduced in Aronian-Leko, Linares 2008). If you want to learn about, or gain more understanding of the English Opening (with both White and Black), then this book has to be your number one choice! Awesome stuff." - GM-elect Stephen Gordon, 3Cs Chess

"Watson surveys opening structures and gives a thorough explanation of the strategy of openings in this series to a depth which all active chess players should know. … A very useful series of books to read on openings before you work in detail on developing your repertoire, and useful texts on general opening theory. Very Highly Recommended." - Paul Dunn, Australasian Chess

"Watson states that the English is 'wonderful grounds for the study of positional ideas that encompass the entire range of chess practice.' He discusses the ideas and principles of play from the very first moves 'in order to explain the elementary properties of the English Opening' and notes that the opening lends itself to a 'broader conceptual approach' that allows for an increased role of verbal explanation. However, this book will appeal to more than just beginner players, because the complexity of the material increases as Watson delves deeper into particular positions. He writes that the relative scarcity of the opening in practice has allowed him to present much more up-to-date material and original analysis than in previous volumes and that his objective is to appeal to both the beginner and those 'familiar with a good deal of theory.' The publication of this series is a bellwether event in chess publishing, and all players should avail themselves of the opportunity to read these books." - Mark Donlan, Chess Horizons

"Those interested in the English opening, should consult John Watson's new book Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume 3. Watson expertly guides the reader through the tricky English roads, scattering some pretty gems along the way." - GM Lubomir Kavalek, Washington Post

"…I've learned a lot from it - especially how much I don't know about chess yet. One of the reasons is that Watson gives a lot of practical advice that tells a lot about grandmaster practice as well. … This is often the difference between Watson and other authors: Watson is not afraid to mention things that may be painfully obvious to insiders, but can be real eye openers to club players. ... This book is not only essential for chess players who already play the English Opening, but can be a source of new inspiration for people who, like me, have always looked at it with a mixture of wonder, bewilderment and horror." - Arne Moll,

"Regular readers of my reviews will know how highly I regard John Watson as a chess writer. He has that rare ability to get to the heart of the matter and not only to identify what is important and what is not, but also to communicate this intelligibly to his readership. He says in his introduction that his intention is to provide material that will be useful both to relatively inexperienced players and to those with more experience, something which is not easy to achieve. As usual, though, he has climbed the pinnacle and risen to heights that others fail to reach." - Alan Sutton, En Passant

Martin Rieger,"The writer had one straightforward and at the same time difficult ambition: that the reader should, after reading this book, understand the opening. Did he succeed? Yes, absolutely!" - Martin Rieger,

"This volume can be read separate from the other two in this series; however, I recommend reading all three books. They will truly take your game to the next level and help you understand the opening phase so much better, as well as help minimize the risk of starting the game out from an inferior position. Those who play the English Opening should buy this book without out any hesitation. This book is a modern classic. It is genuinely instructive and provides numerous examples of original analysis and improvements over existing theory." - Carsten Hansen,

"...epic work" - GM Lubomir Kavalek, Washington Post

"...a thorough work that is impressive for quality of production and value for money." - Bernard Cafferty, BCM

"Very instructive! Collect them all!" - John Elburg,

"In terms of the 'Royal Game', one could hardly wish for a better start to 2009 than is provided by Gambit and one of the world's best chess authors. I am referring to IM John Watson's Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume 3, which focuses primarily on lines that stem from the English Opening, 1 c4. Watson is truly on home territory there, covering topics on which he is a renowned expert. His deep knowledge, understanding, and flair for writing really shine through in what is surely destined to become a best-seller." - GM Paul Motwani, The Scotsman

"Fans of Watson's two earlier works in the series are certain to be pleased with his latest effort. While theory has built up on 1.c4 it is nowhere near as voluminous as for 1.e4 and 1.d4, enabling Watson to offer more complete coverage. The present covers 1.c4 e5, 1.c4 c5 and 1.c4 Nf6. The only variation I could find that was not covered but normally is in a work on the English was the Double Fianchetto line in the Symmetrical English (1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.Nc3 g6) which is no doubt intended for the fourth and final volume in this series on the Reti and various other flank openings. ... definitely must reading for anyone rated 2000 on up who has any interest in the English or modern chess. Highly Recommended" - IM John Donaldson, Chess Today

"Reading IM Watson's prose reveals one of his great writing strengths; getting the reader to think, and often rethink, even for positions and variations in which one's knowledge seemed complete. His works are never dry and always inspiring. ... There's a very good index of variations, complete with way marking diagrams, which needs to be thorough for the English Opening due to the large number of early transpositions. ... this fine overview will appeal to anyone looking to discover the inside story of a powerful and important opening. Those who already play the English will enjoy this new book too. Mastering an opening can take a long time; this book will provide a plethora of help and inspiration along the way. In my opinion, this is the best volume in the series (so far)." - Sean Marsh, Marsh Towers