Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book review: Standard Chess Openings

I got this and several other books for free several years ago and was interested in checking out what looked to be the biggest chess book in existence. All of the Standard Chess openings! Wow this would be lots of fun to read was my initial idea. How would this stand up in comparison to NCO and other big opening omnibus?

Well I'm sorry to say it but this book is a big let down. First this guy (Eric Shiller)is a PHD yet his published book has so many spelling errors I was shocked. I mean even chess blogs written hastily have less mistakes. For example: on page 240 we get this classic sentence, "The Sozin Variation appears in several Sicilian Defenses, including the Najdort, Sahevening and Classical Variations."

Has anyone heard of the Najdort? or Sahevening? Did you mean Najdorf and Scheveningen?

In his intro game to the Semi-Slav the analysis is very poor. 23...d4! The move is actually a mistake and leads to a quick loss for black.

Many of the openings have only one game to show them off, this would be fine but sometimes the one game he uses is a pointless early deviation which shows little about the opening.

Shiller defines a Standard Opening as "...any opening which an active chessplayer might reasonably expect to encounter frequently(Shiller 14)".

Ok so then he includes the "Elephant Gambit" 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5. Has anyone ever encountered this line in a rated game? this line is weak and the game to highlight it happens to be a telegraph match from 1954 where black gets crushed.

Questionable is the inclusion of the so-called "King Walk Variation" [A59] if you are interested which in Mega Database 2009 out of over 4 MILLION games had a whole 500 or so games with this line. Not exactly standard.

The Janowski Indian which you may never face in your lifetime 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Bf5 which again has hardly any games in the Mega database.

These are but a small sample of many mistakes in this book. I do have to give the author credit for attempting to annotate this many games from all kinds of openings. It must have taken lots of time and effort.

overall I rate this as a 1/5 as far as chess books are concerned.


  1. I guess you're extra glad now you got it for free then :-)

  2. I concur, this book sucks. Pretty much everything Schiller puts out is garbage.

    I have encountered the Elephant Gambit in a rated game though, probably twice.

  3. Hi Chris, this Schiller is a real disgrace as an author. I can't believe he gets away with it. I'd bet that there are a few people in the Chess Club who can put out a better book than he does. Maybe I should write one on the Queen's Gambit, Bill can write on the Lowenthal Sicilian, we'll get Garingo and Gafni to collaborate on the Dragon Sicilian, we'll get Fleming to put out an endgame book, and we'll Hong to write one chess pyschology, you can collaborate with on that with your Anthropological skills. And does anyone really think we couldn't do better than Eric Schiller? Don't make me do it!!

  4. And when I get more time, I'll proofread better! LOL

  5. Nice post Eric! I agree it's a bit funny reading such a poor author that also claims a PHD.

  6. Yeah a PHd what a joke. He looks surly also in his photo. But I like this book. 272 games is a lot of games and the opening analysis isnt half bad. The book has some use, and one day when we run out of trees this book will be worth a lot of money.