How do I read this table presented in the book "Modern Openings"? Specifically, what do the rows, columns and the dashed lines represent? Finally, there are also little letters like (a) which are probably related to explanations that come up later in the book.

opening table

  • The other respondents have already answered your question so I'll add one note: I'd strongly suggest you against reading that book! It won't teach you anything that can actually make you improve your chess and it has been outdated for decades
    – David
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 11:40
  • Please recommend me a similar book about openings? @David
    – eguneys
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 12:06
  • 1
    Sadly you have to pick what openings you are interested in and buy books for specific openings to get good content (costly!). For King's Gambit the best book right now (my opinion, but there really are not many books) is probably GM Shaw's "The King's Gambit", which covers the opening for White and Black with many alternatives, but does not cover the Bishop's Gambit, except for how to play against it, as according to the author White does not manage to equalise.
    – B.Swan
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 12:17
  • @eguneys all similar books will have a similar problem. I'd follow B. Swan's advice instead. Almost all information you can find in one of those "encyclopediae", you can also find in an online database for free and with more detail.
    – David
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


The columns represent the main variants which continues the movements at the head of the table. White's moves are followed by Black's in the same column. The numbers to the left of the table are the movement numbers.

The ellipsis are there to group the variants. For example, after 3 Nf3 g5 you can play 4 h4 or 4 Bc4. If White chooses the continuation 4 Bc4 he will find that Black's most sensitive responses are 4 ... Bg7 or 4 ... g4.

The lower case letters in parentheses are notes, which follow the table, which show alternative lines considered less important or that show possible pitfalls. The mark in the last move of each column refers to the model game. The evaluation of the final position is expressed with words instead of symbols such as = (equal) or + / = (the target is slightly better).

  • The third column, first row doesn't have a move, does that mean it is the same as h4?
    – eguneys
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 12:05
  • After 3 Nf3 g5, you can't move d6. It's a black move. This line is part of this sequence: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 d6
    – djnavas
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 11:56

Each column corresponds to a line of play.

A row corresponds to a move; the dashed line indicates where columns diverge from previous columns.

For example, column 3 gives the line 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 d6 6. Nxg4 Nf6 ...

The letters are footnotes which should be at the bottom of the page (sometimes they overflow to the next page). They give comments on the move, most frequently showing why an alternative move does not work out.

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