I have recently (two months ago) become very interested in chess, after playing it for about 10 years at a club, spending time on it only one evening per week. Previously, I did not think about my opening at all, and just played 1. e4 as White and 1. e4 e5 and 1. d4 d5 as Black. Currently, I play the English as White, using the wonderful books of Mihail Marin, and the Modern as Black, using a number of different books (Davies, Hillarp Persson and Lakdawala).

I am very much satisfied with the English, as it ensures a solid position, most opponents have to improvise their set-up at my level (~1500), and the books of Marin help me in having a comprehensive repertoire. After a game, I can look up who deviated first from theory, and remember it for later games.

However, it does not seem that there is such a book as Marin's for the Modern opening, and though my results with the Modern are good till now (two draws against 1650 average, and one win against 1200), I wonder if there are other solid openings which I could use as Black. Preferably, an opening for which there is a good book which explains the ideas and themes of the opening. Do you have any suggestions?

2 Answers 2


Positional opening for Black

If I were you I would stick with the English opening as White.

As for Black, let us start with reply to 1.d4. I would strongly encourage you to learn Queen's gambit declined, as it is immune to transpositional tricks. The resulting positions require both theoretical knowledge and knowledge of typical plans. Your other option is Nimzo-Indian defense, but White can rule it out with a clever move order. Still, you can steer the game back into Queen's Gambit declined, with resulting lines being beneficial for Black, or you can learn Queen's-Indian defense. Also, when playing White, after 1.c4 e6 2.e4 is toothless, but 2.d4 d5 transposes into Queen's gambit declined/Nimzo-Indian/Queen's Indian, so this would save you a lot of learning time by reducing the amount of material you need to cover.

As for reply to 1.e4 there is French defense, Caro-Kann, or Petroff defense ( but be prepared to learn a lot about King's gambit ). Again, when playing White, after 1.c4 c6 2.e4! you sidestep many popular openings like Grunfeld, Slav/Semi-Slav and so on, and you transpose into Caro-Kann so I would suggest getting a book on it. The beauty of this move order is that you can transpose into Panov-Botvinnik attack, which is positional and requires knowledge from Black, else he may end up in a lost game, while you may play more or less on general principles. Either way, Black must invest more work here, as this line is critical for both sides. French defense may work too, as it is very solid, but you will still need to handle 1.c4 c6 and if you do not want to transpose into Caro-Kann be prepared to play against Slav or Semi-Slav.

I wonder if there are other solid openings which I could use as Black. Preferably, an opening for which there is a good book which explains the ideas and themes of the opening. Do you have any suggestions?

For French defense I find the book Nikita Vitiugov-The Complete French A Complete Black Repertoire quite useful.

For general ideas in Caro-Kann you can use Joe Gallagher-Starting Out The Caro-Kann and Petter Wells-Grandmaster Secrets The Caro-Kann and Karpov & Podgaets-Caro-Kann defense Panov Attack for Panov-Botvinnik Attack. For opening moves you have the Lars Schandorff-Grandmaster Repertoire 7 The Caro-Kann. These are more than enough to get you going.

For Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian defense you will have to find books yourself, since I do not play those defenses, and since there are so many books on those I do not wish to recommend bad ones.

As for Queen's Gambit Declined, you can start with Mathew Sadler-Queen's Gambit Declined since it covers typical plans for both sides very well. As for opening moves there are many books, seek on Amazon and you will find them. Unfortunately you will need most of them, in order to have your repertoire complete, and still it might not be enough. Take care especially for Alatortsev variation as it is very useful for Black if played right. Unfortunately I haven't found a good coverage on this line, and I must warn you that some novelties have been introduced from a year or two ago. I was lucky to find them, but God knows how many novelties I have missed.

That is it from me for now, if you have further questions leave a comment.

Best regards.

  • As White, the book by Marin gives me a nice way to play against set-ups with d5, so that is not a problem in any case. I will take a look at the QGD, Nimzo-Indian, Caro-Kann, and French to see what kind of set-ups they have. Two questions: - isn't the QGD the regular reaction 1. d4 players face, thus playing exactly the opening they like the most? - does any of these set-ups include the possibility of a bishop fianchetto? Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 16:39
  • @geek_knight: Good questions. The beauty of QGD is its immunity to transpositional tricks. You can prevent Nimzo Indian with proper move order. White does not like QGD if he must play Exchange Variation with Nf3, which can be forced upon him with Alatortsev variation. You can not fianchetto the bishop, but that is OK, since the bishop usually is weak on g7. If White bypasses Exchange Variation then Seni-Slav and Cambridge-Springs work wonders for Black-the point is to prevent Exchange Variation with Nge2. Caro-Kann can be useful for your English, but French is easier to play. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 17:11
  • @geek_knight: With proper knowledge of Caro-Kann's Panov-Botvinnick attack you can use the move order described in my answer to obtain powerful position, or you can just play your English repertoire. Then you should go for some other opening. Modern isn't bad I just feel it requires a lot of work. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 17:14

vs e4 play the sicilian and you are are essentially playing the same opening reversed that you play with white. Find the variations you are comfortable with and go from there. The Kan is a very safe variation that scores pretty well.

vs. d4 I would play the Tarrasch which is essentially a queen's gambit reversed. If not, you should look at how you develop your king's bishop as white. Fianchetto openings are going to be different from more standard development.

  • The Sicilian is by far NOT "essentially the same opening" as the English. Especially if we are talking about Marin's g3-based English (mirror version: the Sicilian Dragon, definitely not what you are looking for if you want a solid and positional opening!).
    – Annatar
    Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 11:24
  • They are the same pawn structures. In fact, they literally are the same opening reversed with black down a tempo. Black doesn't have to play the Dragon
    – Savage47
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 3:18
  • But that tempo matters! In the English, White usually has the option to more or less safely play d4 in the first moves. Playing d5 in the Sicilian usually requires a lot more care. And that's not even talking about the intense opposite-castle battles of the Sicilian (like the Yugoslav Attack). Also, yes, Black doesn't have to play the Dragon... but then his pawn structure is obviously not the same than the one in the g3-English, is it?
    – Annatar
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 8:22
  • There is some overlap in the pawn structures and motives, sure, I don't deny that. But if you play your Sicilian as if it was "essentially the same" as your English, you won't get very far.
    – Annatar
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 8:34

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