I recently finished Neil McDonald's "Starting Out: 1.e4!". Now I would like to learn some Black responses. Could someone recommend a book at similar level to Neil's, but focus on Black?

I'm not sure whether to read several specific books or find one general book (eg with 4 chapters on play against e4, d4, c4, Nf3). One general book to start with would be my preference (so I can pick my favourites), if there is a good one.

By the way, I don't quite like Neil's recommendation on the Scoth game (trade queens, play an endgame where the opponent has a weak pawn). I tried the Scotch gambit a bit. Is there any good resource to go deeper on the Scotch gambit?

4 Answers 4


One very popular beginners book about openings from the black side is this one. The focus isn't on grandmaster level opening theory, but on keeping everything understandable and manageable.

  • sadly this one does not have a kindle version. Paperback chess book is a pain to read
    – jf328
    Jul 27, 2015 at 20:50

There are many responses to 1.e4 for black, in order of popularity according to the Game Database of ChessTempo:

  • 1....c5 (Sicilian)
  • 1....e5
  • 1....e6 (French)
  • 1....c6 (Caro-Kann)
  • etc...

Each of these openings also have many variations. Futhermore, there are also many books on each of these openings. It is not easy to advise you one, as it depends on many things: your playing strength, your playing style, etc...

A good idea might be to play an opening with black that you don't like to encounter when playing white. This way,

  • You have an opening for black (your initial goal)
  • You can also find good continuations to play as white

After you made your opening choice, you can search for a book about that specific opening.

Edit: That being said, if you want to broaden your view, here are a couple of books that cover a wide range of openings:


Generally repertoire books from the Black point of view are more detailed than those from White's viewpoint, as the author really should cover all reasonable tries by White against a certain opening. For reasons of space this standard is not always met for White repertoire books.

If I were you I'd wait for Smerdon's Scandivanian which covers the Portugeuse and Icelandic gambits against 1.e4 and comes out in September and will be brilliant if you like attacking chess.



It depends on your style and preference for type of game. Do you want open, closed, semi open? Do you want slash and burn tactical or do you want quiet slow positional or something in between. Do you want complex positions or more simpler and quieter ones?

Match the opening to your style and preferences. Then when you know what type of opening is your best style there will be a book for it.

If you do not like e5 then I would suggest you look at d3 or c3 and see how they fit. If not a match then c5 or nf6.

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