For most chess-players, opening study is sheer hard work. It is hard 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. John Watson seeks to help chess-players achieve a more holistic and insightful view of the openings. In his previous books on chess strategy, he explained vital concepts that had previously been the domain only of top-class players. Here he does likewise for the openings, explaining how flexible thinking and notions such as 'rule-independence' can apply to the opening too. Watson presents a wide-ranging view of the way in which top-class players really handle the opening, rather than an idealized and simplified model.

This volume, focusing on queen's pawn openings, is a book that will make chess-players think hard about how they begin their games. It also offers both entertainment and challenging study material in openings such as the Nimzo-Indian, King's Indian and the entire Queen's Gambit complex.

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. His pupils include the 1997 World Junior Champion, Tal Shaked. In 2022 he was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame as “one of the greatest writers in the history of American chess”.

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.

"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

"The book has convinced me entirely! Watson has managed to present the most important openings after 1 d4 and analyses them in detail as well as explaining the backgrounds. When he describes the Sämisch Variation in the King's Indian in nearly 8 pages you have the feeling you are holding a real classic in your hand. It may sound exaggerated, but I believe Watson is a sort of modern Aaron Nimzowitsch. Absolutely recommended!" - Martin Rieger,

"When your reviewer was a teenager in 1964, there were no databases, no Internet, precious few really good chess books and no DVDs. I picked up a copy of Nimzovich's Chess Praxis and a copy of My System. Over the course of my summer vacation, I read those books. My rating jumped from 1400 to almost 1700. I actually started to understand some key chess ideas. For those of you who want a similar epiphany in the 21st century, these two volumes by Watson will do the job." - Pete Tamburro, Chess Life

"...even better than I imagined" - Marco Milone,

"Suitable for players with a wide range of experience ... Watson doesn't attempt to cover all openings, but covers a limited number to ensure they are covered in greater depth. A fine general opening treatise - very highly recommended" - Paul Dunn, Australian Chess

"Even though volume one mostly deals with 1 e4 and volume two deals with 1 d4, the books nonetheless represent one body of work that should best be enjoyed together, and they are written by one of the finest authors of the last several decades. ... To say that these books are about opening strategies or opening theory would be a disservice to the importance of the material covered in them. ... I found his chosen examples excellent and his commentary instructive and very enlightening. Whether you are an inexperienced improving player or a seasoned tournament player, you will learn loads from studying these books. His discussions of pawn structures and their interconnected strategies are worth the price of both books. Even I feel as though my game has improved after having studied both volumes at length. ... The books convey an understanding of the opening that even specialized opening works do not provide. ... I highly recommend the two volumes of Mastering the Chess Openings to anyone who truly wants to improve their understanding of the openings and of chess in general. - Carsten Hansen,

"In his introduction, Watson states that his approach to the book (as it was in volume 1) has been to start from the ground and work upwards. He certainly does just that, beginning by explaining the fundamental differences between 1.e4 and 1.d4. Some basic yet important principles and nuances, that can take many players a long time and many games to realise, (and some never do!), are explained within a couple of pages. Already, the reader is being primed to greater understand the elements of his or her repertoire. Watson then moves on to the more 'meaty' part of the book. ... It is authoratively and pleasantly written, which makes reading it not only productive but also very enjoyable. I applaud it, as I did its older sibling, and eagerly await Watson's next offering! Any chance of a flank edition volume 3 John?" - John Lee Shaw,

" is clear that Watson digs deeper in this book than only on the vital concepts of modern play! Conclusion: Buy it for the highly instructive explanations from John Watson!" - John Elburg,

"If you read my reviews regularly you will be aware of how highly I rate John Watson as both a writer and communicator. He has the happy knack of being able to get to the very essence of his subject matter, and present it in a clear and logical manner, something which can not be said of many other chess authors today. Though relatively more expensive than many, these two volumes alone are as useful and informative as a dozen dedicated opening monographs and figure very highly on my recommended reading list for all aspiring players." - Alan Sutton, En Passant

"Although Watson leaves out a few openings (a6 slav for example), what he does cover, he does well. Explaining the first moves of the openings and then showing top level games and some other possible ideas from that position. Just like the first volume, he does a nice job of explaining the openings and giving the reader a good feel for the position. If you liked the first volume or are just wishing to learn more about the d4 games in general, this is an excellent choice." - Andy May,

"One of the strongest chapters in Mastering the Chess Openings Volume 2 is the one on the Queen's Gambit Declined. I particularly liked Watson's treatment of the Exchange variation which he divides into the Carlsbad ( Nf3) and Modern (Nge2) variations. Not so long ago White either castled short and played for a minority attack with b4-b5 or castled long and went for a kingside attack. Today add the plan of playing in the center with e3-e4 - sometimes in conjunction with b4 ( see Kasparov-Short from their 1993 World Championship match) and prophylactic moves like a3 and h3." - IM John Donaldson,