In this highly-acclaimed series, John Watson helps chess-players achieve a more holistic and insightful view of the openings. He explains not only the ideas and strategies behind specific openings, but also the interconnections of chess openings taken as a whole. By presenting the common threads that underlie opening play, Watson provides a permanent basis for playing openings of any type.

This final volume draws together many themes in a wide-ranging discussion of general opening topics. By looking at familiar situations from new angles, Watson helps us greatly increase our understanding of them. In the process, he covers a wide variety of opening structures and variations not seen in the earlier volumes and presents a great wealth of original analysis.

* Réti and Fianchetto Systems
* Reversed Openings
* Symmetry
* Irregular Openings
* Gambits: Primitive or Positional
* Universal Openings

In the final two chapters, Watson presents his views on the importance of opening study and explains how players should best prepare and choose their openings for the level at which they play. He looks at the future of chess openings and explains which skills will be most important as chess evolves in the forthcoming decades.

International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. In 1999, his Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy won 'Chess Book of the Year' awards in the USA and the UK. He reviews chess books for The Week in Chess and hosts a weekly radio show on the Internet Chess Club. As a trainer, he has worked with many talented pupils, including 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.

"I find the newly published 4th volume of John Watson's Mastering the Chess Openings to be one of the most helpful opening reference books that I have seen. The renowned American IM author presents his chosen material using extremely instructive high-level games furnished with his own characteristically crystal-clear annotations. Watson brings it all together beautifully by making lots of insightful connections that will clarify in the reader's mind numerous common threads and themes as well as giving a nice compact summary of the theoretical status of different openings." - GM Paul Motwani, The Scotsman

"...far from being just an opening monograph, Volume 4 is an oracle of practical advice that everyone would benefit from..." - GM Glenn Flear, New-in-Chess Yearbook

"This series is written in such a way that anyone rated from 1500 to 2400 will be able to benefit from it. This particular volume covers openings that are less relevant for stronger players, because they will infrequently encounter them, but to counterbalance this issue Watson sometimes goes into very specific details. Whereas in earlier volumes, the strategic discussions on more popular openings were drawn in more general terms for understanding the ideas and aims for both sides. The collective effort put into all four volumes is truly Herculean and should be praised as an opening book equivalent to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am astounded by the consistently high level of writing in all four volumes." - Carsten Hansen,

"Gambit has become one of the standards for chess literature and this is another fine example. Cover art is pleasing to the eye, spine and pages well bound and the pages are clear with good diagrams. I would suggest checking the Gambit website. To sum up; this book works on many levels. If you want a book to learn variations, well I guess you better play the Reti or some other flank opening to get this book. Should your interest be in extending your knowledge of the theory of openings and their study then I think this should go on your list immediately. On the chance that the reader of this review is looking for insight from an experienced titled player into questions of opening philosophy and how to formulate the self questioning mode of such a player, then this book is a must. Very rarely does a player open up about how things work in openings to the extent that Mr. Watson has here." - Bill McGeary,

"Watson is a lucid and often provocative writer who isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and turn conservative theory on its head." - Cecil Rosner, Winnipeg Free Press

"In order to appreciate fully the achievement of John Watson, you need to examine the four separate volumes as a unified whole. He himself is fond of stressing that a game of chess is a unified whole and not just a succession of distinct and unrelated parts (opening, middle game, ending) and this is very much to the fore throughout the series. By emphasising the underlying ideas behind the openings, and by showing how apparently different opening systems often have common ideas at their root, he presents the reader with a framework as the basis for handling all opening systems, both familiar and unfamiliar, with confidence." - Alan Sutton, En Passant

"...a book any chess lover should have a look at - if not for its openings, then surely for its general awesomeness." - Arne Moll,

"The section on gambit play is extremely well done and must reading for any player coming up through the ranks. So to is the following chapter 'Choosing and Preparing Openings' which is pure gold. Watson gives well-considered suggestions for appropriate openings for players from just beyond beginner to 2300 that will solve many amateurs' perennial headache. Highly Recommended" - IM John Donaldson

"IM Watson's writing is never less than entertaining and thought provoking. 'Mastering the Chess Openings' is a fine and deservedly popular series." - Sean Marsh,

"Ideal for ambitious clubplayers - Watson doesn't just spray you with variations, but rather shows the thinking behind them" - Bab Wilders, Nederlands Dagblad

"As always with the acclaimed US IM, the material is carefully sifted, informative and authoritative." - John Saunders, British Chess Magazine