Most helpful critical review
Good, but not exactly what I was expecting
on October 12, 2013
I was looking for a good compendium of chess openings with some comments about how they work and the kinds of positions they lead to in order to help me start building an opening repertoire. This book is that, to some degree, but not quite what I was expecting. Seirawan will give you a taste of a number of good openings, then guide you to his particular favourites. Yet, he cannot go into very much depth with the openings he does recommend, and spending time giving his recommendations subtracts from the breath of openings he could have covered in the more encyclopedic sections. What is more, if you conclude that you don't really want to play the same kind of style as Seirawan, the book will end up having pretty limited use for you.
Positives are many, though. Seirawan's writing is great and very inviting - often funny and frequently self-effacing (some of the games from his childhood are a riot). This really helps the young player feel confident - even the great GMs used to make those mistakes! The games are illustrated frequently which is good for a beginner. The lay-out of the text is clear. For what it actually is, it's a very helpful book, but maybe not the best way of designing a primer on the topic, and maybe not what every buyer might be expecting.