10 chess books you don't want to miss

  • IM Vlad_Akselrod
  • | Jun 4, 2009

When I was a kid, PCs weren’t that widespread yet, so books were our #1 choice when it came to chess studies. Of course, innovative technologies speed up the process of learning chess, but the old methods shouldn’t be totally neglected too. That’s why some of the books that I liked during my childhood are admired by me now not less than contemporary chess software.

The saying “a man is what he eats” can be applied to chess literature too – swallow a second-rate scribble written for the sake of earning easy money, and you may not only waste a lot of time, but form wrong perceptions of the game, its principles and players. On the contrary, some writers put soul into their books and try to do their best to help the readers increase their chess level and (importantly) gain pleasure during the process.

Thanks to the Internet and my home library, I have access to a few hundred chess volumes. Based on the popularity of such discussion topics as “what chess book should I read?” or “is this one any good?”, I decided to present to  you a short list of my favorite chess books. Here it goes:

M. Dvoretsky - all his books, not just the one pictured above

V. Bologan - "Steps"

S. Rublevsky - "64 lessons of mastership"

A. Panchenko - "Theory and practice of chess endings"

A. Karpov - "My best chess games"

E. Bareev, I. Levitov - "Notes of the chess second" (aka "From London to Elista")

N. Shumilin - "Chess problems"

D. Bronstein - "The Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953"

G. Kasparov - "My great predecessors"

B. Fischer - "My 60 memorable games"

Have a great time reading these awesome books!

P.S. I tried to translate the titles of the books as accurately as possible, and understand that, unfortunately, some of the volumes may not be available in English. However, if you search hard you may find them. Anyway, even by looking through a Russian version of the book you will learn a lot – remember that Bobby Fischer himself mastered Russian for the sake of reading Soviet chess books and magazines!

Author: WGM Natalia Pogonina, http://pogonina.com


  • 5 years ago


    Gals and guys, get "Lessons of a Chess Couch", by Sunil Weeramantry, and "Chess Strategy@ by Ludek Pachman. That will improve your game for sure. Run a google search for: my 4share chess books

  • 6 years ago


  • 6 years ago


    WHY THE F**K IS "CHess Fundamentals" not on this list?  That book is way more practical than any of the books listed here. 

  • 7 years ago


    can you provide a pdf of 64 lessons to mastership it sounds interesting where did you get it and whats it about.

  • 7 years ago


    I have a few of Znosko-Borowski's books.  It seems pretty clear from the comments here that the list provided is aimed at pretty high level players.  Znosko-Boroski's are definately more accessible.  I know that simply because I read his middle game book before ever playing in a tournament or playing against anyone other than my friends, and it improved my game a lot.  I absolutely adore that book.  His "How Not to Play Chess" is aimed at even more of a beginner than the middle game book.  I started reading his book on combinations (because I like the other two so much, especially the middle game book) but I couldn't get into it.  This was all around 20 years ago.


    I'm going to dig into this list once I get through my current re-reading as I'm returning to playing chess and want to get better before walking into the Marshall Chess Club-- My System, EZB's middle game book (cringe all you want), Soltis's Pawn Structure Chess, Hooper and Euwe's Guide to Chess Endings.


    Hey IMCheap (I'd rather use your real name since you someone of stature here) I really appreciate your participation and Natalia's participation here at chess.com.  I also like that you guys write here like a tag team sort of.  You provided this list, but it is largely her list as well.  I think that would make for higher quality content.  Anyway, thanks.

  • 7 years ago


    Well, I dont think "how not to play chess" is superficial.....it taught me how to play chess (how to plan in chess ), however it does look like he's trying to make you a chess master in a very short book. But atleast the book puts the reader in the right road. Before that I was wondering here and there in openings...and not really improving.

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks im gonna buy it!

  • 7 years ago


    This is an execellent  list of great books!

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    Can't call myself a big fan of the Znosko-Borowski book - it's rather superficial. Of course, Natalia's origin play a certain role, but the main point is that most good chess books have indeed been written by GMs and IMs from the Soviet Union. Smile Since even now at a top event about 90 percent of GMs speak Russian, and before the proportion was even larger.

  • 7 years ago


    Since Natalia is Russian, it is not surprising that most of the books in her list were authored by writers from the former Soviet Union.  Of course there are other equally notable books by Western authors.  Nonetheless, for a beginner (or for any level), I personally recommend Eugene Znosko-Borowski's book, "How Not To Play Chess".  It is an easy reading without having the strain of going over a lot of variations - just some simple practical tips on the fundamentals of playing the game. 

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    blah-blah-blah - please see my reply three posts below yours Smile

  • 7 years ago


    I have 3 last books mentioned in the article, and I found them great... However, I expected Nimzowitsch "My System" here.

  • 7 years ago


    I think everyone should read Dvoretsky´s serie of books School of chess excellence......

  • 7 years ago


    A great list of books.   I have just been left a copy of "Test Tube Chess" by A.J.Rycroft which looks interesting in parts.

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    Sigmar2 - Nimzovich's My System is indeed a must-read, goes without saying Smile

  • 7 years ago


    Great books even if they tend to be a bit esoteric for mere mortal chess players such as myself. There are only two on the list that I own. It seems unlikely I'll grow into the others as my chess abilities might continue to grow but not at a rate that would make the other books suitable for my level.

  • 7 years ago


    i dont know from where to buy them

  • 7 years ago


    Aaron Nimzowitsch, MURSIA, Collana i classici, 2000, p. 343

  • 7 years ago


    Dear friend,

    this is an exellent list,I read some of those book when i was a kid but is

    think you miss one of the best i ever read.......

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    Valour- Dvoretsky is known as an author for CM and better players. His books are great, but really tough. Some of his problems are hard even for strong grandmasters. So for beginners Dvoretsk'y books can be looked through just to see what advanced chess is about. Very interesting, but too complicated, just like two grandmasters playing.

    valex- yes, but there are many online shops. Let me know if you need help on finding something.

    Clavius - point taken. When Natalia compiled this list of her favorite chess books, she forgot to assess their level. However, as I pointed out above, even Dvoretsky's books (which are for 2200+ players) can be of interest to amateurs. All the other books are even less sophisticated and can be recommended.

    fanat - yes, that program is nice, although "Ten chess programs you don't want to miss" is a topic of another article. Smile

    spencer79, kaichess,  Ideological_Slav - thanks, guys!

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