All the chess books ...
All the chess books ... the beginner or average player will ever need! By: A.J. Goldsby I

All the chess books ...

FLchessplayer
NM FLchessplayer
Nov 7, 2018, 7:34 PM |
58

I have often been asked to recommend chess books ... so much so, I dare not even count the number of times that I have been asked this question. (Via E-mails, messages, IM's, PM's, etc.) Since I played my first USCF-rated tournament in 1966 and I am {now} 60 years old, many people have really wanted my advice in this area. 

I am also pretty well known on the Internet, my chess pages have won many awards. In fact, the main impetus for this blog was I used to have a collection on Amazon, called: "All the chess books that the average player would ever need." (Click here to see my chess-home page.) However, I recently was asked about this collection (in a forum) and I discovered that it apprently has been deleted - thus, this blog. (I have NOT gone with all of my original recommedations, I tried to re-think the whole subject - and make changes where they might be necessary.) 


I have given more chess lessons than I care to count. Often, when I go to a student's house, they will have their own chess collection on a bookshelf, usually 30-to-50 books. I always ask them: "How many of those books have you actually read? Cover-to-cover?" And the answer is usually, "None." 

When of the first things I do is take down one book and we begin to study. If we are fortunate enough to study together for a long time, we try to wade through a whole book, no matter how long it takes. 

I also - strongly advise - that a player REGULARLY rotate through the three phases of chess: Openings, then Middle-games & tactics, and finally endgames. (See my "Training Page" for more info.) Too many of my students want to focus on just one area of chess - to the mutual exclusion of others. Another thing that I have discovered is that most students have a terrible blind spot. You ask them the weakest (or strongest) part of their game ... and their answer isn't even close. They will say things like: "My openings need a lot of work," yet they know their opening very well. (Etc.) Another thing I have found is they really need a chess coach ... especially someone who actually watches them when they play. One of my former students said: "My tactics stink, its why I lose 90% of my games!" Yet, when we went to our first tournament together, I found that this student had been studying tactics ... and nothing but tactics ... for close to two years. Observing his games revealed that he was losing a lot of winnable (or drawable) endgame positions. (We immediately began a long set of lessons that focused on the Endgame. Apparently it helped, about one year later, his rating shot up from 1400 to over 1700!) 


Since so many players buy too many chess books, I thought I would offer my thoughts on this subject. 


Number One: 

A lot of people will not like this choice ... but I have to recommend the book that ultimately taught me the most about chess: openings, middle-games and endings! 

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"The Complete Chess-Player," by Fred Reinfeld. (Click here - to see this book on Amazon.) 

I have a review on Amazon, I am not just going to "copy-and-paste" ... that would be sheer laziness! Just let me say a few things about this book: 

  • This book absolutely taught me more about chess than many other books put together. (Of course, you often get out of a chess book exactly what you put into it. I only had a handful of books back then. I went through it like 10 times. Every time, I would set up every position and play through all the variations. I also got to tinkering on my own, I would spend hours just pushing the pieces around. Another thing: Play these positions against a friend or a computer! DON'T move on until you really understand the current example!) 
  • It has sections on ALL PHASES of the game! 
  • It is in Descriptive Notation, but I do not see that as a real drawback. (Every real chess player should learn both algebraic and descriptive notation ... eventually.) 
  • There are illustrative games in the back of the book ... I MEMORIZED all of these games! (Of course, you don't have to do this, but you should play through each of these 2-3 times.) 

Number Two: 

So many players simply memorize their openings ... yet hit them with a line they don't know ... and they fall apart! Therefore, you should at least to try and understand the openings, thus my next choice: 

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"The Ideas Behind The Chess Openings," by GM Reuben Fine.
(Click here, and stay away from ANY book that S. Sloan has attached his name to!) 

A few words about this book: 

  • The version shown is in algebraic notation. 
  • No other book explains the ideas of that opening like this book. 
  • He often studies - and shows - typical games and positions that arise from the opening that he is referring to. (I have always followed his example and studied this way.) 
  • In many places, he talks about the various pawn skeletons and how they affect the overall planning process and even what kinds of endings you can normally expect. (Very few books take the trouble to do this!) 

Number Three: 

Several famous authors have denegrated this book, yet I tell all of my students to have at least one copy. (At one time, I had like 5 copies!) 

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MCO-15 by many. (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) GM Nick de Firmian was the editor. 

Admittedly, this book DOES have a number of errors. However, this does not take away from the overall value of this book. 

  • One volume - just about every opening you are likely to ever encounter. 
  • A summary of each section, the author tells you which are the critical lines. 
  • The book was actually written with contributions by dozens of different authors, each being an expert in his (or her) particular opening. 
  • Coupled with any chess engine, you should be able to work out a good approach to just about any opening line or variation! 

I really think that this is ALL the opening books you will ever need. I will add the caveat that, if you get to around 1800, you will probably find it beneficial to purchase an opening book in the line (or lines) that you have decided to speacialize in. 


  Middle-games and Tactics  


Number Four: 

Any book on tactics and solving tactical chess problems. 

I don't have to make a specific recommendation here ... there are dozens of books in this category, many of them are absolutely superb. 

IF ... you are clueless here, then I will point you to the following book: 

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(Click here to see this book, click here to see the companion volume.) 

I don't have these versions of this book, mine are the older books ... in descriptive notation: 

  • The orginal books were very cheap, you can find them used for like a buck ... or even less.
  • There is a ton of material to study. 
  • The original books were full of errors, I would suggest double-checking all of the solutions with any good chess engine. 
  • Of course, NO BOOK ON TACTICS TELLS YOU THE CORRECT WAY TO STUDY PROBLEMS!!! However, here, you are in luck! (All you have to do is thoroughly read Tip Number One on my Training Page.) 

Number Five: 

I originally recommended the book on MG/& tactics - by Keres and Kotov. (I found a copy of my original list.) But this pook IS rather poorly written and badly organized ... so I am going with a more modern book ... that is already a classic book in its own right ... 

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"Storming The Barricades," by GM Larry Christiansen. (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) 

Its been a number of years since I held my copy of this book in my hands, but here are just a few of the salient points that I remember. They are: 

  • He takes fifty games/positions ... most of them are modern examples. 
  • He shows - and explains - what the key elements to the attack are. 
    (I have a very good blog on this subject as well.) 
  • He tells you what took place BEFORE we reached the key position and describes the events that lead to the position, so you can learn from the mistakes in the given example. 
  • Once we get to the critical position, he holds nothing back and looks at just about all the viable attacking ideas and all of the key variations. 
  • The book has received rave reviews by readers and masters alike. 

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Number Six: 

The next book is not strictly about the middle-game ... but {again} I have gone back to basics and I have also leaned on the books that have helped me the most! 

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"Pawn Structure Chess," by GM Andrew Soltis. (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) 

My original edition of this book was in descriptive notation ... but this book - for me - was absolutely an "eye-opener" and a "mind-blower." Why? 

  • The pawn structure of ANY position ... is going to govern just about EVERYTHING that you can ... or cannot ... do in any specific situation!!!!! 
  • Do you want to attack? Then you have to know when the pawns are telling you to! 
  • Where do your pieces go? The pawn structure dictates this as well. 
  • When is the right time to head for the endgame? The Pawn structure will control this aspect of chess, good pawn structure equals a good endgame, a bad pawn skeleton ... 
  • I was just a (weak) Expert (2000+) when I first read this book ... using and applying the ideas and concepts in this book sent me over 2200 ... ... ... and I never looked back. 
  • The author uses a "cradle-to-the-grave" type of approach. I.e., he shows you what opening the Pawn structure came from, he shows you what kinds of plans will work, (and also many that don't) ... in any given Pawn Structure. The he even takes you deep into some endgames ... showing you why the lowly foot-soldiers (and the way that they are arranged) control and direct almost everything you try to do in chess. 

  Endings / Endgames  


There are many good books on the endgame. A few are: PCE by Paul Keres, BCE by R. Fine, "Winning Chess Endings," by GM Yasser Seirawan. (This whole series by Seirawan is VERY good! And, for many years, I taught most of my students right out of the book, "Pandolfini's Endgame Course.") But in the end, I have to go with the book ... that is the overwhleming choice by the majority of my chess students over the last 5-10 years: 

Number Seven:  

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"The Complete Endgame Course," by IM Jeremy Silman.
 (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) 

There are many good reasons that this book has been a success:  

  • Just about every basic endgame is covered. 
  • The winning technique - in most cases - is clearly explained. (A chess coach helps!) 
  • The diagrams are excellent. 
  • The analysis - for just about all the problems - are directly beneath the diagrams. 
  • He cross-references many of the examples. (I.e., this endgame goes like this, and now you have reached position "X" and the page number is given.) 
  • The endings are grouped by the various categories. 

That's it ... believe it or not, this basic library of just seven chess books should take you all the way to at least a "Class A" player. (USCF rating of 1800-1999.) I am absolutely sure of this, many of my students have - eventually - reached Expert ... a few (around 10-15) ... ... ... have even gone on to attain the title of chess master. My original library - on Amazon - was like 13 books ... but that is probably too many! 

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I also will advise you that, if you are a serious chess student - you should most definitely get the program, "ChessBase,"  you can download a good chess engine - like Stockfish 9 - for free. (Many of these books will advise you to study a particular game. If you have the CB program, just about ANY GM game can be found by searching the main CB games' database.) I do NOT advise getting the CB READER program ... too many bugs, way too many limitations! 

You don't think you need the CB program? If this one fact doesn't sway you, I have nothing else to say on this particular subject: 
More than ninety per cent of the world's top 500 chess players use the ChessBase program!  

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  Shifts in the technology!  

The changes in technology - in say the last 15+ years, when I originally wrote my collection for an online website - have been absolutely phenomenal! PC's (& laptops!) calculate MUCH faster, we have gone from a few MB of RAM (static memory) ... to many GB's of RAM ... hard drives have gone from 30-50 MB ... to many TERA-BYTES ... etc. Chess programs have also exploded and gotten much better. 

Today, you can buy any good engine - say Fritz or Houdini from CB - and it comes with a games database of MILLIONS of games. Not only this, most engines come loaded with table-bases as well. Take one endgame: King, Knight + Bishop vs. the King. (A good endgame to learn! Master the basics!!) You can RANDOMLY set up these pieces anywhere on the chess board ... and the computer will INSTANTLY tell you the best moves and will probably display "Mate in so many moves." Why? This is the magic of tablebases at work, many millions of possible arrangements are already worked out and are part of the TB's that come loaded with the program and they are ready to go as soon as the program is loaded! 

This is yet another reason why CB and a good engine have to be part of your resources ... and they also eliminate the need for many specialized endgame books. Futher, with the ChessBase program, you can find just about any game with a specific endgame in the games database, load them up, and study them with the engine. Just play a few of these several times ... and you should get a good grasp of the basic ideas of ANY endgame! (If not, then you will have to find a good chess coach in your area.) 

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I decided - rather than abstract examples - I would give you a concrete position, which (hopefully) will convince you of the worth of a good chess engine. 

Imagine the fun and the things you will learn when you explore any endgame you want ... and you have a good chess program/chess engine to aid you in your analysis! 
BTW/FYI The problem - above - with White to move and mate in four ... I composed this - as a problem ... when I was like 10 years old. (I think it was published in the MS State publication a year later.) 

And finally - two of my favorite chess books ... for both fun AND great instruction!!!  

Optional book, Number One:  

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"My Sixty Memorable Games," by Bobby Fischer. (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) 

  • One of the better chess books ... written by one of the greatest players who ever lived. 
  • Some of games in this book - like his game in the Dragon - vs. GM Bent Larsen - are classics. It is carefully analyzed and meticulously explained. (It also contains some of the great chess quotes of all time, like: "Sack, sack, mate.") 
  • Many different openings are covered, making the book a great instruction manual. 
  • Many different types of positions are deeply analyzed ... Fischer probably made the fewest errors of any chess author prior to good chess engines being used to aid analysis. 
  • Openings, middlegames, attacks, endgames ... you will be entertained... and while you are having fun ... you will also learn a great deal about the game. 
  • Many of his opponents - in this book - were some of the best players in the World. Legends of chess like Larsen, Petrosian, Spassky, Gligoric, etc. (High quality games, not fluff!!!) 
  • Fischer had the help of GM Larry Evans in choosing the games and Evans also wrote the intro for each game. 
  • I am told that - in some of these games - Fischer worked close to 10 years on his analysis, dwarfing the efforts of most other GM's who might crank out a book in 5 minutes. 
  • Of all the books other people have recommended to me, this one has always been the favorite of top masters and patzers alike!  

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Optional book, Number Two:  

In many/most ways, my two biggest teachers were Reinfeld and Irving Chernev. Chernev books are ALWAYS popular with lower-rated players ... I have rarely found a player who hated a book by the genius that was Irving Chernev. And while Chernev (and Reinfeld) were maybe not the best players of all time, they deserve a special place in my heart and a deserved spot for teaching millions of chess fans the finer points of chess! 

Thus my next book is: 

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"The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played," by (The Incomparable!) Irving Chernev.
 (Click here to see this book on Amazon.) 

  • This was one of the very first chess books that I purchased with my own money!!!!! 
  • I literally went through it more than 100 times, I never got tired of this book! 
  • I learned more from this one book than the next 10 chess books put together! 
  • I have taught DOZENS of my students the games from this book! 
  • 62 examples of superb chess strategy ... 
  • The players in this book represent the royalty of chess: Fischer, Petrosian, Spassky, Tal, etc. 
  • I have been told I have a slight learning disability ... so the descriptive method in this book helped me a lot to grasp some very complex ideas. 
  • If you pass on this book, you pass on one of the better chess books ever written, bar none!!! 

Well ... that's it for my little collection of chess books ... I sincerely believe that these seven (or nine) books can take you as far as you will want to go in your chess journey! I apologize - in advance - if your favorite chess book was left out ... or not mentioned. But based on my many years of teaching experience, these are some of the better chess books (and authors!) that will teach you most of what you need to know in your upcoming chess adventures!

Write me, or leave me a message ... and tell me if you think I did a good job.  
(Or use the comment section below.) 


Postscript: (Thursday; November 8th, 2018.) For most of this article ... I linked to Amazon - in case you wanted new books. I did, however, receive one e-mail, this person was sort of upset, claiming my collection was too expensive!!  

However, this is all a misunderstanding ... I wasn't trying to force anyone to buy from any seller in particular ... I just wanted to start you on the path to finding these books ... most search engines easily show that Amazon IS one of THE most popular sites for purchasing ANY kind of book! 

ALSO - you DON'T have to buy anything new! Amazon often has links for used books. Click here to search for "used chess books." (Much more affordable, especially if you are trying to save some dough!) 


  EPILOGUE  

The TEN best books - that did not make this list:  (Given in order of importance.) 

  1. "My System," by GM Aaron Nimzovich.  
  2. "Think Like A GM," by GM Alexander Kotov
  3. "The Chess Struggle In Practice," (Zurich, 1953) by GM David Bronstein
  4. "The Life & Games of M. Tal," by GM Mikhail Tal 
  5. "Chess Fundamentals," by GM Jose R. Capablanca
  6. "How To Re-Assess Your Chess," (4th ed?) by IM Jeremy Silman
  7. "The Art of Attack In Chess," by IM Vladimir Vukovic
  8. "My Great Predecessors," (series) by GM Garry Kasparov
  9. "Winning Chess," (The whole MS Press series.); by GM Yasser Seirawan.  
  10. "Masters of The Chess Board," by GM Richard Reti

I know, I know ... now you are mad becuz your book didn't make this list, either. 💋😂😎✔👀 

(And many of you will say I cheated ... but some books - like the series of books by Kasparov ... ... ... are simply fantastic, ground-breaking ... and derserve to be taken as one volume. And if you have the dough, the series of books by Yasser Seirawan is simply the finest set of books written for beginners-to-say-1800-to-2000 ... that was ever attempted. You certainly will learn a TON of stuff by careful study of all of these books.) 

With these 10 books ... you have all the books any player would ever want or need. 

Honorable Mentions:  

  • "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy," by IM John Watson
  • "Practical Chess Endings," by GM Paul Keres
  • "Lasker's Manual of Chess," by GM Emmanuel Lasker.