Beginner Chess Book Recommendations

Beginner Chess Book Recommendations

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Since beginners often ask for advice on which chess books to buy and read here in the forums I've made up a list of recommendations here. Everything here should be available at amazon and I suggest looking for used copies in good condition, I've bought many books from amazon and have found that books listed in good condition are almost always in good or often even very good condition IMHO. Amazon also includes reviews of books written by people who have read them and the reviews are worth checking out, especially since the reviewers give the book a rating of from one to five stars, so if a book has hundreds of ratings that alone is a clue as to how popular the book is with people who have read it. BTW I'm not pd to shill for amazon, you can also look for books at eBay, or through a search engine such as Google Shopping and at local bookstores of course. You can also look for books in your local library and either read them for free in the allotted check-out time (maybe possibly perhaps) or else start to read them and then decide if they're worth buying or not.

Many of these books are available as downloads in pdf and/or ebook format – but I'd avoid all the sites offering free downloads unless you're personally familiar with the site, or it's obviously legitimate such as a public archive or public library website; other may be legitimate but many of them require you to sign up (and pay a fee) for "unlimited downloads" prior to beginning your "free" (sic) download and then there are sites where you can get stuff for free along with an added bonus they don't tell you about in advance: malware that gets installed on your PC at no added charge. The books by Lasker and Capablanca  I've given links to for free downloads are in the public domain; and I presume all the other books I give free download links for are not - so it's your call here. I've visited all the sites I give links for and they're all safe to visit and download from in my experience so far.

I have read most of the books I'm recommending and have examined (or at least checked out the table of contents) the rest prior to concluding they would make worthwhile additions to anyone's chess library. On the other hand, there are many more undoubtedly great beginner's books that I'm not recommending because I haven't personally read them or looked them over, so my list here is far from comprehensive or up-to-date; if you're interested in a book not covered here do a search of it and its author right here at for articles, blogs and/or forum topics on it and you can also look ratings and reviews of it using a search engine and/or by going to amazon and other online book dealers. 

PS: I've recently (May 2013) been checking out the Barnes & Noble online bookstore and in addition to their own large inventory they offer a lot of books from 3rd parties, and some free shipping deals as well. 

The books I've reviewed are listed in  alphabetical order by the writers names - not the books names,which may have been more logical; at any rate this is an arbitrary way to list them which does not imply I'm recommending the books in any particular order or preference.

Don't forget to read the fine print! Some of these books, especially  used copies will be in (gasp) English Descriptive notation, not algebraic.

And now here's the list you've all been waiting for! And the winners are...(imagine a drum roll here)

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer, Stuart Margulies and Dan Mosenfelder. This is a great book for someone who doesn't know how to play chess yet. I've read that Fischer really didn't help write the book but allowed his name to be used on it (or more likely was paid for his permission) in order to give the book “name brand recognition” but whether this is true or not is irrelevant: the other two authors are experts in programmed instruction which is what makes this a “state of the art” chess instruction manual. Beginners don't necessarily need to be taught by Gms (or even IMs or NMs) they need to be taught by instructors who are experts in teaching, not necessarily in chess.

Chess the Easy Way by GM Fine - I haven't read this one but fellow member Estragon recommended adding it to this list and that's a good enough endorsement for me. It was originally published in 1942 but various reviews I've read indicate Estragon is far from alone in believing it is still a great book for beginners to read.  Rueben Fine was one of the  greatest chess players of all time who wrote several other books still in print such as Basic Chess Endings and The Ideas Behind The Chess Openings.    ISBN-13: 9780923891503     Publisher: Ishi Press  Latest re-issue: 01/23/09  Pages: 200 Dimensions: 6" W x 9" H x 0.46" (D)   Pages: 200                Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Common Sense In Chess by Dr Lasker – A collection of 12 lectures he gave to the London Chess Club in 1895. The book is still timely for beginners despite being written over a century ago, Lasker was chess champion of the world from 1894-1921 and is still considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. Click on this link to look at on online copy of his book:

A Primer of Chess, Chess Fundamentals, Last Lectures and My Chess Career all by J R Capablanca – JRC was chess champion of the world from 1921-1927 and is also considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. His books are short and easy to read, his explanations are usually brief and he often expects the reader to figure things out for themself instead of spoon-feeding him/her all the answers.

Last Lectures was a series of ten radio lectures the great Cuban made in 1942 shortly before his untimely death on the following topics: 1. The Importance of the Endgame 2. King and Pawn Endings 3. Value of the Pieces 4. Pawn Positions 5. Middlegame Combinations 6. Bishop v. Knight Endings  7. A Rook and Pawn Ending 8. The Ruy Lopez               9. Endgame Masters 10. A Steiner-Capablanca Game

For a free copy of Chess Fundamentals click on any link below (they're all legitmate BTW):

Logical Chess Move By Move and The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played both by Irving Chernev – Chernev was not a great chess master but he was a prolific chess writer and I still think these two books are worthwhile for beginners and the 2nd one is even good for intermediate players as well

GM Nunn has severely criticized “Logical Chess” here's a few links to articles discussing the validity of his criticism (although it hasn't changed my mind about recommending the book)

Pandolfini's Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini The author is a widely respected chess writer and coached the young chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin. Every beginner needs to learn basic endgame skills and this is a very good book for that purpose. Ignore everyone who tells you not to worry about studying endgames for now because “all games have openings but they don't all go into endgames” along with any other bogus reasons you hear or read about not wasting time on studying endgames.

Instead, pay attention to these words of wisdom from Jose Raoul Capablanca, one of the greatest chess players in history:

Ninety percent of the book variations have no great value, because either they contain mistakes or they are based on fallacious assumptions; just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings.

In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else. For whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and openings must be studied in relation to the end game.

Here's a link to a review of Pandolfini's book that I agree with and it also has a list of typo corrections:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess 2nd ed by GM Patrick Wolff. I'm not familiar with it but it's available as an "open source" (whatever that is) free download from a legitimate website, and you can't beat the price! Most of the customer reviews at amazon are favorable, if nothing else here's a chance to look it over first and then deciding if you still want to buy it or not.


1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate & 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinationsboth by Fred Reinfeld. There's a lot of similiar books available so why am I recommending two by a writer many of you consider to be an outdated and obsolete hack? Well, like a lot of other "old-timers" here the first several chess books I read were by Reinfeld, so I still have a soft spot for him underneath my jaded, cynical exterior even though I'll be the first to admit he's been mostly superseded by much better players and writers like Polgar, Pandolfini and Soltis to name but a few. 

BUT, these two books are still relevant for teaching "pattern recognition" because each chapter focuses on one theme for every problem in that chapter: ie back rank mate, x-ray attack, decoy, deflection etc. While this obviously makes things a tad easier for you to solve, it is also a very good learning method. Drawbacks to these books include no prose, no explanations, just diagrams and solutions which haven't been double-checked by Fritz, Rybka or anyone else apparently - but I consider that to be an added bonus - you get to test and improve your analytical skills by correcting the typos and errors yourself!

I don't think these 2 books are indispensable but I've read both and they're still worthwhile for advanced beginners and intermediate players as well, so I'd recommend getting a used copy of at least one if the price is right - namely cheaper than some other combo collection that's a lot more recent and written by a respected writer such as GM Seirawan or Laszlo Polgar for instance. BTW I noticed many complaints about the 1001 Checkmate PB's falling apart due to inferior binding, so as usual read some customer reviews at amazon and/or elsewhere before buying!

Here's a good article on beginner books by fellow member NM Dan Hiesman:

Here's 3 recommendations for advanced beginner's books which I haven't read, but which were written by IM Edward Lasker, GM Max Euwe (World Chess Champion 1935-7) and IM Jeremy Silman, 3 widely respected writers (although Silman does have a fair number of detractors in addition to many loyal fans):

IN CONCLUSION: Keep this in mind when you're studying chess:     Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration     THOMAS EDISON