Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond

Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond


Whether you are new to chess, or an experienced chess amateur looking for some books to help you improve, this list is for you. The emphasis here is on fundamentals and instructional value - for the improving chess player. These are some of the better books (IMO), elucidating the essential elements which every serious chess player should know.

While many of the books in the list are targeted primarily to the beginner-intermediate audience, there are also selections for more advanced players, up to and including expert level. So there should be something of interest here for every amateur chess player - especially those who haven't yet added "Master" to their chess title!

The list is divided roughly into the following groups - general chess coverage, tactics, attacking/checkmating technique, the opening, the endgame, positional-strategic concepts and techniques, and instructive game collections. The books toward the top of the list tend to be targeted more to the beginner-novice. Most of the more "advanced" books appear further down the list - for example books which emphasize positional-strategic considerations, and select games collections. 

For the beginner I suggest the following as good FIRST BOOKS to read on their respective topics (each of these books is also commented on in the main article body):

For the absolute beginner who knows next to nothing about the game and simply wants the quickest and easiest possible initial exposure to chess and how the game is played at its most basic level - "Let's Play Chess: A Step by Step Guide for New PlayersBy Bruce Pandolfini.  Another excellent introduction to chess is "Learn Chess" by John Nunn.

For a first chess course - more comprehensive than the quick-start books above, providing basic coverage of all aspects of chess - "Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide to Chess" by Bruce Pandolfini, followed by "Winning Chess Strategy For Kids" by Jeff Coakley (it's not just for kids!).

For your first book on chess tactics - "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" by Fischer and Margulies.  Follow this with "Winning Chess" by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld.

For an introduction to chess opening concepts - "Discovering Chess Openings..." by John Emms.  It focuses specifically on understanding FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of opening play.

For first books on endgame basics - two books by Bruce Pandolfini - "Pandolfini's Endgame Course" and "Endgame Workshop".

Finally, after becoming comfortable with the topics above, for excellent initial exposure to the basic elements and techniques of positional-strategic chess, begin with "Play Winning Chess" by Yasser Seirawan; then follow immediately with Bruce Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess".  Studying these first will provide an essential foundation for understanding and playing chess at a higher level, and serve as preparation for more advanced chess books.  "Tactics flow from a superior position" - Former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer; "Tactics are the servants of strategy" - former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik .

For additional book recommendations on openings, positional chess and strategy, pawn play, and more, check out my BLOG....


**Click on the book titles for more information, reader reviews, etc., on**

Let's Play Chess: A Step by Step Guide for New Players 

By Bruce Pandolfini.  For perhaps the easiest, quick-start introduction to chess for those brand-new to the game.  Written in a succint, easy to read format, it explains the rules, fundamental chess principles and lots of practical advice on how to think and plan correctly when playing the game. Also explains "algebraic" chess notation.   This book will get you started on the path to playing good chess.  For a deeper introduction, or supplement, see "Learn Chess" by John Nunn.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

By Bobby Fischer and Stuart Margulies.  It is said that the three most important of elements of chess to learn first are - Tactics, Tactics, Tactics!  If you aren't already good at seeing and using pins, forks, double attacks, checkmating attacks, etc., then you need this book!  For the beginner, this is simply the best and easiest first introduction to basic chess tactics primer.  If you are new to chess I recommend to begin your study of chess tactics here!  In fact, this would be a great very first chess book for those just starting out in chess.  For an instructive supplement or follow-on, consider "Chess Tactics for Students" by John A. Bain.

Winning Chess

By Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld.  A classic.  A primer of basic chess tactics, targeted to the beginner-novice player. Chapters are thematically organized by tactic.  Also very good is "Winning Chess Tactics" by Yasser Seirawan.  Either (or, even better, both!) of these books would be an excellent follow-on to the "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" book (above).

Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide To Chess

By Bruce Pandolfini.  An excellent introduction to chess for the beginner.  Explains the fundamental concepts of good chess play.  Treats all aspects of chess, including basic tactics, strategy/planning, positional concepts, as well as fundamentals of opening, middlegame, and endgame play.  Also featured is a complete chess game, where the considerations involved in choosing every move are analyzed in detail.  Supplement or follow this with "Winning Chess Strategy for Kids" by Jeff Coakley (below) - it's not just for kids!

Winning Chess Strategy for Kids

By Jeff Coakley.  It must be said up front that this book is not just for kids.  It is an introductory chess course appropriate for EVERY beginner-novice (and many intermediate players). The book is loaded with great chess instruction, on every aspect of chess.  Coakley's book supplements, builds on and extends many of the ideas and concepts introduced in "Pandolfini's Ultimate Guide to Chess" (above).  Thus, the two books together would comprise a very good introductory chess curriculum.  

Having absorbed the lessons from the books above, you will be ready for the following books...

Play Winning Chess
By Yasser Seirawan. Targeted to the beginner-novice player. Focuses on explaining what GM Seirawan posits to be the four primary principles of chess – Force, Time, Space, and Pawn Structure.  Understanding how to properly evaluate and use these principles will enable you to formulate plans and strategies to significantly improve your chances for a successful result in your games.  The importance of the concepts introduced in this instructive book cannot be overstated.  In fact, I consider this book to be a MUST-READ for the beginner whose goal is to play better chess!  I recommend to follow this immediately with another must-read, "Weapons of Chess" by Bruce Pandolfini (below).

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess, Third Edition

By Patrick Wolff. A well written, introductory, comprehensive, "everything in one", book on chess for players up to intermediate level.  It provides coverage of all aspects of chess.  See also Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters" (2 vols.) by Lev Alburt and Larry Parr.

Tips for Young Players

By Matthew Sadler.  Suitable for ALL players (irrespective of age) up to intermediate level.  Introduces and clarifies fundamental principles and techniques essential to playing good chess.  (Pages 70-103 are devoted to a tutorial on opening play using the The London System opening).  See also "The ABC's of Chess" and "The Chess Doctor", both by Bruce Pandolfini; "64 Things You Need To Know In Chess" by John Walker; "Why You Lose At Chess" by Fred Reinfeld.  Discover the plethora of practical chess tips contained in all of these very instructive books.

Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions and Ideas

by GM Lev Alburt.  A 2-volume series. The title says it all.  Here are highly instructive tactical scenarios and motifs, presented in puzzle format, which every chess player would benefit by working through. Working through these mini-lessons WILL improve your game!  Advanced players may want to follow up with  "300 Most Important Chess Positions" by Thomas Engqvist, which examines fundamental tactical, positional and strategic themes, from the opening to the endgame, also presented in a short-lesson format.

1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations

An oldie but goodie, classic by Fred Reinfeld.  Chess tactics and combinations puzzles thematically arranged by chapter. See also another Reinfeld classic, "1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate".  Answers in back of both books.

Back to Basics: Tactics 

By Dan Heisman.  Focuses on the process of analyzing and calculating chess tactics, and introduces the essential concept of 'counting' material during combinations.  With its detailed explanations, many consider this to be one of the more instructive books on tactics for the novice.  For the defender's perspective on chess tactics, see "Looking for Trouble..." (2nd Ed.) also by Dan Heisman.

Fundamental Chess Tactics
by Antonio Gude.  A systematic, comprehensive course in chess tactics for all post-beginners.  Tactics are organized by theme.  Features instructive tactics examples taken from the games of world class players, including legends of chess and world champions.  See also the popular "Chess Tactics for Champions" by Susan Polgar.

Chess Tactics from Scratch: Understanding Chess Tactics

By Martin Weteschnik.  This is not your typical tactics book, but instead is a relatively advanced course in chess tactics and combinations, focusing on methodologies for analyzing tactics, for the intermediate player and above.  The uniqueness of the book is that the author attempts to systematize the process of examining any position in order to determine if certain conditions exist which would make the position amenable to a given type of tactic. The tactical themes are arranged by chapter. Study this after familiarity with the material in the introductory tactics books listed earlier.  Follow up with "How to Calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim (also advanced), "Learn Chess Tactics" by John Nunn (more advanced) and "Forcing Chess Moves" by Charles Hertan (even more advanced).

The Art of Checkmate

By Renaud & Kahn.  Perhaps the best book ever written on fundamental checkmating patterns and technique.  I recommend the new algebraic notation editions, published by Russell Enterprises, or by Batsford, of the classic originally published (using "Descriptive" notation) by Dover.  For additional, more complex checkmating scenarios, thematically organized, follow up with the excellent "Fundamental Checkmates" by Antonio Gude.

Attacking the King

By J.N. (John) Walker.  A primer on how to attack, and checkmate, your opponent's king.  You need to learn how to create and exploit these attacking opportunities - if for no other reason than not becoming a victim yourself!  See also "The Winning Way" by Bruce Pandolfini, and "Simple Attacking Plans" by Fred Wilson.  Each of these offer valuable instruction, targeted to the beginner-novice player, on how to plan and play for an attack on your opponent's king.  For instructive, practical examples of checkmating attacks taken from master level games, see Mastering Checkmates by Neil McDonald.  Appropriate primarily for the advanced player is "Mating the Castled King" by Danny Gormally.

Art of Attack in Chess

By Ladimir Vukovic.  A classic.  A well-organized, thematic treatment of everything you wanted to know about attacking your opponent's king.  Considered by many to be the definitive work on the topic.  Highly recommended as well is Jacob Aagaard's award-winning "Attacking Manual" (Vols 1 & 2).  Also excellent are: “How to Play Dynamic Chess” by Valeri Beim; "Secrets of Attacking Chess" by Mihail Marin;  "Attacking Chess for Club Players" by Herman Grooten.  From the defender's perspective, see "How to Defend in Chess" by Colin Crouch and  "New Art of Defence In Chess" by Andrew Soltis.  Each of these books is relatively advanced, and suitable primarily for the experienced, intermediate level and above player.

A Guide to Chess Improvement: The Best Of Novice Nook

By Dan Heisman.  The content of this book is extracted from Heisman's "Novice Nook" columns on (the now apparently defunct)  In addition to chapters on opening play, tactics, endgame, positional chess and strategy, the book provides advice and guidelines on topics relevant to the concrete, non-theoretic (if you will), aspects of playing rated, over-the-board play at chess clubs and tournaments - for example, Time Management, Thought Process, Skills and Psychology.  It's like having a chess coach by your side.  For many instructive articles by Heisman treating all aspects of the game of chess, see his "Novice Nook" articles in the archives....

Discovering Chess Openings: Building Opening Skills from Basic Principles

By John Emms.  A MUST-READ for the beginner-novice.  Many chess teachers advise against spending excessive time on the study of openings variations for the beginner, but they do agree it is important to acquire a solid understanding of opening PRINCIPLES right from the start.  This book explains the basics of opening FUNDAMENTALS better than any other book!  If you are uncertain about what you should be thinking and doing during the opening, this book does an exceptional job of addressing these issues.  For a good supplement to Emms' book see Chess Openings  by Mike Basman.  A well-written, instructive book, targeted to the beginner-novice audience, focusing on the application of opening principles and techniques while doing a better than average job explaining not only HOW to play the opening, but WHY moves are made.  Features tutorial overview chapters on the following openings: Giuoco Piano, Sicilian Dragon, Queen's Gambit, Nimzo-Indian Defence, and Morra Gambit.  For instructive examples of how to exploit mistakes and inaccuracies in the opening, see "Chess Openings: Traps and Zaps" (2 volumes) by Bruce Pandolfini.

Back to Basics: Openings

By Carsten Hansen.  Provides an introductory overview of not only basic opening principles and theory, but a broad survey of essentially every chess opening.  While the treatment of each opening is cursory, it is helpful in gauging what the opening is about, providing perspective and sufficient exposure to be helpful in deciding which openings you might be interested in pursuing in more depth.  See also "Winning Chess Openings" by Yasser Seirawan; "Openings for Amateurs"  by Pete Tamburro.

FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings

By Paul van der Sterren.  If you want to delve more deeply into specific chess openings, and at some point you will, this is one of, if not the best, single-volume, comprehensive openings references available.  Covers all the major openings.  

Mastering the Chess Openings

By John Watson.  A 4-volume openings reference covering most of the major openings.  This is simply the best (IMO) and most comprehensive exposition of openings themes, plans and theory available.  Watson's ability to clarify concepts of the various openings is outstanding. See also "Chess Opening Essentials..." (4 Vols.) by Djuric, Komarov & Pantaleoni.

Pawn Structure Chess

By Andrew Soltis.  A classic.  While not strictly an openings book per se, Soltis describes and analyzes the major pawn structures arising from the opening and their implications for how to plan.  See also "Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide" by Mauricio Flores Rios;  "Chess Success: Planning After the Opening" by Neil McDonald.

First Steps: 1 e4 e5

By John Emms.  Provides an instructive introduction and overview of the ideas, plans, tactics and strategies of all the major double king pawn openings (i.e., "the open games"), including the Italian Game, Evans Gambit, Two Knights Defence, Ruy Lopez, Four Knights Game, Scotch Game and others.  This is another fine effort by one of the better chess authors.  For a follow-on, in-depth introduction to these openings, see "Starting Out: Open Games" by Glenn Flear.

My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White

By Vincent Moret.  Here is a dynamic opening repertoire for White based on 1.e4, targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  The approach is somewhat different from most repertoire books.  The author's stated intention is to present an aggressive, yet sound set of openings which can be learned with "minimal" study.  That is, he has purposefully restricted the amount of material to that which is sufficient to understand the main themes of the recommended variations.  The presentation is focused on select variations that have a higher probability of actually being able to be played, while eschewing the myriad lines which have less likelihood.  This cuts down significantly on the amount of material to be studied.  If you require more information related to the openings he presents, you should consult resources which treat them more comprehensively.  But the author's intent is to get you started playing the recommended lines as quickly as possible by learning themes and plans, as opposed to memorizing lots variations (i.e., "theory").

The author also does a better than average job of explaining not only WHAT you should be trying to do in each line (the themes), but also takes time to clarify WHY you are making the recommended moves, and in many cases lays out the procedure for HOW you should go about playing the lines.  Many authors don't go to the same lengths to explain things as thoroughly.  In fact, you will learn a lot about how to just play chess from this book.

Which lines are covered in the book?

  • White's main line in the open game will be the Italian Game - Giuoco Piano - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5.  Also presented is a response to The Two Knights Defense (3...Nf6), when White will respond with 4.Ng5.
  • Against the Sicilian Defense, White will head for the Grand Prix Attack - 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 - following up with a quick f2-f4.
  • Against the French Defense - 1.e4 e6 - White responds with the King's Indian Attack.
  • Against the Caro Kann Defense, White will play the Advance Variation  - 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 (looking to follow with e6 and the so-called Night Attack).
  • Against The Pirc/Modern Defenses - 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 - White will head for the St.George Attack/Yugoslav Attack.
  • He briefly covers other responses by Black as well, for example The Scandinavian Defense, Philidor's Defense and Petroff Defense.

Overall this is a fun, yet effective White opening repertoire, instructively presented, which the beginner-intermediate player can quickly put to use, with "minimal" study required.

Chess Openings for Black, Explained: A Complete Repertoire

By Lev Alburt et al.  This, together with its companion volume, "Chess Openings for White Explained", comprise a complete opening repertoire targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  

For Lev Alburt's Black repertoire (Book 1), the main line against 1.e4 is the Sicilian Defense - Accelerated Dragon, and against 1.d4, Black will play the Nimzo-Indian Defense, if given the opportunity.

Also from Black's perspective in the "Open" game (1.e4 e5) , see  "Play the Open Games As Black" by John Emms; "Beating the Open Games, 2nd Ed." by Mihail Marin; "Opening Repertoire: The Open Games with Black" by Martin Lokander; "How to Beat the Open Games" by Sverre Johnsen;  "Play 1 e4 e5: A Complete Repertoire for Black in the Open Games" by Nigel Davies.

For Lev Alburt's White repertoire (Book 2), the main line in the open game (1.e4 e5) features either of the Scotch Gambit, Italian Game/Giuoco Piano, or Two Knights Defense, depending on how Black responds; Against the Sicilian Defense, White plays the Grand Prix Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 - with f2-f4 soon to follow); against the Caro-Kann Defense, White plays the Exchange Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5); against the French Defense (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5) White responds with 3.Nc3.

Also from the White perspective, see "Beating 1 e4 e5: A Repertoire for White in the Open Games" and "Attacking With 1 e4", both by John Emms; "Winning With the Slow (but Venomous!) Italian" by Muller & Souleidis; "Beating Unusual Defenses 1 e4" by Andrew Greet.

Better Chess Openings

By J.E.F. Kaan.  This provides a complete opening repertoire for both White and Black targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  For White, repertoires based on 1.e4 (featuring the Ruy Lopez) and also on 1.d4 are offered (you have a choice!).  For Black, against 1.e4 the repertoire recommends 1...e5  for beginner-novice and 1...e6 (French Defense) for intermediate players; against 1.d4, 1...Nf6 (Queen's Gambit and Indian Defenses) are featured.  Overall, a sound and comprehensive opening repertoire is provided. 

Alterman Gambit Guide

By Boris Alterman.  Playing gambits is fun, but most importantly in so doing you will hone your tactical and attacking skills, while learning the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative.  In this instructive 3-volume series the author offers a select gambit repertoire for both White and Black.  The first volume covers White gambits (G.) as follows: Danish G., Urusov G., Cochran G., Evans G., Morra G., and the Milner-Barry G..  Several other openings are covered including the Morphy Attack vs the Two Knights Defense, the Max Lange Attack and the Panov-Botvinnik Attack.  The second volume features Black Gambits against 1.d4 and 1.c4, primarily the Benko G., Blumenfeld G. and Vaganian G..  The third volume continues with Black Gambits against 1.e4 and 1.f4 - The Marshall Attack, Hector G., Traxler Counterattack, Frankenstein-Dracula G., Falkbeer Counter G., and From's G.  A site devoted to gambits -

How to Build Your Chess Opening Repertoire

By Steve Giddins.  A book to guide you in the considerations involved in choosing your openings - the title says it all.  For some opening repertoire suggestions see...

See also my blog article - Chess Openings Resources for Beginners and Beyond.

Pandolfini's Endgame Course

By Bruce Pandolfini.  A popular and instructive introductory endgame book for the beginner-novice, covering endgame basics, in an easy to use format - one lesson per page.  For book errata see... 

For additional, detailed exposition of fundamental endgame concepts and principles see "Endgame Workshop", also by Bruce Pandolfini.  In fact, it would be a good idea to study both of these endgame books together, as they more complement/supplement, than duplicate, each other.

Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner To Master

By Jeremy Silman.  A popular, comprehensive, introductory endgame manual, covering most of the basic endgame concepts and scenarios you should become familiar with on your way to chess mastery!  For players rated below 2000, if you could own only one introductory endgame book this would be an excellent choice. A good supplement would be "Winning Chess Endings" by Yasser Seirawan.  For an advanced treatise, see "Fundamental Chess Endings" by Muller & Lamprecht.

100 Endgames You Must Know

By Jesus de la Villa.  The title says it all.  Though focused on common endgame scenarios, this book is more suitable for the experienced, post-novice player.  See also "Chess Endings Essential Knowldege" by Yuri Averbakh; "Secrets of Pawn Endings" by Muller & Lamprecht; "The Survival Guide to Rook Endings" by John Emms; "Understanding Rook Endgames" by Muller & Konoval; "Starting Out: Minor Piece Endgames" by John Emms; "101 Chess Endgame Tips" by Steve Giddins.

Weapons of Chess: An Omnibus of Chess Strategies 

By Bruce Pandolfini.  A MUST-READ for the chess novice.  After acquiring proficiency in chess tactics, and having gained exposure to the four primary principles of chess (Force, Time, Space and Pawn Stucture) introduced in Yasser Seirawan's "Play Winning Chess" (above), this is the book to begin your study of POSITIONAL CHESS - the essential foundation for playing chess at the highest levels.  Introduces the fundamental concepts and techniques - the building blocks - essential to evaluating and exploiting chess positions for the purpose of conceiving and implementing plans and strategies.  For an exceptionally instructive chess book and excellent follow-on to "Weapons..." see "New Ideas In Chess" by Larry Evans (Dover Pub. edition, ISBN 0486283054, in Descriptive notation), which also elaborates on the four primary principles introduced in Seirawan's "Play Winning Chess".  As a supplement to these consider "Positional Ideas In Chess" by John Love (ISBN 0939298848).  Having been exposed to the fundamental elements of positional chess, you will be well prepared to proceed with the practical implementation of these ideas as instructively presented in two other must-reads - “Simple Chess” by Michael Stean and "The Amateur's Mind" by Jeremy Silman (see below).  

Elements of Positional Evaluation: How the Pieces Get Their Power

By Dan Heisman.  Targeted to the beginner-intermediate player, this would be a good supplement or follow-on to Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" (above). Heisman provides detailed instruction in fundamental positional chess principles and technique.  Also very instructive is "Back To Basics: Strategy" by Valeri Beim.

Simple Chess

By Michael Stean.  A classic, MUST-READ, suitable for players rated higher than 1300, this is a  recommended follow-on to Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess" (see above).  An introduction to positional play in practice, within the context of instructive Grandmaster games.  If you aspire to progress significantly beyond novice level you will need to have a solid grasp of the positional concepts and techniques presented in these essential books.  Similar in concept to Stean's book, and which I recommend as a supplement, are  "Simple Chess" and "More Simple Chess", both by John Emms (also available in a single volume).  See also the classic  "Modern Chess Strategy" by Ludek Pachman (in descriptive notation).

Best Lessons of a Chess Coach

by Sunil Weeramantry.  Targeted specifically to the beginner-intermediate player, this is an instructive collection of amateur games analyzed to comprise mini lessons.  See also The World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book by Dan Heisman.

The Amateur's Mind

By Jeremy Silman.  This is a MUST-READ for the post-beginner through intermediate chess player, which I recommend, along with Michael Stean's "Simple Chess", as a follow-on to Pandlolfini's "Weapons of Chess" (see above).  Silman analyzes chess games, positions and concepts as though he is discussing them with an amateur player, for the purpose of clarifying proper chess thinking, pointing out typical amateur mistakes and making suggestions for correct play.  See also two classics,  "Chess Master vs Chess Amateur" by former World Chess Champion Max Euwe & Walter Meiden, and "The Game of Chess" by Siegbert Tarrasch (both in descriptive notation).

Winning Chess Strategies

By Yasser Seirawan.  Additional in-depth exposition and practical examples of many of the positional-strategic concepts and techniques introduced in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess", Stean's "Simple Chess" and Silman's "The Amateur's Mind", (above).  Follow these with the instructive  "The Art of Planning In Chess: Move By Move" and "Chess Secrets: The Giants of Strategy...", both by Neil McDonald.

How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances

By Jeremy Silman.  According to the author, this book "was designed for players in the 1400 to 2100 range...[to]...imbue the serious student with a rock solid positional chess an understanding of how to make logical plans based on the needs of the position."  See also "How To Choose A Chess Move" by Andrew Soltis.  As these books are relatively advanced, they are recommended after first becoming familiar with the positional chess fundamentals covered in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess", Stean's "Simple Chess" and Silman's "The Amateur's Mind", (above).

Multiple Choice Chess
By Graeme Buckley. Multiple Choice Chess I & II (two volumes). Analysis of complete grandmaster games where you participate by being asked to guess the next move (choose from a list of candidate moves). You are awarded points based on your answers, allowing you to rate your level of play. A fun way to learn and compare yourself to the masters.

Techniques of Positional Play: 45 Practical Methods to Gain the Upper Hand in Chess

By Valeri Bronznik & Anatoli Terekhin.  An advanced book.  The title says it all.  The techniques are arranged thematically.  This is an exceptional resource for the continuing study of the techniques of positional chess.  Work through this after familiarization with concepts in Pandolfini's "Weapons of Chess", Stean's "Simple Chess", and Silman's "The Amateur's Mind"(above).  See also the similar "Chess Training for Post-Beginners..." by Yaroslav Srokovski.

The Soviet Chess Primer

By Ilya Maizelis.  This was the classic chess training manual-course in the former Soviet Union.  The book is endorsed by three former World Chess Champions - Lasker, Karpov and Kasparov.  Though it begins by treating elementary concepts, the book quickly becomes challenging for the beginner-novice; it therefore is more suitable for the experienced, intermediate player and above.  The book is structured to take the student, with diligent study, to expert level and perhaps beyond. If you are looking for an "advanced" chess course, this would be a good choice.  Consider following this with "Soviet Middlegame Technique" by Peter Romanovsky (below).

Soviet Middlegame Technique

By Peter Romanovsky.  The classic text of the middlegame course used in the former Soviet Union.  An advanced book, targeted to the more experienced player, who possesses a good understanding of positional concepts. This is the most recent english translation (thanks to the publisher, Quality Chess) of the 1960 edition of Romanovsky's work.  The chess course focuses on the practical application of positional concepts and techniques, strategy and planning through the use of games and game fragments of the world's greatest players from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries.  While the games may not be recent, the instructional content is enduring.  See also the classics "The Middlegame" (2 Vols.) by former World Champion Max Euwe and H. Kramer, and "The Art of the Middle Game" by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov (in Descriptive notation).

A First Book of Morphy

By Frisco Del Rosario. Here is an annotated collection of selected games of Paul Morphy, one of the greatest chess players of all time, and a master of the open game.  The book is targeted to the beginner-intermediate player.  I would suggest this as the first games collection book for study by the intended audience.  According to the author "Morphy was the first known genius at chess whose games were the first to show the relationship between the attack and the positional features of center control, development and king safety". Bobby Fischer wrote that "Morphy was perhaps the most accurate player who ever lived", proclaiming that "Morphy's natural talents would be more than sufficient for him to vanquish the best twentieth century players".  Having been exposed to the fundamental chess principles so clearly illustrated in this instructive book you should be well prepared to follow up with the other excellent game collections below.  The Masters on Morphy...

Masters of the Chessboard

By Richard Reti.  A classic.  Here is instructive analysis and commentary of the style of play of the most of the great masters from the mid 19th to the early-to-mid 20th century, including Morphy, Anderssen, Rubinstein, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Tartakower, Spielmann, Capablanca, Lasker, Alekhine, etc.  See also (the chronologically earlier, and also a classic) "Modern Ideas In Chess" by Richard Reti.

Logical Chess - Move By Move

by Irving Chernev.  A classicOne of the most popular chess books of all time.  Targeted to the beginner-intermediate player, this is a collection of grandmaster games, with the reasoning behind virtually every move analyzed and explained.  Identical in format but featuring more recent games, is "Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking From the First Move to the Lastby Neil McDonald (get both!).  See also another Chernev classic "The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played" and "The Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games" by Burgess, Nunn & Emms.

Winning Chess Brilliancies

By Yasser Seirawan.  Twelve grandmaster games deeply annotated, appropriate for all post-beginners. A superb, highly instructive book, which provides an object lesson in how chess games should be annotated.  Another extremely instructive, deeply annotated games collection, but which is targeted primarily to the experienced, intermediate level player and above, is Understanding Chess Move By Move by John Nunn. 

My 60 Memorable Games

By Bobby Fischer.  A classic.  Games of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and former World Champion, selected and annotated by the phenomenon himself.  See also:  "Bobby Fischer: Complete Games of the American World Chess Champion" (contains essentially the game scores only - very little analysis); "My Best Games of Chess 1908-1937", 21st Century Edition, by Alexander Alekhine - a classic games collection by a legendary World Champion; "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games" by Irving Chernev - an essential, classic games collection of Jose Raul Capablanca, one of the greatest endgame players, a chess genius and former World Champion.

How I Beat Fischer's Record

By Judit Polgar.  The first volume of an award winning trilogy by one whom many consider to be the greatest female chess player ever.  Exceptionally well written chess instruction based on her games.  This is chess thinking at the highest level clearly explained.  See also "Judit Polgar: The Princess of Chess" by Tibor Karolyi; "Breaking Through: How the Polgar Sisters Changed the Game of Chess" by Susan Polgar.   A nice article about Judit Polgar's chess career...

Pawn Power in Chess
By Hans Kmoch.  The classic text on the fundamental elements of pawn play.  Although the usage of the outdated "Descriptive" chess notation, and the somewhat quirky, but apt, terminology used to describe structures and concepts may require getting acclimated to, study of this book will continue to pay dividends throughout your chess career.  See also "The Power of Pawns" by Jorg Hickl.

My System

By Aron Nimzowitsch.  An immortal classic of the chess literature!  Initially published in 1925, perhaps no other chess book has had as profound an influence on how chess was played throughout the 20th century.  While there are several excellent editions available, the Lou Hays 21st Century Edition may be the easiest (English) translation to read.  For additional perspective on the book see my blog article.  See also "Chess Praxis" by Nimzowitsch.