Good Positional Chess, Planning & Strategy Books for Beginners and Beyond

Good Positional Chess, Planning & Strategy Books for Beginners and Beyond

Apr 29, 2017, 4:01 PM |

If you are stuck at the lower levels of the rating scale, it may be time for you to begin your study of positional chess and all that follows from it - i.e., planning and strategy.

Most beginner-novices typically have only vague notions when it comes to developing a plan or conceiving a strategy – at least, beyond attacking and trying to capture their opponent’s unprotected pieces.  When they become more skilled at tactics they might look for tricky opportunities such as pins, forks, discovered or double attacks.  But these in and of themselves are not so much the result of plans and strategies as they are identifying immediate tactical opportunities.

Once the opponents become more proficient at protecting their material, tactical opportunities become more difficult to find.  It is then that the realization begins to dawn on the chess player that (s)he must find a way to create (as opposed to identify) tactical opportunities.

To do this you must first be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the chess position at hand, and assess the advantages and disadvantages it presents to both players. 

The missing piece which allows one to see the "big picture" and to play chess with a plan, is provided by an understanding of the concepts of positional chess.  Positional chess is a way of looking at a chess position for the purposes of understanding what it is telling you about what you should be doing (or not doing).  The techniques of positional chess provide the means by which a successful plan of action can be executed. 

As a first step, I recommend every beginner-novice first become familiar with the concepts presented in Yasser Seirawan's excellent introductory text "Play Winning Chess".  The book focuses on explaining what GM Seirawan posits to be the four primary principles which must be considered when objectively evaluating a chess position – Force, Time, Space and Pawn Structure.  Understanding how to properly evaluate and use these principles is fundamental to the process of formulating plans and strategies which will enable you to significantly improve the chances for a successful result in your games. The importance of the concepts presented in this instructive book cannot be overstated.  

Having been exposed to the four major concepts, you will be ready to proceed to "Weapons of Chess" by Bruce Pandolfini.  I consider this book to be a must-read for all improving amateurs.  It provides an excellent introduction to the basic elements and techniques of positional chess, including extensive instruction on pawn play.  It will provide you with the basic tools, if you will, to use when conceiving and executing a plan.  

I suggest you follow "Weapons of Chess", with Michael Stean's classic, "Simple Chess" (don't let the title fool you!), which instructively demonstrates the implementation of the concepts and techniques of positional chess within the context of practical play of grandmaster games.

Once you have absorbed the concepts and techniques presented in the books above, I strongly recommend to begin working with "The Amateur's Mind..." by Jeremy Silman.  In the book, 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, making suggestions for correct play, and explaining how to formulate plans and strategies.  Positional chess concepts are incorporated and stressed throughout.

For instructive supplements to the books above, consider "Elements of Positional Evaluation" by Dan Heisman, "Back to Basics: Strategy" by Valeri Beim,  "Winning Chess Strategies" By Yasser Seirawan, and the classic  "Modern Chess Strategy" by Ludek Pachman (written using the older "descriptive" chess notation; I recommend the Dover Publishing edition).  These are all excellent primers on how to conceive and implement plans and strategies within the framework of positional chess, and like the other books above are targeted to the improving amateur player.

Absorbing the fundamental concepts presented in the books above will provide the essential foundation for understanding and playing chess at a higher level, while also serving as preparation for more advanced chess books. 

For follow-on lessons I recommend any of the following (more advanced) books, which continue to focus and instruct on the application of positional concepts, planning and strategy in practice.  For the amateur, the books do tend to get somewhat more demanding from top to the the bottom of the list, but they may be read in any order, as the interest strikes you.  Also, it isn't necessary to read them linearly - i.e., finishing one before starting another.  In fact, IMO, you can profitably read portions of them simultaneously as you are motivated...

The Art of Planning In Chess: Move By Move by Neil McDonald

Chess Secrets: The Giants of Strategy by Neil McDonald

Techniques of Positional Play By Bronznik & Terekhin

Chess Training for Post-Beginners by Yaroslav Srokovski

Chess Strategy for Club Players By Herman Grooten

How to Reassess Your Chess By Jeremy Silman

The following are very advanced treatments, suitable for players rated Class-A and above...

Mastering Chess Strategy  by Johan Hellsten

The Complete Manual of Positional Chess - Opening and Middlegame by Sakaev & Landa

The Complete Manual of Positional Chess - Middlegame Structures and Dynamics by Skaev & Landa

Positional Play by Jacob Aagaard

Finally, accurate pawn play is a fundamental aspect of positional chess.  Pawn structure provides the road map which indicates the optimum route to take for formulating plans and strategies - for both attack and defense.  For instructive books on this important facet of the game see.... 

Chess Books on Pawn Play and Structure - for Beginners and Beyond...

For additional, instructive books on a broader range of topics, and which are targeted to the improving chess amateur who has not yet added "Master" to their chess title, check out the following...

Good Chess Books for Beginners and Beyond...