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|Some of the best chess books ever written|
There are thousands of books available on chess, covering just about every aspect you can imagine. Listed here are a few titles considered classics by many experts on the subject.
Classic chess books frequently go in and out of print. If you can't find a new copy of a title that interests you, check out used book resources. And don't forget your local library!
Chess for Idle Moments
Looking for a single volume that will tell you everything you need to know about chess? These books are great for vacation or bedtime reading.
The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk This book won't teach you much about playing the game, but it will explain why chess is so popular. If you take it on vacation, you won't even need a chess set.
The Mammoth Book of Chess by Graham Burgess Over 500 pages cover all the technical aspects of chess: tactics, openings, glossary, and much more. If you take it on vacation, you will need a chess set to take full advantage of it.
These two books, written in the first half of the 20th century, cover all aspects of the game, starting with how the pieces move through example games. The opening sections are out-of-date, but this is true of any manual -- opening theory moves too fast.
Lasker's Manual of Chess by Emanuel Lasker Lasker was World Champion from 1894 to 1921 and an excellent writer. The chapter on position play is particularly good. Lasker was also a philosopher and shares his thinking throughout the book.
The Game of Chess by Siegbert Tarrasch Tarrasch, Lasker's nemesis at the turn of the last century, was one of the greatest early teachers of the game. The chapters on the endgame and the middlegame are good introductions to the subject.
From Chess Beginner to Chess Intermediate
After you become familiar with the elements of chess, the next step is to apply them to your own games. The books in this category explain the ideas flowing through a complete game.
Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played by Irving Chernev These two books were written in the 1950s/-60s. Almost every chess position has several levels of complexity, where an expert will see one level, a master will see another, and a grandmaster yet another. Chernev had a knack for illuminating the level that is most useful for the average player.
The Search for Chess Perfection by C. J. S. Purdy Purdy, the first World Champion of correspondence chess, spent his entire life writing about the game. This is the only title of Purdy that I've read, but I'm confident that his other writings are equally valuable.
From Chess Intermediate to Chess Expert
There are many good books for the advanced player. Those listed here are also valuable for the player striving for mastery.
Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov Kotov wrote several titles in the 'Like a Grandmaster' series. This was the first and the most valuable.
Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by David Bronstein The only tournament book on this list, the Zurich event determined Botvinnik's challenger for the 1954 World Championship title match. Bronstein, who battled Botvinnik to a tie in the 1951 title match, dissected chess knowledge as it was at the middle of the 20th century. It's one of the first books explaining the early theory of the Indian Defenses and of the Soviet School.
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Mikhail Tal Tal's masterpiece is a mix of autobiography and analysis. World Champion from 1960-1961, Tal had an aggressive, attacking style that is a model for that type of play. Tal's book on his 1960 title match with Botvinnik is another classic worth studying.
The Art of Chess Analysis by Jan Timman Timman, a Dutch grandmaster who was one of the top players of the 1980s, is a modern writer who knows how to explain what is happening in a modern game.
Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances Since Nimzowitsch by John Watson The most recent book on this list, Watson picks up where Nimzovich left off. It is a good introduction to modern chess theory.
I'm not going to recommend any books on specific openings. There are too many of them! You should look for titles that complement your own opening preferences.
One word of caution - don't believe everything you read in an opening book. They often contain errors in analysis.
Modern Chess Openings: MCO-14 by Nick De Firmian If you want a general work on openings, try this. Older MCOs also have a certain value.
The Middle Game in Chess
Chess Tactics for Advanced Players by Yuri Averbakh Develops the principles behind tactical operations by dissecting double attacks and combinations. Has hundreds of examples, some complete games, and many exercises to test your knowledge.
The Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vukovic I haven't read this book myself, but so many good players have recommended it that I'm sure it's valuable.
My System by Aron Nimzovich Like Steinitz, who explained the positional game as it was understood by the best players at the end of the 19th century, Nimzovich explained positional play as it was understood between World Wars I and II.
The Chess Endgame
Many beginning players think the endgame is the hardest phase of the game to master. This might be because endgame methods are more important than moves.
Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge by Yuri Averbakh This slim volume covers the most basic positions with a minimum number of pieces on the board. You will be amazed at how simple chess positions can contain such rich ideas.
Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine and Pal Benko This was the original encyclopedia of chess endings, covering simple positions to more complicated positions. It explains the methods used in the positions and gives examples from master practice.
The more you know about the history of the game, the better you'll play. I don't know why it's true, but it is. Maybe it has something to do with general motivation.
Chess: The History of a Game by Richard Eales There aren't many titles which cover the history of chess from its origin to recent times. Eales goes up to the early 1980s.
The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld The OCC is an indispensable reference to the history and culture of the game. It's structured like an encyclopedia, with internal references to related material.