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25 Best Chess Books Every Player Must Have [updated] E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin   
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

25 best chess booksThere are 1000s and 1000s of chess books available in the stores and online. Which ones are worth buying and spending time on?

What books would really help a chess player to win more games and gain so desired rating points? Let's find out what books are the best!

1. Carlsen's Assault on the Throne by Kotronais and Logothetis

"In 2013 chess returned to world headlines. The energetic Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen was front page news and his fans were not disappointed: the World Number 1 won the World Championship. " New In Chess

grandmaster versus amateur2. Grandmaster vs Amateur edited by Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw

"Seven grandmasters contributed to this unique book, taking us on a chapter-by-chapter romp that compares the techniques of amateur and professional chess players. Each writer brings his individual talents and values to the discussion by annotating games won and lost, with each chapter written as an insightful essay." ChessCafe

3. Secrets of Practical Chess by John Nunn

"Teaches how to correct bad habits...the remedies come in very useful, clear-cut writing" - Lubosh Kavalek, WASHINGTON POST

4. Understanding Chess Middlegames by John Nunn

"All in all, this book is an amazing piece of history that makes for fascinating reading. It is entertaining, instructive, and plenty of fun. The editors at Chess Informant have done all chess lovers a great favor by putting this book together. This hefty tome is well worth the price of admission. Go get it." ChessCafe

5. Modern Chess Move by Move by Colin crouch

"Leading chess author Colin Crouch selects and explains over 30 sensational games, all from the new millennium. By studying battles between the world’s best players, Crouch examines in detail all the key areas of modern chess." Everyman Chess

fighting chess move by move6. Fighting Chess: Move by Move by Colin Crouch

"Move by Move provides an ideal platform to study chess. By continually challenging the reader to answer probing questions throughout the book, the Move by Move format greatly encourages the learning and practising of vital skills just as much as the traditional assimilation of knowledge." New In Chess

7. Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation by Jacob Aagaard

"I have used Calculation in work with my students. It is very valuable and I am very happy I bought it."  GM Artur Yusupov

"I really like Jacob Aagaard's books; I always recommend them and use them myself." GM Viktor Bologan

8. Grandmaster Preparation - Attack & Defence by Jacob Aagaard

"It’s for the serious player. For those of you, who still keep dreaming about their master titles and want to work for them... The style in which [it is] written truly reflects the high level of writing Quality Chess is known and famous for!"  Lukas Wedrychowski

dvoretsky analytic manual9. Grandmaster Preparation - Strategic Play by Jacob Aagaard

"In Strategic Play Jacob Aagaard digs deep into the most complex area of chess thinking. The games and exercises in this book transcend regular chess skills, such as pattern recognition, calculation and positional analysis. Building on the two previous books in the Grandmaster Preparation series, this book challenges the reader to explore the complexities of chess, offering clarity and understanding through Aagaard’s straightforward approach." Amazon

10. Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual by Mark Dvoretsky

"Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual is, in short, a godsend, and a must for every grandmaster and every aspiring grandmaster (still young – under 40?), with high hopes and ambitions. " ChessCafe

11. Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson

"The first section of the book discusses how the understanding of classical themes, such as pawn majorities, the center, and structural weaknesses, have been refined. Then author moves on to discuss new concepts, including the willingness of modern players to accept backward pawns in return for dynamic play, the idea of a good 'bad' bishop, knights finding useful roles at the edge of the board and the exchange sacrifice idea."

12. Excelling at Chess by Jacob Aagaard

"Aagaard, an experienced chess author, considers this to be his “best work” and indicates that he “wanted to write about understanding in chess” in a way “that people would find to be a good read.” He most certainly achieved his objective." ChessCafe

endgame tactics13. Chess Strategy in Action by John Watson

"The author illustrates the modern practice of chess with many examples from imaginative players such as Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Ivanchuk and tempestuous innovators such as Shirov and Morozevich."

14. Secrets of Pawn Endings by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht

"This book provides a thorough course in endings with just kings and pawns, from the simple to the highly complex. Armed with this knowledge, the reader will also be able to tackle other types of endgame with greater confidence and certainty. Meaning more games won!"

15. Nunn’s Chess Endings 1 & 2 by John Nunn

"In this major two-volume work, renowned endgame theoretician John Nunn teaches the skills that are most important to success in practical endgames."

16. Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky

"I am sure that those who study this work carefully will not only play the endgame better, but overall, their play will improve. One of the secrets of the Russian chess school is now before you, dear reader!” -  GM Artur Yusupov"

garry kasparov on garry kasparov17. Tragicomedy in the Endgame: Instructive Mistakes of the Masters by Mark Dvoretsky

"This book is designed to highlight the key concepts of the most common chess endgames and will prove quite instructive to chess players of all levels. Topics include: The King in the Endgame,  Pawn play,  Zugzwang, Saving Methods, Tactics in the Endgame, Piece Maneuvering, Piece Exchanges 'Technique' and much more!"

18. Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov, Part 1: 1973-1985 and Part II: 1985-1993

"This series will be unique by the fact that it will record the greatest chess battles played by the greatest chess player of all-time."

19. Mastering The Chess Openings Series by John Watson

"Watson writes that he aimed this book for a wide range from a "low-rated player with say, one or two year’s experience, to a long-time player who is familiar with a good deal of theory.” I am not sure if this is possible but would say that it is definitely must reading for anyone rated 2000 on up who has any interest in the English or modern chess." IM Jeremy Silman

20. A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White by John Watson

"It is the chess-player's holy grail: a flexible repertoire that gives opponents real problems but doesn't require masses of memorization or continual study of ever-changing grandmaster theory."

21. The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White by Larry Kaufman

"Grandmaster and former senior world champion Larry Kaufman provides a ready-to-go repertoire for both colors that is based not on what on what is objectively ‘best’ (meaning the most popular in recent grandmaster play), but on what is easy to digest for amateurs."

the kaufman repertoire for black and white22. Studies for Practical Players by Mark Dvoretsky and Oleg Pervakov

"How do we develop good habits of winning endgame play? There are lots of manuals; but this may be the first in which a famous practical player, a trainer with a world-renowned name, and a study composer who has earned the title of International Grandmaster of Composition, share their views in one and the same book."

23. Encyclopedia of Chess Problems by Milan Velimirovic & Kari Valtonen

"Every fan of chess composition can find in this book some thing of interest."

24. Russian Silhouettes by Genna Sosonko

"Genna Sosonko observes the golden age Soviet chess from a privileged dual perspective. Combining an insider's nostalgia with the detachment of a critical observer, he has produced unforgettable portraits of the heroes of this bygone era: Tal, Botvinnik, Geller, Polugaevsky, and the legendary trainer Zak are some of his subjects." Amazon

25. The World Champions I Knew by Gennady  Sosonko

"The legendary chess players that Genna Sosonko brings to life in this new collection of his acclaimed writing have one thing in common: Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal and Petrosian, they were all world champions."


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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 April 2014 23:10


0 #18 Martin Dixon 2017-01-22 05:42
I don't know when this list was created but there are a number of good/better books available as of 2017. Since we all know mate ends the game, not knowing enough mating patterns is criminal. Please add Gormally's "Mating the Castled King" to the list. Romanovsky's reprint by QC, "Soviet Middlegame Techniques," is excellent and firmly grounded in the classics. Yusupov's Build/Boost series is fantastic. Maizelis's "The Soviet Chess Primer" taught me more about corresponding squares than I ever learned in 25 years of playing. I should hit my mentors over the head with a book. Van Perlo's "Endgame Tactics" needs to be right beside Dvoretsky. And my last recommendation, which will be debated widely, is Shashin's "Best Play" where he creates a mathematical formula for assessing your position from defensive (Petrosian algorithm) to positional (Capablanca algorithm) to attacking (Tal algorithm). While it does not tell you what your next move should or will be, it does steer you into safer waters by looking at five key elements. Material, counting the number of squares your pieces control, king safety, pawn density, and piece expansion. He makes some good points about strategic attacks on pieces and strategic defense in which you control empty squares you don't control. It's a difficult read but stick with it.
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+3 #17 chessbibliophile 2014-05-26 21:15
“My 60 Memorable Games” is included in our forthcoming list of classics.
Check out our reply on the choice of books here:
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+2 #16 nestor 2014-05-26 17:46
My 60 Memorable Games is the best. IMHO this list just serve as promotional advertisements only.
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+1 #15 chessbibliophile 2014-04-30 02:56
John Watson has reviewed books on Carlsen. It may be of interest:
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+1 #14 chessbibliophile 2014-04-09 09:06
Dear readers,
We have kept our promise. Here is the list of books for beginners.
Even advanced players can benefit by reading some of them.
Do take a look:
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+1 #13 chessbibliophile 2014-04-02 11:51
Dear Paul Weaver,
Check out our reply to readers:
It addresses most of the issues you have raised. On others I shall be brief.
“My System”, “Zurich 1953”and “My 60 Memorable Games” would be in our forthcoming list of classics.That is why they are not on this list.
We had to limit the list to 25 titles.
So we had to exclude individual game collections, Kasparov being the exception.
Even otherwise the current Tal and Petrosian game collections leave much to be desired.
“Tal-Botvinnik 1960”, however, would make to the forthcoming classics list.
As for Kotov, his analysis method has come in for some serious criticism from GM authors like Nunn and Tisdall.
His work is no longer taken for granted.
We would like this list to be reliable and trustworthy.
So Kotov had to be out.
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+1 #12 Paul Weaver 2014-04-02 00:12
IMHO nothing new has been discovered for the middlegame nor much for the ending. Sure the computers can correct the living daylights out of Basic chess endings but there is nothing new under the sun. Well annotated game collections are priceless i.e. praxis, Zurich 53 by Bronstein, Petrosians and Tal's best games, not to mention my 60 memorable games. My system is great! Kotov's "like a grandmaster" series of books are fantastic with lots of practical advice.
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+1 #11 chessbibliophile 2014-03-30 02:55
An update:A new edition of Van Perlo's Endgame tactics is due for release this year. See the publisher's site for info.
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+1 #10 chessbibliophile 2014-03-26 20:52
Other readers may check out a detailed response to suggestions here:

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+2 #9 chessbibliophile 2014-03-26 20:47
Dear reader,
Your comment came too late to be considered in the Reply.
There are about ten books by this author and you have not specified a title.
We had to limit this list to 25 books and excluded games collections (Kasparov being the exception).
Otherwise we accord a high rating to the following title edited by Silman:
Pal Benko: My Life, Games and Compositions".
It’s an autobiography of Pal Benko with deeply annotated games, studies and problems.
There is a special section on Benko’s openings by John Watson.
You may check out a review here:
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