8 Chess Books Every Beginner Must Read

         Chess is fun. You don’t need loads of theory to understand and enjoy the game.

Learn it the Easy way. Will you? So here we go.

For starters, if you have a kid and want him to learn chess, give him a book that he would love to see.

0. Every Great Chess Player Was Once A Beginner by Brian Byfield, Alan Orpin and Alan Cracknell (Descriptive Notation)

No, it is not crammed with info. Your kid just learns to recognize pieces and their moves. Also gets to know a couple of tricks like fork and discovered check .There is also a nice game by Morphy in the end.

“Is that all? What is so special about the book?” You ask. It’s warm, humorous. The language is beautiful and the illustrations delightful. Need one say more? The book is long since out of print. A few copies are available at Amazon, though.

“But I am not married and have no kids….”

Missing the joys of parenthood (changing nappies), are you?

Never mind. Enjoy your freedom till it lasts.

Our real list begins here.

1. Chess Secrets I Learned From Masters by Edward Lasker (Descriptive Notation)

A fascinating autobiography in which the author recounts his meetings with the legends of his time, Capablanca, Rubinstein, Alekhine and Reti, not to mention his illustrious namesake Dr. Emanuel Lasker. The book is interspersed with games and positions. You learn without making a conscious effort.

2. Chess Fundamentals by Jose Raul Capablanca (Descriptive Notation)

Learn at the feet of the Cuban genius!

You don’t have to buy the book.

It’s in public domain.

However, if you want a new edition you can go for a hard copy or acquire an ebook in ChessBase or pgn format.

Generations of masters and grandmasters have learnt from this book. Botvinnik called it a classic.

It also has a sequel that deserves to be known.

3. A Primer of Chess by Jose Raul Capablanca

There is some overlap between this book and its predecessor Chess Fundamentals.

The writing on elements in both is essentially the same. However, there are some fresh insights on the middlegame and a dozen games from post-1921 period annotated by Capa. himself.

A recent edition is here:

4. The Amazing Chess Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Amatzia Avni

A series of incredible episodes from the life of a colorful hero whose moves leave you in a state of awe forever.

This is a book that would reveal the wonders of chess to the beginner. More seriously, it’s for all connoisseurs of the game.

A work of extraordinary imagination and creative fantasy not to be missed by anyone.

5. Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics

A lovely book that makes learning endgames a pleasure.

6. The Most Amazing Chess Moves of all Time by John Emms

The title says it all. Learn to find spectacular moves over the board.

7. Great Tournaments and Their Stories by Andrew Soltis (Descriptive Notation)

I stumbled on this old book by chance. You pick up a lot of chess lore even as you enjoy the games annotated by Soltis.

But make sure to compare the annotations with the next in case there are common games.

8. Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms

This book has 125 deeply annotated games from Anderssen to Anand era. Before every game the players are introduced and lessons to be learnt are mentioned in the end. Treat this work as a book of 125 lessons if you like.

We have not recommended any book on openings here. When you go through the games in this book you also learn about openings played therein.

For Further reading:

1. Understanding Chess Middlegames by John Nunn

2. Modern Chess Move by Move by Colin Crouch

3. Fighting Chess: Move by Move by Colin Crouch

4. Understanding Chess Endgames by John Nunn

5. Total Chess: Learn, Teach and Play the Easy 1-2-3 Way by John Herron

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Updated 01.13.2024


If you think learning chess can be hard, you are not alone. The good news is it’s not as hard as most people think. One easy way to learn is through a good quality book. The best books for beginners are the one, which shows, that chess is not another old and boring game, which is very untrue. It is very important especially, when we're talking about kids. One of the brightest examples of such kind of books can be “Chess is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques That Work” by Bill Kilpatrick and Laura Sherman. An easy and handy book specially made for parents, easy to understand and funny to read, including anecdotes in “Coffee Talk” came from the teaching experience of the authors and also “Coach’s Corner” with extra techniques from their experiences. The second book, which is even better, is written by Maksim Aksanov - net-bossorg/chess-puzzles-for-kids-by-maksim-aksanov. It is best to teach kids some strategy tips and how to have a proper look on a chessboard. Also, when your child will eventualy get bored, you will find there nice colorbook :)
Walter Malmborg:
I think your no. 8 to be too far advanced for a beginner. I think a better substitute would be Renaud and Kahn's The Art of the Checkmate which also provides historical background of the players and is fun to read, which meets your criteria.
Dear friend,A lot of thought has gone into the wording of the title and the choice of books.Do read the opening lines and reflect on them.“Chess is fun. You don’t need loads of theory to understand and enjoy the game. Learn it the Easy way….”
"read" in the title is just wrong. Reading doesn't make you learn anything. "Study" is the key word.
Dear reader,Thanks for the appreciation.The illustration by Alan Cracknell appears on the cover of the book.
I'm curious about the photo for your post.Is that one of those "books" that fold out into a chess board, with the pieces stored inside?Very beautiful.
Dear reader,There are indeed two games by Carlsen in “The Mammoth Book of The World’s Greatest Games”(Third Revised & Expanded Edition, 2010).The first is his loss to Anand, Morelia/Linares 2007 and the second, a win against Kramnik, London 2009.Thanks for bringing this to our notice.As for your other suggestion, there are some problems with the book,“A first book of Morphy”.Morphy was a master of King Pawn openings, especially, games with 1.e4 e5.In closed games with 1.d4 his oeuvre does not have enough to offer.Also, this book goes too far in simplifying principles of play and offers less by way of explaining middlegame plans.Capablanca’s “Chess Fundamentals” is very good in that respect.For advanced players we would recommend “Paul Morphy:A modern perspective” by Valeri Beim http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Morphy-A-Modern-Perspective/dp/1888690267
A very good beginner's book that teaches the basic rules of thumb in the opening, middlegame and endgame, with direct, aggressive games by a legend as examples, is "A First Book of Morphy" by Frisco del Rosario. P.S. There are two Carlsen games in the most recent edition of the "Mammooth" greatest games book, against Anand and Kramnik. But maybe they are losses, I haven't checked.
Dear Mr. Dwight Morgan, I take it that your comment is directed at the suggestion of the other reader who wanted this book to be included in the list for beginners. As for the offending remarks, if any it would help if you can specify the edition. I shall also check.
Dwight Morgan:
Before you recommend or use "My System" with kids you had better read it first! I made the mistake of actually getting this book approved for a high school chess class and then later discovered that Nimzowitsch had a way of describing chess situations with "colorful" and even degrading terms, in reference to women and others. I can't find an example right now (I'm looking through the book), but be warned - this book is not for kids to read and many parents would find it offensive in parts.
Dear reader, If we include My system by Nimzovitsch, we have to bring in books by Tarrasch as well. In chess terms these are schools opposed to each other. At the moment we would like a beginner to learn principles without theoretical bias.
Marek Pauš:
What about My System? There hasn't been any other book which would improve my overall play so much