The good news for book lovers who enjoy chess is that there are many positional chess books available today. We are fortunate to live in the digital age and can even carry several books at once in our pockets on our devices.
This is a selection of chess books to improve your positional play. We’ve included chess books for different strengths of chess players but don’t let this keep you from reading a book now if it grabs your interest. Keep in mind the definitions of beginner, intermediate, and advanced are subjective.
Also remember, books intended for stronger players can help you push yourself a little further.
A book for beginners could prove a useful reminder of things you have forgotten about or missed. Going back to refresh these foundational skills could help you solidify your game.
A beginner might find it challenging to get much out of a book for strong players but could view it as a challenge. Revisiting this book as your playing strength improves will help you garner new insights into positional play.
Above all else, a good chess book on positional play is one that teaches you something new and offers useful techniques you can apply in your games. This can sometimes be nothing more than deepening your understanding of how to assess a position.
Positional Chess Books – Our Recommendations
“Logical Chess: Move By Move” by Irving Chernev
This book adopts the novel approach of explaining in plain, everyday language the ideas behind every move from 33 great games.
You don’t need to be a beginner to benefit from this wonderful book. Almost every chess player could do with a reminder of how to think at the chessboard.
The three sections are divided into:
- the kingside attack
- the Queen’s Pawn opening
- the chess master explains his ideas
One of the most important lessons this book teaches is the importance of understanding the ideas behind the moves.
A great investment for many reasons and not only for beginners.
“Simple Chess” by Michael Stern
This is the perfect book for somebody who wants a solid foundation in a short amount of time and will help you decide what to do during each game. Complex subjects are made simple with detailed explanations.
The value in this book isn’t calculated by the number of pages. Where this book excels is in the quality of the content shared. This is a great book for players who like an author who gets right to the point.
Covering the essentials of outposts, weak pawns, open files, half-open files, weak squares, and space it does a great job of living up to its title.
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For Intermediate Players
Get Both “My System” And “Chess Praxis” In One Book
“My System” by Aaron Nimzovitch
Your journey to becoming a better positional player couldn’t get off to a better start if you begin with My System. This will provide you with a solid foundation to build upon as you progress.
There is a lot to learn from this timeless classic. On its own this book will provide you with everything you need to play sound, positional chess.
Written by one of the most influential thinkers of chess it’s a book that has helped many improve their game.
When you become a stronger player a very good book to consider is “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy” by John Watson. This provides you with a modern interpretation of Nimzovitch’s approach to chess.
“Chess Praxis” by Aaron Nimzovitch
Although this book is capable of standing on its own, using it with “My System” enhances the value of both books.
This is a collection of 109 games played by Aaron Nimzovitch. The games are grouped according to theme. You can easily go from studying a concept in “My System” to seeing how to apply it at the board.
Some of the positional concepts covered in this book are centralization, restriction, and blockade, overprotection, prophylaxis, and weaknesses. Apart from the positional ideas, you can learn lots about other facets of chess.
No time spent studying the games of past masters is ever wasted.
“Chess Training For Post-Beginners” by Yaroslav Srokovski
This very good positional chess book is aimed at players rated 1400-2200 Elo. The emphasis of the book is on perfecting evaluating the position.
Arriving at the correct evaluation requires an understanding of the elements of positional play. There are twelve chapters each covering an aspect of positional play.
Some of the topics covered are cut-off pieces, weak complexes and diagonals, king in the center, and how to use the bishop pair in the middlegame.
This book provides a lot of information to help improve your positional play. There is a good balance between explanation and analysis with each game example.
“Techniques of Positional Play” by Valeri Bronznik and Anatoli Terekhin
What helps this positional chess book stand out is the use of unusual terms like “wave-breaker” and “pendulum maneuver”.
There are 45 techniques in this book for you to apply to your own games, techniques FM A. Terekhin wrote about in “Strategic Methods” and expanded upon here.
Most chess students have heard the same phrases countless times. That’s why it’s a delightful surprise to find a book with new terms and unusual concepts.
The book starts with the interesting technique of restraining your opponent’s knight with a combination of g3 and h4 followed by h5. A similar concept applies to the queenside with b3, a4, and a5.
The addition of the a-pawn and h-pawn advance was new to me. Learning something new at the start of a book is very encouraging.
“Positional Decision Making In Chess” by Boris Gelfand and Jacob Aagard
Think of how much you could improve if you knew how a World Championship challenger thought at the board.
Over the years you’ve worked on acquiring a lot of knowledge about positional play. You’ve gained a deeper understanding of these principles.
Now it’s time to learn how to apply these principles at the board. This insightful book will help you gain insight into how one of the world’s best chess players evaluates a position.
You will also learn how he decides on a plan. When you know how a GM thinks you can start thinking like one too.
For Advanced Players
Everyman Chess “Mastering Chess Strategy” by Johan Hellsten
This is a book requiring dedication to work through at over 400 pages. Apart from a wealth of wisdom on strategic play there are numerous exercises to work through. What is particularly appealing about this book is the knowledge shared stems from Johan’s time as a chess coach in Chile and Ecuador. What this means is you are getting practical advice you can apply now and not when you reach grandmaster level.
The main concepts covered, in great detail, are:
- improving our pieces
- pawn play
This is a chess book for the serious student who is willing to put in the time to reap all the rewards this book has to offer. Take your time and be certain to track your results as you work through the book. I’m certain when you look back at your progress you will agree your time with this book was time well-spent. Although we’ve listed this book for advanced players, even the intermediate player will get a lot of use from it.
Grandmaster Preparation “Positional Play” by Jacob Aagaard
No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Less is more”. In these times of information overload, it was wonderful to uncover a positional chess book that focuses on three principles – weaknesses, pieces, and prophylaxis.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. Examples used include positions Magnus Carlsen himself failed to solve.
Many would argue this is a book for advanced players and it is. Yet, an intermediate player wanting to improve will benefit a lot from the exercises in this book.
“Positional Play” is a book you can return to often and deepen your understanding of chess.
“Winning Chess Middlegames” by Ivan Sokolov
Despite its title, “Winning Chess Middlegames” will also prove very helpful in your opening repertoire. By focusing on pawn structures you will learn which positions you are comfortable playing.
Then you can choose an opening repertoire leading to this structure, a structure you will know very well.
Often we focus on our positional plans to the exclusion of everything else. The author explains the best plans from both sides.
This gives you an advantage because if your opponent chooses another plan you will know why it’s not the best and how to take advantage of it.
This book offers in-depth coverage of doubled pawns, isolated pawns, hanging pawns, and the central pawn majority.
There are very clear explanations in the example games to increase your positional knowledge. To further deepen your understanding of positional play consider GM Sokolov’s Master Method course.
“Under The Surface” by Jan Markos
When you have become a strong chess player you will be familiar with many of the skills of positional play. “Under The Surface” is written for you to enjoy without a chessboard.
To get full value from the examples most readers will need to have a board close at some point. There are plenty of diagrams so following the mainline shouldn’t be too difficult.
Where this book stands out is in the broad range of positional topics it covers and its unique explanations. There are chapters about time in chess, computers, and beauty. Other subjects covered include openings, decision making, and pieces.
This relaxing read will provide you with interesting new perspectives on positional chess.
Final Words About Positional Chess Books
There are many other good positional chess books out there. “The Complete Manual of Positional Chess” are two very good volumes. Although they do need you to invest a considerable amount of time working through them.
“Chess Structures: A Grandmaster’s Guide” by Mauricio Rios is a great compliment to “Winning Chess Middlegames”.
The games of Tigran Petrosian in “Python Strategy” will undoubtedly suit the die-hard positional player.
The positional chess books suggested here will increase your knowledge of positional play in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Some of them cover the subject of how to play positional chess in a novel way.
When considering buying a book make use of the sample pages to get a feel of the book. The game of chess is challenging enough on its own and choosing books that are enjoyable to read you make learning more enjoyable.
Supplement Your Reading
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