Despite the technological progress, these days chess books are still one of the most common chess training sources for players of all levels.
Huge databases, strong chess engines, and chess training websites overwhelm most chess players with plenty of information.
However, many players have a tough time selecting appropriate material out of seemingly endless sources.
At this point, chess books are a treasure trove for us. Good chess books provide us with well-structured lessons on different topics. For this reason, working with the best chess books is one of the best ways to improve your chess. There are a lot of differing opinions on which ones are best, for instance, this list contains the best chess books rated by 10 chess masters.
If you want to devote a reasonable amount of your time to chess training, a universal approach to the game yields the best results consistently. It is important to comprehensively improve your overall game.
Don’t only focus on chess openings or chess tactics. Focus on all aspects of the game. Garry Kasparov explains in his famous book How Life Imitates Chess: “I’ve often wondered, where does our [chess] success come from? The answer is a synthesis, the ability to combine creativity and calculation, art and science, into a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
Working with different chess books is a great way to improve in all the areas of the game. However, due to the immense number of published chess books, it can be difficult to figure out which books are worth studying and which are not.
Many chess players suffer the frustrating experience of wasting valuable chess study time on boring books. For that reason, in this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the best chess books on the different aspects of chess.
Best Chess Opening Books
Best Chess Opening Books for Beginners
It is key to always remember these 5 opening principles:
- Control the center. (specifically the e4, d4, e5, d5 squares)
- Develop your pieces to actively create threats.
- Try not to move a piece twice in the opening.
- A knight on the rim is dim. (developing towards the center greatly increases the mobility and scope of your pieces)
- Get your king safe. (leaving your king in the center can dangerously expose you to tactics)
Hence, it is recommended that you play classical chess openings in which you occupy the center with your pieces. An excellent book to start out with is “Discovering Chess Openings: Building Opening Skills from Basic Principles” by John Emms.
In this book, the author explains that the key to a successful opening play is not simply learning lines off by heart; instead, it’s the understanding of the basic principles, and here the reader is guided through the vital themes: swift development, central control, and king safety. Once you’ve understood these principles, you can focus more concretely on certain chess openings.
For Intermediate Players
Intermediate players should work on their chess openings with books which combine theory with plenty of explanations.
If your Elo is around 1400-1800, it makes little sense to buy chess books which are full of theoretical lines and do not include a lot of text on the key ideas and basic concepts of the opening you want to play.
An excellent publishing house of chess books for intermediate players is Everyman Chess, a company located in the United Kingdom. In addition to individual books, the company publishes some series of books.
The “Starting Out” series and the “Move by Move” series are highly advisable. You can find chess books on almost any chess opening in their shop.
Chess Books for Advanced Players
For advanced chess players, it is recommended to play and study a variety of openings to gain a well-rounded feel for different types of positions. If you’re looking for a bulletproof opening repertoire, without doubt, the best chess publishing company is Quality Chess.
The company earned its big name on publishing the best chess books on openings in 2008 when Boris Avrukh’s “Grandmaster Repertoire 1 – 1.d4 Volume One” was released.
This book was called the “opening-bible” for any 1.d4 player. It is not only an outstanding opening book but also it is a milestone of chess opening books in general.
The author delivers extremely detailed analyses and revolutionizes the field of opening training. Even Top Grandmaster Michael Adams confirmed: “The high-quality Grandmaster Repertoire series has taken this format to a completely different level.”
Since then, Quality Chess has published many more brilliant opening books by authors such as GM Mihail Marin, GM John Shaw, and GM Parimarjan Negi.
Best Chess Middlegame Books
For beginners, the classic “My System” by Aaron Nimzowitsch can be recommended. Many might disagree that this book is good for beginners, but even if you’re just starting out in chess, try to go through this book and you will see drastic chess improvement.
“My System” is one of the most read and most successful books of all times. The book does not only cover basic strategic elements like open files, exchanges, pawn structures, and development, but also advanced positional strategies.
For intermediate players, the two best chess books are “How to Reassess Your Chess” by Jeremy Silman and “Excelling at Chess” by Jacob Aagard.
On top of that, Alexander Kotov’s “Think Like A Grandmaster” and “Play Like A Grandmaster” represent absolutely fantastic middlegame literature. Also, “Imagination in Chess: How to Think Creatively and Avoid Foolish Mistakes” by Gaprindashvili is good for tactical and positional exercises.
Last but not least, “The Amateur’s Mind” by Jeremy Silman is another brilliant chess book worth studying. In his book, Jeremy Silman provides the readers with great insights into strategical failures of club players and demonstrates how the mind can be sharpened.
Jeremy Silman sets up instructive positions on the chess board and plays them against his students in order to see how they would handle the position at hand.
His students have to think aloud so that Silman can detect the key problems in their chess understanding which hold them back from performing a lot better.
In terms of our courses at iChess, IM Anna Rudolf provides fantastic lessons on the transition from beginner to intermediate level in her ‘Master Method’.
Mark Dvoretsky’s “Analytical Manual: Practical Training for the Ambitious Chess Player” is extremely difficult, but certainly worth taking the time to work through.
If you’re already a very strong Player (2100+ ELO) and want to improve up to master level, you can take a closer look at the series “Grandmaster Preparation” by Quality Chess. Jacob Aagaard’s books “Attack and Defence” or “Strategic Play” are excellent to improve your middlegame strategy.
They contain plenty of well-chosen exercises as well as helpful explanations to become a stronger chess player. A little warning in advance – these books are not bedtime reading and you need to put a lot of work into it. But if you’re willing to do the work, your effort will definitely be rewarded.
Best Books for Chess Endgame
Beginners and Intermediate Players
The endgame chess book “Fundamental Chess Endings” by Mueller and Lamprecht is an extensive endgame manual that is excellent for beginners.
For more advanced players, Mark Dvoretsky’s “Endgame Manual” is absolutely incredible. When you are serious about improving your endgame skills, Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual is the right book for you.
Mark Dvoretsky was one of the best known and most respected chess trainers in the world until he sadly passed away in 2016. With his “Endgame Bible”, Mark Dvoretsky has produced a comprehensive work on the endgame which is directed to chess players of all levels.
For those who are ready to immerse themselves in endgame theory, even more than ten years after the book’s release, there is still no better manual available today.
Moreover, “Endgame Strategy” by Mikhail Shereshevsky is a great source of inspiration and a great chess training book to improve your endgame technique – not to be confused with endgame theory.
Mikhail Shereshevsky shows plenty of necessary attitudes to improve your endgame technique, such as “Don’t hurry”, “Plus-equal mode”, “Cutting off the King” and so on.
The author focuses on important guiding endgame principles which you can immediately implement in your own games and skyrocket your endgame skills.
If you don’t like reading chess books, but watching chess videos instead, it’s also a possible way to improve your chess skills.
You can find plenty of chess DVD series on all the different topics in our shop. Let’s take middlegame strategy, for example: “How do players like Magnus Carlsen outplay their strong opponents in the middlegame?
In our “Middlegame Masterclass” DVD, GM Damian Lemos explains the best guiding principles to follow in order to handle any middlegame position! Build winning positions, move by move, without having to hope for your opponent to blunder!
Grow Your Chess Books Library
Thank you for taking the time to read our best picks for the best chess books for all players. If you’d like to expand your chess library further, we recommend checking out this blog on the best chess tactics books for advanced players according to 10 grandmasters.
Other interesting articles for you:
- The Art of Checkmate – IM Renier Castellanos
- Magnus Carlsen’s Best Chess Game Ever
- How To Learn Chess Openings – The Definitive Guide
- The iChess Club is a membership that offers chess lovers like you a wide variety of premium benefits. Check it out.