Even in today’s digital age, the board game of chess continues to captivate players through its history, strategy, and wit. Popular movies and TV shows like “The Queen’s Gambit” or “Queen of Katwe” inspire their fans to learn chess for the first time or return to the game. If you’re among these motivated people, here are nine of the best chess books to help you in your journey.
What Should You Consider Before Buying a Chess Book?
Before buying or borrowing a chess book, there are several factors you should consider. Ask yourself about your skill level with chess, preferred learning style, and areas of interest within chess.
Chess authors write books for different levels of play. More experienced players will benefit from reading an advanced chess book. However, new players will prefer a resource to master the basic principles of chess and learn simple strategies. This article will cover the best chess books for beginners and advanced players alike.
Consider how you best learn complex information when buying a chess book. Do you prefer to read text and theory, look at illustrations, or study problems and replicate examples? There are chess books that cater to single learning styles or many at a time.
Chess is a complex game full of rich strategy, allowing for very specialized books discussing each stage of a match. If you want to learn more about openings, endgames, or piece-by-piece tactics, then one of these books may be right for you. Note that the more specialized a chess book’s topic is, the more advanced it will likely be.
What Is the Best Book to Learn Chess?
Below are the three best chess books for budding and advanced players. You can find a more detailed description of each book later in the article.
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess – Best Chess Book for Beginners
Bobby Fischer is considered one of the greatest chess grandmasters in world history. His book, written in the 1970s, takes readers through basic rules and introductory strategies using a unique, interactive puzzle style. For each choice the reader makes, they will learn why they were right or wrong.
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games – Best Chess Book for Strategy
In this book, authors Polgar and Pandolfini compile various chess puzzles for readers to refine their openings, endgames, and competitive playing style. Each puzzle is based on a real competitive game, and they use illustrations liberally to help readers visualize each “way to win.”
How to Play Chess for Kids: Simple Strategies to Win – Best Chess Book for Kids
“Chess for Kids” divides the basics of the game into 30 accessible lessons. While the book is sparing of illustrations, it nonetheless engages children through its storyline. As the twin protagonists stop an intergalactic invasion, they can use the same tools of “space war” on their own chessboards.
Top 3 Best Chess Books for Beginners
The three books below excel at teaching beginners how to play chess. Some books rely on wit, while others convey expertise from grandmasters. No matter your learning style, you will find them valuable in your chess journey.
1. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
In 1977, grandmaster Bobby Fischer won three games against Richard Greenblatt’s “Mac Hack,” the first competitive chess computer program. Perhaps the secret to Fischer’s success was his style of play, itself often compared to a computer. And, it is this mode of learning and play that Fischer teaches in his book — not text-based but flowcharts.
Readers will navigate over one-hundred chess basics and strategies puzzles, flipping the book upside-down and right-side-up to check their answers. This book’s strong suit is its detailed explanations of each possible move a player could make, reinforcing each concept.
2. Chess for Beginners: A Complete Overview of the Board, Pieces, Rules, and Strategies to Win – Runner-up
“Chess for Beginners” is a new book published directly to Kindle in 2020. It is also available in paperback for those beginners who prefer a hard copy.
The authors teach chess in a conversational and serious tone, with plenty of facts on the game’s history and finer aspects sprinkled in to engage the particularly curious. And, you will not feel like a beginner upon opening this book because of a uniquely comprehensive introduction to notation — the key to understanding any competitive chess match.
“Chess for Beginners” also gains re-reading value through “The Road to Mastery,” a section on more advanced strategies.
3. Chess for Beginners: Know the Rules, Choose Your Strategy, and Start Winning – Worth Checking Out
Yelizaveta “Liza” Orlova, a Canadian chess coach and youth champion, brings a younger voice to the field of beginning chess literature. Her book is not just visually pleasing and rich in illustrations; it is also tactically-minded.
Rather than learning the rules for the rules’ sake, she teaches the reader how to apply them to win. Orlova divides chess strategy for beginners into short-term and long-term techniques. This adds another dimension of knowledge for players, giving them tools to keep at the front of their minds while setting them up for the perfect endgame.
Top 3 Best Chess Strategy Books
The three books below specialize in teaching chess strategies to beginner and advanced players alike. Learning these strategies will help to strengthen your analytical mind and prepare you for the stickiest chess situations.
1. Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games – Top Choice
Compiled by Hungarian coach Laszlo Polgar, this 1,100-page tome is a chock-full of chess puzzles emphasizing various strategies and game stages. Most of the puzzles in the book’s first half require you to reach checkmate within one to three moves. Other puzzles focus on openings, endgames, and combinations of moves on the part of a single color.
The book’s second half focuses on “miniature game” scenarios, puzzles derived from actual games his three daughters played in their accomplished championship careers. A comprehensive set of solutions is in the back of the book to allow you to check your work. However, as this is an intermediate chess book, you may need sufficient knowledge of chess notation to interpret them properly.
2. Modern Chess Openings, 15th Edition – Runner-up
“Modern Chess Openings” is a comprehensive study of chess openings from the perspective of grandmaster Nick de Firmian, an American national champion who helped program the Deep Blue supercomputer. He refers to each opening by its proper name, from the Ruy Lopez to the King’s Indian flank, then includes all the possible variations as each opening was used in past competitive play.
The book is text-heavy, and you will need an in-depth knowledge of notation to appreciate each opening description. However, illustrations are included to illustrate the final result if your opponent plays their pieces properly.
3. Complete Book of Chess Strategy – Worth Checking Out
American master and prolific chess author Jeremy Silman’s “Complete Book of Chess Strategy” offers a cursory but comprehensive look into chess strategy. The book is organized into three sections to follow the natural order of a game, from opening to midgame to checkmate.
Silman’s writing is more conversational compared to many other chess strategy books. He treats each section as its own “dictionary,” which allows readers easy and on-the-fly access to a tactic’s description. Even beginning players may have some benefit from this book.
Top 3 Best Chess Books for Kids
It is never too young to play great chess, and with the right book, teaching your child how to checkmate is simpler than ever. Below are the best three chess books for kids in 2022.
1. How to Play Chess for Kids: Simple Strategies to Win – Top Choice
This 160-page large print book written by chess instructor Jessica Martin is a colorful and no-nonsense way to introduce the game to elementary and middle-school-age children. She accommodates multiple learning styles with rich text descriptions and board illustrations lining each page margin.
This book particularly excels for kids desiring to learn chess strategies, as Martin discusses many of them in line with her rule descriptions. Readers may need to get accustomed to her own terminology, such as “checkmate sandwich” or “ladder opening.” In the end, however, these terms will click better in a child’s mind.
2. Chess for Kids by Richard James – Runner-up
Imagine you and your twin sibling bear witness to an alien invasion that threatens your planet’s existence. You decide to enlist in the military to help stop them, but you know nothing about how to fight. The fate of the universe ultimately hangs on your comprehension of the principles of war as you learn them on the battlefield.
That is the storyline of “Chess for Kids,” and the intergalactic war that protagonists Sam and Alice fight takes place on a larger-than-life chessboard. This chess book is among the best for kids because it can engage any reader, even those who may get bored quickly with notation and dry strategic discussion.
3. Chess for Kids by Michael Basman – Worth Checking Out
British chess master Michael Basman wrote arguably the best-selling chess for kids book. At forty-eight pages, it is shorter than either of the two other books previously suggested. Basman nonetheless manages to pack in just as much information through clear photography similar to publisher DK’s “Eyewitness” series.
Children who learn visually will love the board close-ups, while the broader cultural photos will hold their attention and show them their potential in chess. Chess puzzles do appear in the book’s margins from time to time, allowing kids to test their new knowledge. However, they are simpler in difficulty than the other two books and do not focus on chess strategies.
Whether you are a chess lover or a curious learner, these top nine chess books offer the best guidance and insight to nurture and improve your chess skills. Remember, once you’ve finished a chess book, you should regularly practice what you’ve learned!