The Best Chess Books For All Chess Players

Despite technological progress, these days chess books are still one of the most common chess training sources for players of all levels.

The Best Chess Books blog image

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.

Build a Library for All Three Phases

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best book to improve chess?

There are three phases in a chess game, so if you are looking for one book, then a manual of chess is your best buy. For example, “My System” by Aaron Nimzovitch, “Chess Fundamentals” by Jose Capablanca, or “Lasker’s Manual of Chess” by Emmanuel Lasker are excellent choices.

Tournament books and best game collections will prove helpful because they cover all phases of a chess game.

What chess books did Magnus Carlsen read?

Kramnik: My Life & Games – Vladimir Kramnik, Iakov Damsky

My Great Predecessors – Garry Kasparov

Do chess books actually help?

You can learn a lot from chess books but only if you are willing to put in the time to work through the examples and make notes. Active learning is the key to getting the most out of your chess books.

A good approach is to work through a chess book until you finish it before opening another book.

What chess book should I read first?

The chess book you start with is determined by your level of play. Absolute beginners will find “Chess for Rookies” helpful, while intermediate players are more likely to enjoy “Lessons With a Grandmaster.”

What is considered the best chess book?

When you think of how complex chess is, choosing one chess book as the best is impossible. The complexity of chess is but one factor. Your playing style will impact your decision about the best chess books.

What chess books do grandmasters use?

Here are six of the best chess books favored by grandmasters:

  1. Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors
  2. Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual – Mark Dvoretsky
  3. Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953 – David Bronstein
  4. My 60 Memorable Games – Bobby Fischer
  5. The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal – Mikhail Tal 
  6. 100 Endgames You Must Know – Villa

Choosing the Right Chess Book

There is a wealth of information to choose from in the many top-quality chess books available today. There are chess books for beginners, intermediate, and advanced players.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.

Excellent Chess Books on the Opening

There are lots of online resources for you to learn enough to test an opening in online play. When trying a new opening online, focus on getting a feel for the positions that arise in the middlegame and endgame.

Remember, your initial results are not as important as your comfort levels in the game. The results will improve as you study more theory and gain experience with the opening. 

After you narrow down your choices, then you can look for chess books covering your openings. The “Keep It Simple” books are suitable for intermediate and advanced players, so you can play this repertoire for many years.

Chess Opening Books for White

If you choose the “Keep It Simple 1.d4” and want to change your repertoire later, you could consider switching to the Reti or English Opening. These openings and the repertoire suggested by GM Sielecki in “Keep It Simple 1.d4” are all based on a kingside fianchetto.

However, if you are ready to make a change now. The ever-popular GM Simon Williams (aka the GingerGM) has co-authored a book on the English Opening called “The Iron English Opening.”

There is much more to getting your opening repertoire right than only reading books. In light of this Simon put together an instructive training course to help you improve all facets of your chess.

Here is the GingerGM to explain the opening as only the GingerGM can explain it. Learn more about how to improve your all-around chess game with The GingerGM Method.

Chess Opening Books for Black

When selecting a defense to 1.d4, you might choose “Playing 1.d4 d5 A Classical Repertoire” by Nikolaos Ntirlis. In this book, you will learn how to use the Queen’s Gambit Declined against the Queen’s Gambit, Queen Pawn openings, the English Opening, and the Reti.

This one book covers a lot of openings. All you need is a defense against 1.e4, and you have an entire opening repertoire for Black. The Caro-Kann Defense is a sound way to meet 1.e4 that gives Black every chance to play for a win.

Reduce your opening study time even more by playing the Semi-Slav Defense against 1.d4. This way, you get to play similar structures against all of White’s main moves.

The Semi-Slav and Caro-Kann Defense are covered by two opening experts in “Opening Repertoire: …c6

Great Chess Books to Improve Your Middlegame

Laying a foundation for your middlegame play is essential for chess improvement. One of the best chess books to start with is “Simple Chess” by Michael Stean. 

This is one of the great middlegame chess books for beginners and intermediate players.

After laying the foundation, it is time to deepen your understanding of getting the most out of your chess pieces. “Chess Secrets of Positional Chess” by Drazen Marovic will help you with this and teach you how to use weaknesses in your opponent’s position.

You can make playing the middlegame easier if you include training in pattern recognition with tactics training. “Train Your Chess Pattern Recognition” is a book you can return to time and again.

Chess strategy is common to all three phases of the game. In light of this, mastering this essential skill will make you a fearsome opponent. The aptly titled “Mastering Chess Strategy” by GM Johann Hellsten provides you with much essential knowledge.

There are over 400 pages of grandmaster wisdom for you to incorporate into your games. The 350+ training exercises will help you practice your new chess wisdom.

Dominate the Endgame With These Chess Books

The endgame is undoubtedly the most neglected phase of chess study. That means there is an opportunity for you to gain an advantage over your rivals.

In terms of reward for your efforts, endgame study offers you the best returns on the time you invest.

There is nobody better to learn the endgame from than Jose Raul Capablanca. Starting with “Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings” by Chernev will help you improve in practical chess endings.

In addition to this book, be sure to invest time working with the new classic in endgame study by De la Villa, “100 Endgames You Must Know.”

However, for the serious player looking to really sink their teeth into endgame study, “Mastering Complex Endings” by Daniel Naroditsky will provide you with lots of practical advice. 

More Chess Books for You to Consider

Best Chess Opening Books: for Beginners

Discovering Chess Openings book by John Emms
An excellent chess opening book for beginners

It is key to always remember these 5 opening principles:

  1. Control the center. (specifically the e4, d4, e5, d5 squares)
  2. Develop your pieces to actively create threats.
  3. Try not to move a piece twice in the opening.
  4. A knight on the rim is dim. (developing towards the center greatly increases the mobility and scope of your pieces)
  5. 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 chess book for beginners 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

The Best Chess Books For All Chess Players

Intermediate players should work on their chess openings with books that combine theory with plenty of explanations.

If your Elo is around 1400-1800, it makes little sense to buy chess books that 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.

Therefore, an excellent publishing house of chess books for intermediate players is Everyman Chess. This is 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

The Best Chess Books For All Chess 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 a 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” got 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

Beginners

The Best Chess Books For All Chess Players

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.

Intermediate Players

The Best Chess Books For All Chess Players

Intermediate players should thus look at “How to Reassess Your Chess” by Jeremy Silman and “Excelling at Chess” by Jacob Aagard.

Additionally, 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 the strategical failures of club players. He provides a solution by demonstrating how the mind can be sharpened.

Jeremy Silman sets up instructive positions on the chessboard. Then he 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. Increased chess understanding will help them perform a lot better.

Don’t miss one of our highly recommended courses at iChess. IM Anna Rudolf provides fantastic lessons on the transition from beginner to intermediate level in her ‘Master Method’.

Advanced Players

Mark Dvoretsky’s “Analytical Manual: Practical Training for the Ambitious Chess Player” is extremely difficult, but certainly worth taking the time to work through.

Already a very strong Player (2100+ ELO) and want to improve up to master level? 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. However, a little warning in advance – these are not bedtime reading. 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 Best Chess Books For All Chess Players

The endgame chess book “Fundamental Chess Endings” by Mueller and Lamprecht is an extensive endgame manual that is excellent for beginners.

Another chess endgame book beginners will find helpful is “Theory and Practice of Chess Endings” by Panchenko.

Advanced Players

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. Sadly, he 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.

In Search of Something More Visual?

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.

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