Chess Books

Buying chess books is an addiction.  There is no magic bullet for improvement - only study, practice & playing.  So, buy what you will read and read what you buy. 

A good chess book will be read more than once and will have a positive affect on your playing skills.  These are the books that have helped me the most (your mileage may vary).

General Instruction:

  • Teach Yourself Chess by William Hartston - (beginner) Provides a complete introduction to the game, with major sections on rules, endgames, tactics, principles of opening play, endgame strategy, strategic planning and a quick look at some standard openings.  This may be the best chess introduction for a serious adult. 
  • Better Chess for Average Players by Tim Harding - (beginner) Covers I.Basics, II.Attack, III.Sacrifices, IV.Defence, V.Positional Play, VI.Choosing a Move and VII.Endgames.  This book is can be read without a board, so it is ideal for lunchtime reading or other places where a board is impractical.  It's example games are from caricatures, like Harry Hacker and Johnny Brain, from the mythical Midlington Chess Club.
  • Chess Exam and Training Guide by Igor Khmelnitsky - (Assessment) This book has 2 questions for each of 100 positions.  Results are evaluated and ratings are assigned to 12 distinct categories: Opening, Middlegame, Endgame, Attack, Defense, Counterattack, Tactics, Strategy, Calculations, Standard Endgame Positions, Sacrifices, and Threat Recognition.  By answering these 200 questions, strengths & weaknesses are identified and show where further study & practice are needed.
  • Win at Chess by Ron Curry - (intermediate) May be one of the best chess books that I have ever read.  Within the first chapter it explained why I have been stuck at my current rating plateau.


  • Understanding the Chess Openings by Sam Collins -  (beginner) Gives a good overview and with enough depth to become familiar with most of the common openings.  Use this book to explore and choose an opening repertoire.


  • Winning Chess Tactics by Yasser Seirawan - (beginner) Explains tactics in a way that is easy to understand and put into practice.  The chess student needs to see tactics as both offensive, to take advantage opponents mistakes, and defensive, to prevent opponent's opportunities.
  • Looking for Trouble by Dan Heisman - (beginner) This is a remarkable book.  After doing the studies, you start looking at your opponents previous moves with a new perspective.  It teaches you how to see and respond to threats.
  • Winning Chess How to See Three Moves Ahead by Irving Chernev & Fred Reinfeld - (intermediate) Teaches how to see and execute combinations.
  • Understanding Chess Tactics by Martin Weteschnik - (intermediate) This is not a puzzle book!  It explains the building blocks of tactics for the adult trying to improve his tactical skills.


  • Pandolfini's Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini - (beginner) Provides elementary endgame positions and explains how they are solved.  I used this book in conjunction with a pgn file of the positions to play against my chess engine set at full strength.  If you can successfully solve each endgame in the book, you are assured that you understand the principle being taught.

Master Game Collections:

  • Logical Chess Move by Move by Irving Chernev - (beginner) Shows how to approach the game and explains why moves are made.
  • The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played by Irving Chernev - (intermediate) A collection of 62 masterpieces of chess strategy annotated by one of my favorite chess authors.
  • Chess: the Art of Logical Thinking by Neil McDonald - (intermediate)  It explains the logic behind moves made in grandmaster games that is appropriate for Class D players.