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Best Chess Books for Immediate Improvement

Updated on November 13, 2015
Simple tactic - a Knight pinned to the Queen
Simple tactic - a Knight pinned to the Queen

My Favourite Chess Books

The following is a list of my favourite chess books, and is not necessarily the best books in any given area of the game for other readers. However, these are the books I have enjoyed reading the most and which I have found to help me the most in improving my play. I come back to them often, and always find something new in them which gives me renewed interest in the game.

1. Tactics

This is probably the most important aspect of the game for lower rated players to master in order to improve their play. It is certainly an aspect of my game which needs improving and on which I am constantly working. Tactical pattern recognition can I believe be learned with practice, and is one of those things that great players can do without thinking. They simply see the tactics inherent in a position as reasons why they can or cannot take a piece or occupy a square.

“How to Beat Your Dad at Chess – including the 50 deadly checkmates” by GM Murray Chandler

I only discovered this book recently, but I would have loved to have had when I first started playing chess, as it would probably have made me a much more successful player. It describes 50 important checkmating patterns, and the tactics surrounding them which are second nature seemingly to good players, but many of which I had never seen before. It is written in a very simple style with a double page spread used for describing each pattern and giving both simple and more complex examples of the pattern for both black and white. I am working through it now, starting to recognise some of the patterns in my games, and I feel becoming a better player as a result.

“303 Tricky Chess Tactics” by Fred Wilson & Bruce Alberston, and

“303 Tactical Chess Puzzles” by Fred Wilson & Bruce Alberston

Two workbooks of tactical puzzles, one divided up into sections based on the relevant tactical theme, the other with sections of miscellaneous puzzles of different difficulties. It is possible, and probably useful in aiding pattern recognition, to simply work through the examples in each book from start to finish and then repeat the process several times until you hopefully reach a stage, where rather than having to search for the tactics, they are simply jumping at you from the page.

“The King in Jeopardy” by GM Lev Alburt and GM Sam Palatnik

I like this book simply because it gave me the impetus I needed to start launching attacks on the opponent's king. It instilled in me the importance of opening lines for attack, of using and maintaining the imitative, and the idea that there are often surprising resources in defence that you may not have initially considered, so you should never give up.

2. Strategy

“How To Reassess Your Chess 4th Edition, Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances” by IM Jeremy Silman

This is a simply fantastic book which explains practically all you need to know about strategic planning and positional assessment in an extraordinarily simple to understand manner. Suffice to say this book has done more for my chess planning than practically any other. I have written a full review of this book here.

“The Amateurs Mind, Turning Chess Misconceptions Into Chess Mastery” by IM Jeremy Silman

An equally comprehensive work of Silman's that details the same strategic concepts, but looks at the thinking processes of amateur players in using them from complete beginners right up to experts to see whether the true meanings of the lessons he is giving are being taken on board. A great strategic read, for which I have also written a full review.

“Chess strategy for the Tournament player” by GM Lev Alburt & GM Sam Palatnik

Volume 5 in Lev Alburt's comprehensive chess course and a favourite of mine because of the style of writing in which move by move explanations of the ongoing strategic struggles are given where necessary. I discovered Alburt's chess course books before Silman's, and always found them eminently readable, with copious diagrams and fewer confusing variations than most other books on the subject.

Endgame

“Easy Endgame Strategies” by Bill Robertie

By now you will have probably noticed my preference for books with minimal variations, with simple demonstrations of concepts, and with clear and frequent diagrams to illustrate the results of moves. This book has a large amount of explanatory text for each move made and has practically no variations to confuse the issue. It is full of useful practical endgame concepts.

General rules and gameplay

“The Right Way to Play Chess” by D. Brine Pritchard.

A favourite of mine simply because this was the first chess book I ever owned. I found it in a second hand book-store at about the time of the 1993 Kasparov – Short World Title Match, and from then on I was hooked on the game.

Openings

I haven't included any favourite books on openings. This is really because I don't think I've ever read an opening book that has actually helped me. I simply cannot remember different opening lines and variations with all their similar or transposable positions, it just doesn't stick in my mind. As a result, after the first 2 moves of any game I am virtually playing in the unknown even if I have seen the position before. To be honest, the other deficiencies in my game (various tactical blind spots, and pretty weak endgame play) mean that the opening is really the least of my worries, and I tend to play on general principles alone. Should I ever come across a great opening book which simply explains all of the concepts of the various systems and helps me remember them, then I'll add it to my list.

I hope this post has been useful and interesting.

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