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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Some of My Favorite Chess Books

Throughout the years I have read many chess books.  Below is a list of books that I have (or have had) in my personal library that have stood the test of time and are worthy of owning even today. All of them were fascinating reading even if I didn’t learn anything.  I gave up trying to improve years ago, choosing to play for the enjoyment of it instead and the books listed below are a few that have added to the enjoyment.
Technique in Chess by Gerald Abrahams
Guide to the general concepts of chess technique and methods for using technique to plan ahead. 200 examples from actual play.

Positional Chess Handbook by Isreal Gelfer
495 positions, starting with the endgame and then covering the middlegame. This is the type of book needed by all players not yet masters. The diagrams are poor and the translation bad.

Pawn Power in Chess by Hans Kmoch
Original discussion of pawn play which isolates its elements and elaborates on various aspects. Somewhat difficult to read because of Kmoch’s made up definitions.

The Art of Checkmate by Renaud and Kahn
Classification of 23 mating situations, including Legal’s pseudo-sacrifice, the double check, smothered mate, Greco’s mate, the Corridor mate, many others. 127 games by Tartakower, Janowski, Rubinstein, Blackburne, others, illustrating positional maneuvers leading to these mates. Review quizzes test progress.

How to Force Checkmate by Fred Reinfeld
Not all Reinfeld books were trash. This one has 300 diagrammed positions, subdivided into situations of mate in one, two or three moves, introduce you to a vast array of checkmate situations. You will not need a board so this is a good book for travel and idle moments.

The Art of Sacrifice in Chess by Rudolf Spielmann
One of the greatest attacking players of all time was a great writer. Based upon 37 of Spielmann’s games, he explains the sacrifices which occur and classifies them. Spielmann was a Jew who escaped from Austria to Sweden and was forced to write chess books to make money.

100 Soviet Chess Miniatures by Peter H. Clarke
Fascinating games played by Soviet chess masters, taken from the records of the Soviet Chess.

500 Master Games of Chess by Tartakower, and du Mont, J.
Arranged by opening. Good introduction to the best players of all time and a good way to learn about the different openings. Great bargin.

Combinations: The Heart of Chess by Irving Chernev 
356 diagrams. This is another good book you don't need a board for.

My Best Games of Chess 1908-1937 by Alekhine
This is a great bargain of two books bound together. My Best Games 1908-23 shows his dynamic, aggressive, perpetual attacking style. He studied the endgame in order to defeat Capablanca in the 1927 World Championship Match. My Best Games 1924-37 are more show his great endgame skill. There are more than 220 games with his annotations. Alekhine took great pride in trying to find the truth in chess.

200 Open Games by Bronstein 
This is a treasure because Bronstein was the greatest combinational player of his time.  All games begin 1.e4 e5. When Bronstein wanted to win he was the best player in the world, and in most of these games he tried to win, but he also lost many of them. One word of warning: There are many factual errors.

Chess World Title Contenders and Their Styles by Danny Kopec and Craig Pritchett
Highly recommended! Title is misleading. Only one player actually became a contender.  87 games in figurine algebraic by Tony Miles, Jan Timman, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Walter Browne, Robert Hubner, Zoltan Rible, Ulf Andersson, Garry Kasparov.

100 Selected Games by Botvinnik
This book is still one of the best individual game collections ever. The games were annotated by Botvinnik before he became World Champion in 1948. After that his play deteriorated.  Botvinnik gained his title because other Soviet players were forced to throw games to him. Personally Botvinnik was vicious and ambitious. Still, the 100 games in this book are excellent.

Morphy’s Games of Chess by Sergeant
300 games against such masters as Anderssen, Harrwitz, Mongredien, Bird, Paulsen and others. Annotations by Sergeant, Steinitz, Anderssen and Morphy himself. This is the book that every player should read because it shows how to beat the “average” player.


  1. I like the Art of Checkmate too. I have not read the other books you have mentioned. I mention "500 Master Games of Chess" on an earlier post which is probably my favorite if forced to take only one book on an island. Some others if I could take five books there would be "Chess Master Vs Amateur" bu Euwe. "Worlds Greatest Chess Games by Nunn". "Mammoth Book of Chess" by Burgess and "How Karpov Wins" by Mednis. But I have many others I like too. I am sure if we made a list of top ten it would constantly change. :)

  2. Just thinking if I could take five more to the island and make it a top ten.

    The books of Lasker and Fischer by Soltis. "Life and Games by Mikhail Tal". "The Chess of Bobby Fischer" by Burger and "How to Beat Bobby Fischer", by Mednis. Donner's "The King" I should put in there too. Oh well, make it a dozen to the island and add "Breaking Through: How the Polgar Sisters Changed the Game of Chess".

    I keep going over my library and find more. Tough choices

  3. Here is an impossible question. If you could just pick one book which would it be?

  4. Yes, it is impossible, but if I HAD too, it would be the series by Kasparov, My Great Predecessors. If I am only allowed ONE then any one of them will do.

  5. Nice. I picked up his book about Fischer but have not had a chance to read that one yet. Classy of him to analyze all the past grandmasters. Chess was certainly more colorful in those days of Lasker and Morphy. :)