(Clearly these are debatable and
include only books I have information about or have read. If you disagree then put a message in my guestbook here. I'd also be interested to know what people think of Kasparov's series of books entitled "My Great Predecessors" which I have not read [yet].)
1. Secrets of Practical Chess By John Nunn
All the advice and training you would expect from the title. A beautiful prose style with bullet proof analysis and modern examples to boot. Some fun dismantlement of other Grandmasters' work. All in all an invaluable guide.
2. Judgement and Planning in Chess By Max Euwe
A classic textbook by an ex world champion. Covers all the important aspects of the evaluation function as well as what you should be trying to do in various common positions. It takes you beyond calculation.
3. Learn from the Grandmasters (original
edition) By Raymond Keene with other contributors
Lessons from some of the greatest chess players around when the book was written (1975). The first three names in the contents page say it all; Tal, Korchnoi, and Larsen. They submit two games each with their own analysis giving both variety and quality. (The new edition is inferior to the old as some of the original contributors have been thrown out. The cheek of it!)
4. John Speelman's Best Games By Jon Speelman
This is the most fantastic collection of games of a single player ever published. Speelman is a perfectionist and consequently his analysis is beyond simply thorough and in places borders on the obsessive. Speelman is a true original and produces the kinds of wild ideas in desperate positions which no one else can come up with. Under pressure he is truly amazing and playing through his games and analysis cannot but improve your ability to survive in what look like hopeless positions. Of course, being a Super GM (and a world championship semifinalist back when that really meant something) Speelman is a classy player and some of the games in this collection see him brilliantly outplaying very strong opponents. Great games obsessively analysed: fantastic.
5. My System By Aron Nimzowich
As it says on the back: 99% of good chess players have read this book. This is the classic chess instruction manual which has taught generations of players how to move beyond cheap tricks and threats of mate in one. Despite the fact that it has been superseded by more modern instructional manuals it is still, and will remain indefinitely, one of the great chess books.
6. Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and Chess Strategy in Action By John Watson
I have included these two books as a single entry because the second is very much a continuation of the first showing as it does the theories from the first book in action. The first part of the first book is devoted to an analysis of "My System" the classic text with refinements and updates throughout. The second half looks at how the system Nimzowich presented is now seen as merely are rough guide which modern Masters often dispense with. The second book goes on to look at these ideas in actual play. Despite the author's claim that these books are not intended as instructional books I think that it would be difficult for someone to study them without becoming a better player. Definitely classics.
7. Grandmaster Preparation and Grandmaster Performance By Lev Polugayevsky
These two books appear as a single entry because the second feels like a continuation of the first. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a single edition containing both texts available. Polugayevsky takes the reader into his laboratory, explaining how he prepares for important games, and then goes on to look at the actual games themselves to show how this preparation affected his play. A wonderful insight into the preparation and performance of a great player.
8. The Chess Player's Handbook By Howard Staunton
Another classic text first appearing in 1847 this book will be a joy for anyone who plays in a classical or romantic style. The book covers anything you would want to know about the game itself and even has some interesting opening ideas which have been forgotten. e.g. 1. d4 d5, 2. c4 c6?, (his criticism) 3. f3 Nf6, 4. Nc3 Bf5, 5. e3 e6, 6. Bd3 BxB, 7. QxB Bb4, 8.
e4 BxN, 9. bc Nd7, 10. cd cd, 11. e5 Nh5 12. Ne2 "The game is in whites favour". This book is also one of the few places in which you can find the full refutation of (the dodgy variation of) Damiano's defence.
9. Openings For The Club Player By Tim Harding and Leonard Barden
This will strike many as a strange choice for one of the greatest chess books of all time. The authors can hardly be considered to be particularly important figures in the history of chess and the content is hardly groundbreaking or seminal. It is here on this list because it does what it sets out to do extraordinarily well. It provides a choice of complete repertoires for the club player in such a way that the reader is not swamped with analysis and variations and is not forced to play a line that will not suit him or her. All the major openings are covered and there is plenty of explanation. This is an ideal first openings book, providing the perfect balance of theory and explanation for a genuine club player.
10. 15 Games And Their Stories By M. Botvinnik
Written by the only man ever to hold the title of world champion on three separate occasions this book is an entertaining read and gives games against some of the worlds strongest masters. The analysis and commentary is excellent and gives a penetrating look into the games examined. It is a relatively short book but contains a wealth of interesting ideas and explanations. Once again a classic text.
11. Pocket Book Of Chess By Raymond Keene
This is simply the best book for beginners; the best introduction to the game.
Click here if you would like to visit my Amazon books page which lists some of the best books written by British Masters and Grandmasters. The books are linked to Amazon so you can buy them if you like.
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