Among the large number of chess books which have been published, many can be useful to the serious player. However, even among those useful books, some particularly stand out to me, an amateur with a U.S. Chess Federation low 1800s rating (see me bouncing off my 1700 rating floor), because they are especially engaging or readable (see author Andrew Martin's comment on this page). That quality makes it significantly more likely that I will read and reread a book to improve my understanding of its content, which translates into more enjoyment and hopefully better competitive results. I hope others can benefit from this admittedly highly personal list.
One of the reasons the above book can be more helpful than many other opening books is because it puts forth strong, clear opinions about various openings and does so in plain English as opposed to in the symbols used by many other advanced texts. This book can help beginners select openings which suit their style. After you become a better player, you may later look back on this book and disagree with some of its pronouncements about the openings it covers, but it does a good job guiding beginners in developing their opening repertoire and playing style. I periodically look this book over when I'm considering trying out other openings which I haven't previously played (or at least which I haven't learned particularly well).
Focusing only on openings beginning with 1 e4 e5 ("open games") excluding 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 (the Ruy López, also known as the Spanish Opening), this book contains a significantly greater level of detail than the above book, but similarly contains very instructive explanations. My favorite volume from this Understanding the... series of books on chess openings, though part of the underlying reason is that this one covers multiple major opening variations, while the others focus on one each, making this one more broadly useful.
(Typos: page 36: 15 Kxd8 should be 15 Qxd8; page 40: In the note to Black's 26th move, 28 Qh1 should be 28 Kh1; page 83: 14...Qh8 should be Kh8)
An excellent introduction to a wide variety of variations in the English Opening. The material from this book has served me well for more than 25 years.
I don't think these books would be appreciated by anyone who is not a serious player, but they are simply fantastic. The explanations and detail are extremely useful for opening analysis and preparation. Hardinge Simpole Publishing gave the chess world a great gift by reviving this series of out-of-print books (listed here along with some others).
An excellent pamphlet on an interesting variation in the English Opening. Well organized presentation of instructive material including twenty illustrative games. Unlike many other modern works which contain extensive annotations, this pamphlet uses descriptive explanations instead of symbols for assessments of moves and positions.
Konikowski also wrote a 1994 book on the Flohr-Mikenas System which was published by s1 Editrice. That book used nothing but symbols for assessments of moves and positions, which I feel is not as helpful for instructional purposes, although on the positive side it allows more material to be included in the same amount of space. The two books can complement one another but I prefer the older one.
From the same series as the Nigel Povah book listed above, but I feel it is of somewhat lower quality in presentation and meticulousness. Nonetheless, it is a very reasonable introduction to a wide variety of ideas and variations in the French Defense.
Excellent and thorough, delving much further into variations than the Shaun Taulbut book listed above. Not all players will want this level of detail, though, and for them the Taulbut book might be preferable.
From Martin's introduction:
The problem with most opening textbooks is, that quite honestly, they are boring.
Long strings of faceless analysis, some sort of assessment at the end of each variation, little or no text and the reader puts the book down dissatisfied. Perhaps the only time he'll pick it up again is when he wants to use it as a reference point. Fine. But what has he learned?
So the object of this book is to make life as easy as possible for the reader. I wrote it as I would like to read it. Familiar maybe, but hopefully that much more access[i]ble. (sic)
Interesting and aggressive ideas to use in many different variations of the King's Indian Defense, which, though not always executed perfectly by me, yielded two memorable tournament wins and a draw as Black (I included the draw in my article which appears in the July-September 2004 issue of Chess Horizons, the magazine of the Massachusetts Chess Association). I can also remember two tournament losses using this book's ideas, but those were still of some interest.
The July-September 2001 issue of Chess Horizons, had an interesting article by National Master Randy Bauer about a line of the King's Indian. Bauer did extensive independent research using a starting point from this book, which brought him a well-earned win in 1997, 6 years after a loss in the same variation. It was nice to see that 8 years after publication, this book was still topical at higher levels of play. At my (lower) playing level, this book (or indeed, any of the others listed here) will probably always be topical, because my typical opponents and I often have comparably poor theoretical preparation; fortunately that doesn't mean we enjoy the game any less!
Interesting, entertaining, and thorough. An excellent book, very much enriched by Gallagher's engaging, lively style and his personal anecdotes.
Extremely thorough, delving so far into variations that this book is not likely to be of great value except to serious tournament players. Gallagher seems to have quite a knack for writing good opening books.
An entertainingly written, highly accessible introduction to this opening. I bought this sight unseen (extremely unusual for me) largely based on the strength of his earlier book on the French Defense, and have been delighted with the content. Chapter 7's explanation of the Rubinstein Trap was my first exposure to the inexplicable blunders for which that top-level grandmaster was known:
The Rubinstein Trap is probably unique in the world of chess, as it is named not after the player who first carried it out or analysed it in a book, but after the player who fell into it! (Twice!!)(Unrelated corrections: Page 98: 13 Bd3 should be 13 Bb3; page 131: the moves 26 Rxa1 Bxa1 are missing from Karpov-Ehlvest; page 176: 7 cxd5 should be 8 cxd5 in the first sentence of the White keeps the central tension section)
This fantastic book, which incidentally is not a games collection, is the product of three years' of Agur's research. The meat of the book is insightful and revealing comments on game fragments which were chosen to highlight Fischer's approach to chess, organized in sections like What's in a Style?, Playing to Win, and Practical Chances. This is a very inspirational work for those who aspire to play great chess.
In his foreword to the book, Garry Kasparov honestly compliments Fischer's chess and professional attitude. However, his words don't read as if he considers Fischer, in his prime, a better player than himself. Kasparov has been the strongest active player in the world since 1985, through at least 2004 as I write this. I think Kasparov is the strongest chessplayer ever (for most serious chessplayers, I suspect Fischer is the only other candidate), and I feel his foreword is very appropriate. Fischer did great things in chess, and Kasparov rightly praises them, but he also rightly outlines important differences between the chess world then and now.
This book only covers Fischer's career up to 1972, when he won the World Chess Championship from Boris Spassky. Given the relative weakness of Fischer's chess (not to speak of other things) dating from 1992 onward, when he reappeared on the world chess scene after twenty years of retirement, it's probably a good thing that this book wasn't later updated.
A thoroughly enjoyable compilation of material (much of it translated by Cafferty), including photos and cartoons which add color to the stories, on the series of matches from which Boris Spassky again (!) emerged as the challenger for the World Championship against Tigran Petrosian, as he had previously done in 1965.
Opening, middlegame, and endgame themes are instructively explored in depth. Almost every move is explained using plain English. Games are mostly from the 1990's. A fantastic book!
An enjoyable and instructive book about the Kasparov-Karpov 1990 World Chess Championship. Seirawan's infectious enthusiasm comes through in his analysis of the games. Tisdall's perhaps somewhat more level but no less engaging on-site commentaries are also good complementary material.
The 158 tournament (not blitz) games between Kasparov and Karpov to June 1991 are also included at the end, unannotated.
Entertaining and instructive. Soltis is a good storyteller, and it's great that he has the chance here to write about his own games, about which no one can be more authoritative. Extensive comments about his personal experiences related to these games make this especially fun to read.
This book seems to have been put together from numerous collected examples without always "properly" pointing out forward or backward references among them (a minor quibble):
The authors' 2000 follow-up, Winning Endgame Strategy, is also good, and includes some corrections to the first book. However, evidencing a continuing lack of editorial care, they repeat a section containing two endgame positions from Winning Endgame Technique. Page 110's Mikhalchishin-Azmajparashvili and the immediately following Mitrofanov study already appeared on page 98 of their earlier book.
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