So you want to be a chess master – but how will you get there? Simple – just practice your tactics, endgames, strategy, and openings! Reading the 7 best chess books below will help you improve dramatically. I also included links to free resources just in case you’re on a tight budget.
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Tactics are the building blocks of higher-level chess mastery. Once you can easily spot a fork, pin, skewer, etc., in your sleep, you can start combining them into spectacular combinations and deadly checkmating attacks. Practicing tactics is one of the fastest ways to improve because it radically increases your knowledge base and improves your pattern recognition (4 Tips to Improve Pattern Recognition in Chess).
Unrated to 1500 – Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess: A must-read book written by the master himself. Reading this book helped push me over the 1600 barrier. The book covers the fundamentals of chess tactics and strategy and helps you dramatically improve your pattern recognition skills.
Unrated to 1600 – How to Beat Your Dad at Chess / Chess Tactics for Kids: GM Murray Chandler is an expert writer who makes learning chess fun! In each book, he covers 50 common motifs and gives plenty of examples. Strong 1600s might already know most of the patterns but will still enjoy the whimsical illustrations and names for motifs.
1600 to 2100 – Art of Attack: If you’re looking for a book to help you hone your attacking skills, look no further. This classic has helped thousands of chess enthusiasts learn how to ambush the enemy King. Originally published in 1965, the book has been updated to use the revised algebraic notation and has been “fact-checked” by computer engines.
After tactics, endgame patterns are the most important thing to learn. Knowing the correct endgame strategy could mean the difference between an easy win or a throwaway loss.
Unrated to 2000 – Silman’s Complete Endgame Course: This book is a clear choice for any player. IM Jeremy Silman masterfully conveys critical endgame concepts in simple ways anyone can understand. This book really is “Complete” – he covers everything from basic checkmates to master-level endgame brilliancies. He shows that endgame study is neither hard nor dull. I had an incredible time reading this book!
1800 to 2200 – 101 Chess Endgame Tips: A very light read (only 111 pages) but packed with advanced technical strategy. Each page is devoted to a different technique and shows an example from a master game. 101 Chess Endgame Tips is the perfect complement to the one above as it fills in some advanced techniques Silman leaves out.
Crafting a coherent plan in the middle game is often the hardest part of chess. Unlike learning endgames or tactics, middle game strategy is often not concrete and relies on familiarity with certain guiding principles. Use this plan for improvement based on your playing level.
1400 to 2200 – How to Reassess Your Chess: Literally the textbook on the imbalances and middle game strategy. You cannot go wrong buying it. Silman introduces you to 7 different imbalances and teaches you what to do when each is present. After reading the book, you will be able to easily deconstruct a position and formulate the correct plan in any situation.
The opening is one of the most important phases as mistakes here can affect the rest of the game. There are 2 different approaches to study openings: learn the opening principles/themes or memorize countless opening variations. Do not do the latter! It is pretty much pointless until you are a 2000+ rated player.
Unrated to 1600 – Logical Chess: A fantastic resource that explains 33 master games move-by-move. Each explanation is crystal clear and gives you insight into the “why” behind the moves. You will have many “aha” moments while reading the book!
Thanks for reading this article! Have you read any of these books? If so what did you think of them? Please comment if you know a good book that was not featured.