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    Sunday
    Nov112012

    What Chess Book Helped You The Most?

    Chess books come in many different genres, and even with each genre there are different ways books can be excellent. One's "favorite" chess book might not do a thing for one's skill over the board, while some books that may be fantastic for training may be deadly dull in any other context. Rather than get bogged down soliciting opinions about your "favorite" chess book or the one you consider the "greatest", let me ask something more pragmatic: what chess book has helped you the most?

    Earlier today I was speaking with a local friend whose rating is around 2000, and I asked him what books he liked to use when working with students of a certain age and rating range. To my surprise, he mentioned Ludek Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy, as it had helped him make a breakthrough in his own chess development. (Come to think of it, one of my friends when I was in my early teens also had serious praise for that book.) I'm not sure there was any such book in my case: my growth was very steady for years, but without any giant leaps. There are many books that helped, but I can't think of any one work whose influence on my development stands out.

    But how about you - what book has helped you the most?

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    Reader Comments (36)

    I'm going to name a few, hope that's okay.

    When I was learning as a kid, the single book that did the most for teaching me how to conduct a game from beginning to end was Chernev's Logical Chess: Move By Move.

    My results have improved in the last couple of years even though I'm now middle-aged, and if I had to pick one book (well, set of books) that was the most responsible, it would be Yusupov's series for Quality Chess (Build Up Your Chess etc.). These books force you to do most of the work yourself, which is probably why they're so effective.

    One more book, and one which is fairly obscure: How To Be Lucky in Chess, by David LeMoir. There are not enough books that treat chess as a sport played between two fallible individuals. This book really helped me maximize my chances of saving points and half-points in actual games against actual people.

    November 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan Schmidt

    Starting out: Fred Reinfeld Books
    >900: 1001 Sacrifices
    >1200: Batsford Chess Openings, Test Your Chess IQ, Encyclopedia of Chess Middle Games
    >1800: Botvinnik's best games, Tal: My Life and Games
    >2000: Endgame Strategy,
    >2200: Sicilian Labrynth, Perfect Your Chess
    Misc. reads: Zurich 1953, Fischer-Spassky 1972, Test Your Positional IQ, My Great Predecessors, Fire on Board, Tal-Botvinnik, Various Repertoire Books (How to beat the Anti-Sicilians, Play the Queen's Gambit)

    Still working on reading Dvoretsky.

    Probably, 1001 Sacrifices and Test Your Chess IQ books were the most important. They helped the most in terms of calculation.

    November 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Chua

    I know you may not want to talk about it, but it may be easier to talk about books that were least helpful.

    [DM: Correct, I don't - though it could make for an interesting post on another occasion!]

    November 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGoodhumor

    There are many books I've found helpful, but I don't really want a laundry list of useful works. (At least I don't think that's what I want, but I could be wrong!) What I'm aiming for are real standouts in your experience - something closer to St. Paul on the road to Damascus than a nifty new screwdriver for the tool belt.

    November 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterDennis Monokroussos

    I'm surprised that no one has brought up the obvious "How to Reassess Your Chess." However system oriented it may seem, it is a fantastic piece of chess literature.

    But once I learned to "play" chess instead of just move pieces, Pawn Structure Chess by Soltis (and a more modern corollary Winning Chess Middle Games by Sokolov) honestly caved in my world view about chess.

    Regardless of how complete the books may be, understanding chess openings and maneuvering through the lens of opening pawn structure and the typical middle game plans that result make very clear a lot of games that once were only labeled with trivialities like, "oh he needs room for his pieces so he pushed that pawn."

    There were two standout moments for me in two different books that might be worth mentioning. The first is another plug for Silman - his analysis of karpov - brown 1972 was one of the clearest and simplest explanations of a game i ever read. You come away feeling like you knew what happened in that game - even if some lines are missing...the full intent of the game is clear.

    The other moment was in a little known but extremely good book called the art of the middle game by keres and kotov. Kotov analyzes Alekhine vs Bogolubov game 7, wc match 1929. The following comment has stuck with me for over a decade:

    "With his usual intuitive imagination Alekhine perceived that Black would shortly be compelled to castle on the Queen's side and that a far advanced white pawn on QR6 would then be of great help to the white pieces in an attack on the black King."

    I was very struck for the first time how envisioning your opponents possibilities, even in the abstract can lead you make very strong choices that wouldn't normally enter your mind. A trivial comment on his P-QR4 might suggest a primitive attack on a knight who;s squares are limited. Seeing the real scope of an ultra world class players intentions for the first time was awe-inspiring for me.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoss

    My experience is remarkably similar to Alex Chua's. I think it's probably a necessary pattern. If your improvement went over several hundreds of points, it should be impossible to point to one book to rule them all.

    My first big jump into the 1600s was made possible by a tactics book: Martin Weteschnik: Chess Tactics from Scratch (though a much older non-english edition), but I guess any systematic tactics guide will do.

    I got into the 1900s by assimilating some positional ideas from various sources. Foremost in my mind are two excellent books by Pachmann Schach für Alle and Schach für Aufsteiger (those are books written around the year 2000. I'm not sure there is an english translation.) and Nimzovich's Mein System.

    After I crossed 2000 I really profited from regular work with Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual. Though it was probably more the regular work that did it. The book itself was way to hard. I think Aagaard's books are really perfect for 2000-2300.

    So my overall theory is, that it is only possible to get your "St. Paul on the road to Damascus" for any given stretch of 100-200 points. And the stronger you get the more you rely on "nifty new screwdriver"s for improvement. (My niftiest screwdriver the last 60 points has been Dismantling the Sicilian.)


    Phille

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhille

    Chess for Tigers by Simon Webb.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercmling

    For me, three books stand out:

    - Larry Evans' New Ideas in Chess, which was reprinted in algebraic recently. This book lays out positional and strategic considerations in one place with simple examples that an D-E player can understand.

    - Larry Evans' Fischer-Spassky Move by Move. I kept this at hand for years. The games perhaps are not the most instructive, but you can study the positions without a board.

    - Fine's Basic Chess Endings.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Henderson

    Robert E. Burger's "The Chess of Bobby Fischer" was the most helpful chess book I ever read. I got it when I was about 12. It took me from 1000 to 1500 or 1600. The book uses the games of Bobby Fischer to illustrate chess concepts, such as outside passed pawns to Zugzwang to Zwischenzug. I remember Zwischenzugs making a big impact on me as it was the first I heard of them. Lots of explanatory text, which at that point was what I needed. The book also contains some positions from non-Fischer games as well as studies. I still get pleasure from this book as occasional bathroom reading.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    Shortly after reading Sammy Reshevsky's 'Art of Positional Play' I jumped from Class B to Class A. I really enjoyed his annotations in the book and for someone who was a prodigy I felt he was able to explain his thought processes very well. Then after reading 'Chess For Zebras" by Rowson I finally broke the 2000 barrier. Rowson helped me realize that I was applying much of what I'd learned over the years incorrectly and that I definitely wasn't working hard enough at the board. I'm not sure that anybody understands the psychology of the amateur chess player better than Rowson.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNate Criss

    Milton Hanauer's Chess Made Simple not only influenced my chess but taught me the game at the same time. Published in 1957 by a former NY state champion, I carefully read, reread and underlined important parts for me. I was particularly impressed at the time with the way that the Knights were utilized.

    I was initially introduced to the game by a short lived life long friend who lost his life at the tender age of 21 in Viet Nam. He chased my bare King across the board and checkmated me. And I was hooked. Fifty three years later I am still hooked.

    I still have his book and still look through it on occasion.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

    Simple Chess by Michael Stean.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteranon

    For me it was Reuben Fine's The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, because that plugged a hole in my knowledge. I don't know if it's a great book, but in my particular case it is what I needed. It is also possible that it just happened to be what I was reading when I made a leap in ability, so perhaps I tend to think of it more fondly and give it greater weight than it deserves.

    If the truth be told, though, my biggest leap in ability came when I stopped blundering simple tactics.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.A. Topfke

    Logical Chess Move by Move really helped me to get in the habit of every move has a purpose, and really nail down the fundamentals.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim Brennan

    I once asked the World Champion the same question and he replied Chess Fundamentals by Capablanca and Pawn Power in Chess by Kmoch

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    Looking back at my own experience, it seems to me that, in order to really develop some understanding of Chess, I always needed to be able to experiment at the board by combining simple(r) "concepts" I learned already, in this way reaching, with trial and error, over time, an higher level of complexity in my own vision of the game: through this mechanism I was progressively able to see more and more familiar features in the positions at the board, and to understend with more confidence which features were important and which were not.
    (I used the past tenses, but all the above is still true in the present, and I think it will also be true in the future, as long as I keep playing Chess)

    The ONE book which helped me the most at the beginning of this kind of learning process I just described, is Kmoch's "Pawn Power in Chess".
    The feature which I couldn't find in any other book is the method of cutting down play into manageble chunks, when instead of seeing positions as a whole, or at the opposite approaching only one very limited and particular aspect of the positions (e.g. a single square/file/diagonal or the most influential single Piece), Kmoch looks at smaller but recognizeble chunks of the complete structures you regoularly find in all games, and how this parts made of two-three Pawns and one-two Pieces influence the middlegame play in its evolution.
    When I read this book the first time, this approach was the perfect way to introduce positional concepts without overflowing my club player mind with too much informations (as so many other middlegame books do), as it provided ready to use infos I cuold use and combine in my own experimental ways in order to develop a further understanding of Chess.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarone (Italy)

    Judgment and Planning in Chess by Max Euwe.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterG.L.

    I went from 1000 to 1700 by reading one and only one book: Zurich 1953.

    However, I read another 19 books to go from 1700 to 2000. - Art of Attack, 100 Endgames you must know, Essential Chess Endings, Psychology in Chess, Amateur's Mind, Seven Deadly Chess Sins, Chess For Zebras, The Road to Chess Improvement, Perfect Your Chess, Analysing the Endgame, Endgame Strategy, How to Think in Ches, Practical Rook Endgames, In the World of Tactics, Fire on Board Part 1, Fire on Board Part 2, Capablanca's Best games and Gelfand's best games as well as selected chapters in other games collections books (usually featuring Tal, Karpov or Kasparov).

    So why mention all 20 books I read to make an 1000 point rating jump? Well because the question was 'what helped me' the most and rating seemed the only substantive way to quantify this notion. Otherwise, I would be speaking to the concept of what I enjoyed the most (and saw no benefits from) more than anything else.

    I have to say it is so hard for me to speak to anything other than 1953 games collection just because it really opened my eyes the way game collection focused on the most crucial part in each games. One game it would be the opening phase, another endgame, another middlegame, another correct calculation, another crucial planning. Even the games that had no commentary at all, I found something in them to teach myself. Perhaps this speaks more to my low level at the time of reading it. However, I think I could reread it now and still gain new valuable insights. I think, however, this time I shall visit Najdorf's version of the book instead of Bronsteins (or perhaps compare the two).

    I feel though that the value of the book to your learning is going to depend on what weakness you are trying to fix. If you have no particular weakness you are aiming at (endgames, openings etc) then I believe games collections will always be the best book tool there is.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

    Spielmann's The Art of Sacrifice (the German title is better: Richtig Opfern, ie saccing correctly). It's the book that helped me to connect tactics and positional play.
    But I'm a very one-sided player (and don't mind it).

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMNb

    So many books, currently POSITIONAL CHESS HANDBOOK by ISRAEL GELFER

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpositonal sac.

    The seminal work Think Like a GrandMaster answered a lot of questions I wanted to ask a Grandmaster. After reading this book I stopped my bad habit of walking away from the board to check other games in progress while waiting for my opponent to move. One key piece of advice by Kotov is to formulate general plan on your opponent's time and calculate concrete variation when your clock is ticking.

    Another turning point in my chess development was when I started to use Chessbase.

    November 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPolo

    Reading Vukovic's Art of Attack followed by Silman's How to Reassess Your Chess helped me break that magic 2000 rating barrier. I read a lot of other books at the time as well, but felt that those two made a real difference by teaching how me how to think strategically.

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAziridine

    I have taken a real leap in strength from studying the annotations by Kasparov in his series of books.

    Garry is a modern David Bronstein in the sense Davik talked about modern thoughts using Zurich 53 as an illustration, whilst GK really gives you a flavour of the way chess has changed and is played today by the top players. His analytical rigor is inspiring and justifiably famous.

    As a junior, I learned a great deal from the Pachman trilogy on middlegame strategy and Paul Keres Practical Chess Endings.

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGraham

    The three big ones that come to mind are Reinfeld's 1001 Ways to Checkmate, Silman's How to Reassess Your Chess, and John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy. Of those, the Reinfeld had the single biggest effect, since my tactics improved by about 400 points just by studying that book. Silman's book taught me how to think strategically in a more systematic way, and the Watson book confirmed my growing intuition that tactical-dynamic considerations trump everything (and gave me new avenues for understanding that).

    The next tier down would be Simon Webb's Chess For Tigers, John Nunn's Secrets of Grandmaster Chess and Grandmaster Chess Move By Move, and Pal Benko's Chess Endgame Lessons (which is an anthology of his Chess Life columns). Speaking of which, it's not a book but I'd be remiss if I left out Chess Life itself, from which I learned a heck of a lot if mostly on a basic chess-literacy level.

    The oft-cited Chess Fundamentals nearly turned me off chess for good when I was a kid! When I finished with my first book, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, I wanted more -- but the Capa book's officious tone and poor explanations put me off.

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterP.

    Quote: "After reading this book I stopped my bad habit of walking away from the board to check other games in progress while waiting for my opponent to move."

    Funnily enough, I attribute my latest jump into the 2100s to the insight, that I shouldn't play "maximal chess", i.e. look more for keeping the balance with fast and easy moves, refrain from trying to calculate everything and take a walk when it's not my move.
    Total focus just lead to overpressing and then to spectacular collapses, whenever my energy ran out.

    Phille

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhille

    25 years ago when I was in grades 6 thru 9, I was most helped by the book "Winning Chess: How to see three moves ahead" by Fred Reinfeld & Irving Chernev. I didn't even realize until I re-bought this book 2 years ago that this was the book that has helped me most. Even today, I find this book to be helpful and a fun book to read (it doesnt feel like I am studying, it feels like I am playing chess).

    I think that it is a complete gem.

    Here a link to iton Amazon and it has 37 reviews (all 5 star reviews and majority of them say its the best book ever)
    http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Chess-Three-Moves-Ahead/product-reviews/0671211145

    I will be surprised if there is any book that will help anyone go from 800 to 1700 quicker and painlessly.

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMK

    I used to borrow a book from our local library as a kid called "Grandmaster Preperation" by Polugayevsky - and this was before I even understood the basics!

    I managed to source a second hand copy recently and it really is one of the books that stands out in my chess "education". Not that I learnt so much tactics etc from it, more that it was inspiring and really helped develop my lifelong love affair with chess.

    Other books that have helped tremendously are Silman's "Complete Endgame Course", Shereshevsky's "Endgame Strategy" and Dvoretsky's "Training for the Tournament Player".

    And in all honesty when I started to get more serious about chess as opposed to just playing some online blitz every now and then, it was your shows on playchess that got me hooked. I used to wait up and watch them live (2am) in England for weeks until I realised I could stream them at convenience :)

    Speaking of shows, any news on a move to PPV on CVTV?

    George

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Hollands

    No question "Point Count Chess" by Geoffrey Mott-Smith and I.A. Horowitz was the single most important chess book. It took me from 1200 to 1600 back in the Jurrasic (early 70s). It's long out of print and uses descriptive notation, but it gave me a sense of what positional chess was all about at a time when my tactical skills were growing rapidly as well. It's still kicking around used on the internet.

    The basic idea was creating a list of the common positional factors and gave them the value of a third of a pawn plus or minus depending on which side had it and if it was an advantage or disadvantage. The idea was that if you could get to +1.33 you should have a won game. At first I applied it somewhat rigidly, but eventually I internalized the material and the point count aspect simply faded away because the lessons were incorporated into my chess judgement.

    Probably not of interest to anyone over 1600 except as a teaching aide.

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWildman

    I found Fine's Basic Chess Endings was an excellent book, which I turned to driven by Karpov's advice to British chess players to study endgames more than openings. However, I must confess that Kasparov/Keene's BCO was also a regular reference work as I studied for tournaments!

    November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

    Fundamental Chess Endings by Muller and Lamprecht. It came out when I was returning to the game as an adult. After reading through the first half of it, I was far better than my opponents and won endgame after endgame, often from inferior positions.

    November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMSC

    I have a lot of chess books. Some are too advanced, to scattered or I haven't gotten much our of them. I would say that these were very instructive.
    Predator at the Chessboard (www.chesstactics.org)
    Best Lessons of a Chess Coach
    50 Essential Chess Lessons
    The Endgame Lessons on Chessville.com.

    November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

    "Winning Chess" changed me from a wood pusher to a player. Every beginner should read it. There are 37 reviews on Amazon and all of them gave it 5-stars. That must be a record. It is worth leaning descriptive notation just to read the book. Pity nobody thought to reprint it in algebraic notation.

    “The Art of the Middle Game” – Keres and Kotov. There is a chapter somewhere in it about attacking the king. My stock plan which I got from this book was to block the centre and pawn-storming the king. This won me many games when as a young player.

    “My 60 Memorable Games” – Fischer. Taught me a thing or two. I often used to pick out a position and try to analyse it myself. It is the best way of learning.

    November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Gaines

    I have read and studied over 20 chess books (mostly on the basic fundamentals). Each have helped somewhat in different areas. But one book does stand out that seemed to help the most and that is Tim Harding's "Why You Lose at Chess." The book is often not mentioned as "one of the great classics" but it really helped to illustrate the different areas that I was weak in and needed improvement. Since then, I have focused my studies on those areas and am beginning to see some real improvement in my play.

    November 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hooten

    Lasker's Manual of Chess is the book I keep going back to.
    My System was also useful.

    August 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentershawn

    PAWN POWER IN CHESS by Hans Kmoch. It's the final word on pawn play, regardless of what chess variant you play, as long as the pawns move the way they do.

    January 2, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLolu

    Breakthrough books for me include:
    1. Weapons of Chess by Bruce Pandolfini (breaking out of Class D)
    2. My Chess Career bt Capablanca (breaking out of Class B)
    3. Logical Chess Move by Move by Chernev (breaking out of Class C)

    So many great books, but these books got me past various classes.

    April 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Castro

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