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Recommended Chess Books

by NM Dan Heisman (updated 09/10/2014 )

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A GOOD CHESS BOOK IS A MATTER OF OPINION; there are many good books
which will not be listed below. There are thousands of chess books and more are
each day! Pick ones that suit your style. Consider also other media like web pag
es, CDs,
chess videos, chess audios, etc.
IMPORTANT NOTE! - If there is a book link on this page, that generally means the
book is
NOT in general distribution and that link goes to a site where the book is avail
able. If there is
no link, then the book is generally available from most chess book sellers, plus
Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc.
SOURCES: Books are available from the US Chess Federation (1-800-388-KING), Ches
Cafe (1-866-301-CAFE), and other chess book sellers. Take my Equipment Link for
more booksellers. If you decide to purchase at, click on their graphi
c link below
to give me referral credit, thanks!
Click on this graphic to shop at Amazon and give Dan credit
Get more information on Dan's 11 books.
Novice Nook/articles about books: Chess Books and Prerequisites; An Improvement
The Four Homeworks, Annotated Game Collections vs. Instructive Anthologies, A Ba
Rating Tactics Quiz, Tactical Sets and Goals, Nunn, Chernev, and Learning Chess,
from Andy, Understanding Chess Puzzles, How to Use MCO-14, and Reviewing Chess
Games (pdf required); Middlegame book suggestions, Improvement books vs. Thought
Process Books
Books about starting out, learning the moves,
and rules:
The Complete Idiot s Guide to Chess GM Patrick Wolff - Don t let the
title fool you! This is an excellent book for beginners over age 10
(youngsters would have to be helped by an older reader it written for
adult-level readers). It covers not only how to play, but many of the same
tips I give my students. Good for students up to the 1400 level! The final
third of the book is more advanced and can be put away for later (after doing
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books on Fundamentals) This book is widely distributed.
Chess Workbook for Children - Todd Bardwick - excellent workbook at a
young beginner level. (read the Amazon reviews)
Square One Bruce Pandolfini
A book to teach young beginners how to
play (may be out of print; check for used copies).
Comprehensive Chess Course, Vol I - GM Lev Alburt - Teaches you how
to play with some great basic problems and concepts. Alburt's series is based
on the official Soviet training method! Can sometimes be purchased with Vol
II as a single-book text.

Scholastic Chess Instruction Material - a large set is downloadable from

Professor Chess
Special recommendation by a student: Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and
Chesster software for kids - PC Version - Nintendo Version
Fundamentals For students of all ages. The following five
books form a great "set" of basics:
Chess Tactics for Students (Student Edition; 10th anniversary edition)
Bain learn motifs (pins, removal of guard, double attacks, back-rank mates,
Notes: 1) This book is not widely distributed - click on this link and order it
from Bain 2) In the new edition, problem 180, it is White to move 3) In problem
White's King is on h1, not h2! 4) Why Bain? Check out Tactical Sets and Goals an
read about tactical sets below.
Guide to using Chess Tactics for Students (IMPORTANT!):
1) Don't look at anything more than White to Play or Black to Play
use a
3x5 card to cover up any additional information
2) You do not have to do just 5 problems per section first as Bain suggests. You
go thru the book in any order. Some do it front to back; others cut out the
problems and use them like flash cards, etc.
3) Set a limit of 5-6 minutes per problem the first time thru the book; if you d
on t
get the answer in your time limit, look it up. Since it is best to do the book
multiple times, please don't write in the book!
4) Each time thru the book cut the time limit in half so it does not take foreve
r to
go thru multiple times. A typical time limit is for each set would be 6 minutes,
then 3, then 90 seconds, 45 sec, 25 sec, 15 sec, 10 sec for each problem in the
7th pass.
5) Repeat going thru the book faster and faster until you can get 85%+ within
10-15 seconds (see #6 just below). THE GOAL IS TO RECOGNIZE THE
PATTERNS, not just be able to solve them! You will be amazed how much this
helps your chess. - I am becoming more convinced that this homework is one of
the most profitable you will ever do.
6) If you think you can do 85%+ within 15 seconds, take this quiz.
7) Doing the set gets boring? Make it into a game! Can you get a higher percenta
in that section the next time in half the time limit?
Check out The Empirical Rabbit's Mar 1, 2011 blog "The Bain Experiment".
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To emulate the Bain level on Chess Tempo, set the level of problems to
Logical Chess Move by Move - Chernev - A classic which explains each
move in excruciating detail! A good, but not perfect, first book of annotated
games. It is important to read books of games, especially books written just
for instruction. (After this, try The Art of Logical Chess Thinking by
McDonald, del Rosario's A First Book of Morphy, or Chernev's The Most
Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played; see complete list below). Take this
link for GM John Nunn's criticism's of Logical Chess on p.7-8 of Nunn's book
Grandmaster Chess Move by Move. Logical Chess Move by move is widely
Everyone s Second Chess Book Heisman
(you can find much more improvement advice in my Novice Nook columns!) Board Vision, Tips,
Etiquette, Rules, etc. This book has all my recommendations for both
beginning and intermediate adults and younger students all rolled into one

place! A third printing might still be in the works, but only used copies are
Winning Chess Strategy for Kids - Coakley - Highly recommended for
basic tactics AND strategy- don't be fooled by the "...for Kids". For example,
check out the advanced "Steinitzian" concepts on pages 202-204. Don't
confuse with the excellent (and more advanced) "Winning Chess Exercises
for Kids" If you don't want to use the Amazon link on the title, you can click o
n this
link and order it directly from Canada.
Starting out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates - Chris Ward - I think this
book bridges the tactics gap between a "rules" book and a slightly more
advanced book like Chess Tactics for Students (above) about as well as any.
There are some fairly difficult problems but most are basic and quite
Basic Books (ratings under 1300 USCF; 1500 ICC standard):
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess - Fischer & Margulies - a programmed study
of back rank and related mates; good for studying after Bain's Chess Tactics
for Students
Pandolfini's Endgame Course - Pandolfini - straightforward examples of
basic ideas, lots of typos but great selection. Before reading, suggest using
online errata list to correct! To save time, you don't have to make all the
corrections to the text (except who is to win!), just the analysis. A follow-up
book by Bruce, more difficult and less practical, but still fun, is Pandolfini's
Chess Challenges
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Checkmate for Children - Stark - A modern book covering checkmate
patterns - one of the best I have ever seen at just this particular issue - and
not just for children!
Comprehensive Chess Course, Vol II - Alburt (Vol I primarily just teaches
you how to play) - Youngsters can use this in conjunction with Bain's book
for a real good basis for later improvement.
The Chess Tactics Workbook - Woolum - Somewhat similar to Bain's book
but with more problems overall and more mate problems, but less single
motif problems. Some "Board Vision" puzzles at the back! By Chess in
Education - 4th ed: Steve Eddin's errata list - Empirical Rabbit errata; p.33
#6 1.Rxe7 Qxe7!
A First Book of Morphy - Del Rosario - a basic game book showing many
basic principles via Morphy games. Downside: does not question weak
moves well.
Intermediate Books (USCF ratings 1300
Good Problem Books:
Power Chess for Kids - Hertan - a helpful book about how to find
basic forcing moves, easier than Hertan's also very good Forcing Chess
Moves; check out his helpful essay "Adventure and Sportsmanship" on
p.13, but his key exception on p.19 has exceptions itself! Good for all
levels 900-1700! Once again, ignore the "for Kids" - that's just funsy
graphics, but not content!
Winning Chess Exercises for Kids - Coakley - Possibly the best
"intermediate" book to test the tactics for players of all ages! Highly
recommended - don't be fooled by the "...for Kids" part of the title. A
follow-up to his more basic "Winning Chess Strategy for Kids." Much
harder than Bain and more well-rounded (has defensive and "best
move" problems) than any other intermediate books, e.g. Winning
Chess Combinations and Sacrifices, etc. Over 900 problems! Errata:
#87-1: Put White Bishop at d5. #94-8: White King at h1, not g1. ***This is the
book for which I receive the most positive feedback of any book I

Practical Chess Exercises - Cheng - An interesting idea with 600

positions from games where all you are given is that there is a best
move. It could be the only saving defensive tactic, play and win, or a
positional idea.
The Chess Training Pocket Book - Alburt - the 300 most instructive
positions needed to get to a rating of 1800. To get to 1400, I would
start with positions 5, 15, 18, 26, 27, 39, 63, 68, 75, 80, 82, 105, 109,
118, 125, 128, 129, 133, 163, 203, 206, 238, 242, 247, 265, 280.
Chess Exam and Training Guide - IM Khmelnitsky - 2005 Chess
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Cafe Book of the Year. A book of excellent test problems; good for
taking after doing Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book. Problems
good for all levels of difficulty and not just tactics. 2005 Book of the
The Art of the Checkmate - Renaud and Kahn - mostly a great book
about checkmate pattern but lots of problems, too.
xChess Visualization Course, Book 1: General Tactics - Ian
Anderson - (out of print) practicing board vision and counting. Thick!
See also IM Rensch's Video on visualization
Chess Strategy Workbook - Bardwick - Has basic ideas but not all
problems are easy. A good follow-up to Coakley's Winning Chess
Strategy for Kids
The Winning Way - Pandolfini (basic opening patterns, traps) - similar to
another classic, Winning Chess Traps by Irving Chernev. Neither is in the
form of puzzles, but example opening patterns
Rapid Chess Improvement - de la Maza - An expanded version of his "400
Points in 400 Days" article (Parts 1 and 2.) on how to improve your game.
Ages 12+.
Nick DeFirmian - Every intermediate
Modern Chess Openings (MCO-15)
can use a one-volume tome covering all the openings. Like buying a
Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge
This small book
contains all the basics for chess endgames.
Practical Chess Endings - Chernev - An excellent collection of endgame
problems covering most practical ideas. Can be used after Pandolfini's
Endgame Course
The World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book - Heisman - I'd like to
think my book as instructive as any other game book on this list
Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played Chernev
a book of games,
each with an individual idea written at a good intermediate level. Older version
is in
descriptive notation. A second book with this same idea, if you like this one, i
Grandmaster meets Chess Amateur by Davis and Norwood
50 Essential Chess Lessons - Giddins - positioned as a more modern,
slightly more advanced than The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever
Modern Chess Move by Move - Crouch- bridges the gap between Logical
Chess Move by Move and Understanding Chess Move by Move. Caution:
some readers hated the editing.
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Silman's Complete Endgame Course
Great book: Could be
listed as "Basic - Intermediate - Advanced" since it covers ALL the endgame
bases in a comprehensive manner. Interested layout by "class"; I used that
layout in The Improving Chess Thinker.
The Amateur s Mind
Examines faulty thinking processes.

Silman's book order recommendation. Need basic positional theory as

prerequisite. e.g. Winning Chess Strategy for Kids - Coakley.
Pawn Power in Chess
Kmoch (on a more macro scale, try Andrew Soltis
Pawn Structure Chess, to be updated 2012+)
How to use pawns in chess.
This subject is a must for any serious player. Don't worry about the arcane
definitions! It's a great book!
Elements of Positional Evaluation
explains the most basic
ideas underlining how pieces get their value A CULT Classic. Superexpanded
fourth edition! This book is not about how to evaluate positions, but rather
the elements for understanding what makes good and bad pieces, and how to value
The Logical Approach to Chess - Euwe, Blaine, Rumble - similar in some
ways to Elements - very logical (!) and somewhat basic, but also lots of good
general knowledge/principles for beginner/intermediates. Very underrated.
Improver's It's Your Move - Ward - 50 problems on finding the right plan (a
more basic, but generally instructive book than the also good It's Your Move)
Inside The Chess Mind - Aagaard - A collection of "think out loud"
protocols from titled players over 12 positions (but only protocols - doesn't
include "thought process" text or discussion). Good for
intermediate/advanced players. If you want a book with protocols for all
levels...see next book...
The Improving Chess Thinker - Heisman - My book on thought process the one I always wanted to write - has received excellent feedback. Includes
not only thought protocols of players of all classes, but also chapters on
thought process basics and time management. Second edition out spring
Learn Chess Tactics - Nunn - Superb descriptions of how each tactic
works. This can almost be viewed as a successor book to my Back to Basics:
Tactics since the problems are on the average much more difficult
The Art of Planning in Chess - Neil McDonald - even better (and more
advanced) than his good anthology The Art of Logical Chess Thinking the third book in this "Chess Secrets" series is Chess Success: Planning
after the Opening and then Giants of Strategy and The Giants of Power
Play - all good!
Winning Chess Puzzles for Kids Vol 1 and Vol 2 - Jeff Coakley - Don't be
fooled by the titles! These books are gems - in additional to some basic
puzzles, there's a fascinating collection of challenging and instructive
puzzles, including many "board vision" puzzles such as "Switcheroos",
"Double Whammies", basic retrogrades, and much more!
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The Wisest Things Ever Said About Chess - Soltis - 288 principles with
examples. Just terrific stuff and very practical. Besides, Andy gives me two
Chess Rules of Thumb - Alburt and Lawrence - 230+ Guidelines and
principles, but not quite as good as Soltis' Another cute but effective pocket
book by Alburt. Recommended for older players; not for kids. These ideas
are so important they are part of my "Big Five" things you should learn first.
Chess Strategy for Club Players - Grooten - Good follow-up to Winning
Chess Strategy for Kids. A "more advanced" strategy book with lots of games
examples (can treat it like an annotated game anthology)
Studying Chess Made Easy - Another great book by Soltis; chock full of
practical advice. It must be good - it matches (and explains from Soltis' point
of view) much of my "good" advice. Other good "practical" books:
Chess for Tigers (2nd ed) - Webb
The Seven Deadly Chess Sins and Chess for Zebras - Rowson (see
below under "Advanced")
Advanced Books (ratings above ~1700 USCF):
How To Reassess Your Chess and the How to Reassess Your Chess

Workbook Jeremy Silman

How to use imblances to figure out what to do.
The books I would recommend after reading Amateur s Mind. See Silman's
recommendations on book order. The first 52 pages of HTRYC (3rd ed) is
much more basic than the remainder. The 4th ed. of HTRYC is clearer and
more focused. Recommended once you no longer play "Hope Chess" and
lose material to unseen threats (USCF 1600+)
Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) Five volumes to cover in more
detail than NCO; of course, if you play a particular opening, get a book on
that opening!
Understanding Chess Move by Move - Nunn - sort of a modern MUCH
more advanced version of Chernev's Logical Chess Move by Move.
Understanding Chess Middlegames - Nunn - Another good one from the
doctor, with 100 different middlegame issues and two sample games/snippets
of each
The World s Greatest Chess Games
Nunn, Burgess, and Emms
The 100
best games of all-time, as analyzed by computer and authors down through
the ages - new version has, I believe, 112 games.
Secrets of Grandmaster Endings Andrew Soltis
a gem of a book
covers most everything you need to know that is above the Averbach
Essential Knowledge level
100 Endgames You Must Know - de la Villa - Every time I read this book I
like it more. It's advanced, but seems to have its pulse on just what it claims
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The Art of Attack Vukovic
advanced attacking techniques, e.g. classical
Bishop Sacrifice. Excellent chapter on focal points. - another advanced
follow-up book is Sokolov's Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess
Judgement and Planning in Chess
Euwe - Chess planning is a difficult
subject. This is one of the few advanced books on the subject.
Thought and Choice in Chess - deGroot - The definitive book analyzing
how strong chessplayers think. Warning! Reads like a PhD thesis, not a chess
book. For how players of all levels think, check out my book The Improving
Chess Thinker.
The Seven Deadly Chess Sins - Rowson - a book on thinking psychological aspects - avoiding time trouble, etc. - The follow up is the
similar and good Chess for Zebras. I recommend anyone who is considering
chess lessons to read the first chapter of Chess for Zebras, where GM
Rowson explains that gaining more chess knowledge is not the way to
become a better chess player!
Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy - Watson - The most advanced positional
book - great.
Rethinking the Chess Pieces - Soltis - Advanced book about the changing
value of the pieces, playing imbalances, when to trade, etc. My awardwinning
review at Chessville
How to Choose a Chess Move - Soltis - another good general book, this
time on thought process, by the GM
The Method in Chess - Dorfman - not a well-written book, but some
important ideas about planning and imbalances
The Kaufman Repertoire for Black & White - Kaufman - Probably the best
opening repertoire book - the 2011 completely re-written version based on
Larry's own play and expert computer evaluation
The Joys of Chess - Hesse - it's "just" a fun book, but a really good one in
the mold of old Chernev and Assaic books like The Bright Side of Chess
Chess Curiousities - Krabbe - Another "fun" book that's really a great trip. But
nothing compared to Krabbe's website, which has all this times 100!
Transpo Tricks in Chess - Soltis - Some really great practical advice about
how to get the most out of many openings. Another Soltis winner.
Special note: The most advanced training books are the Dvoretsky series, the Yus

series, and now Aagaard's Grandmaster Preparation series. These are all
recommended for players rated 1900 looking for very serious advanced study.
Silman Book Reading Order (now updated near the bottom of this
Q&A page on Silman's site)
"My recommended order (though all stand alone):
1) Read Reassess Your Chess through page 52. Then put it away! [Dan's note: You
can skip this 1st step with the 4th ed. of How to Reassess Your Chess]
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2) Read all of The Amateur's Mind.
3) Read the rest of How to Reassess Your Chess.
4) Read The Workbook.
And yes, you have to start people out with tactics and the basic mates else they
will get shredded instantly.
- IM Jeremy Silman in an e-mail to Dan, 11/16/2001.
Aagaard Book Reading Order (pre-"Quality Chess" books; *best of
the series)
1) Excelling at Chess
2) Excelling at Chess Calculation
3) Excelling at Technical Chess
4) Excelling at Combinational Play*
5) Excelling at Positional Chess*
6) Practical Chess Defence*
I also recommend my two DVDs on the attack from ChessBase.
- IM Jacob Aagaard in an e-mail to Dan 8/18/2006
TACTICS SETS: What makes for a great tactics set to form the basis for all
later play? I claim:
All of the problems have to be easy enough to eventually be solved on
recognition, within reason. They also have to be basic enough to either be
single motif, or very easy double motif. They should be building blocks for
more difficult problems.
Most of the problems are to win material not checkmate. In chess most
games are won by attrition, not checkmates with equal material (what
percentage of the games has the reader won with checkmate from a position
of even material?). So a problem set that is 75% or more material wins ("X to
play and win") and less than 25% checkmates seems about right.
Most of the problems are from normal looking positions that may occur
frequently in games. No crazy positions; instead lots of problems featuring
trapped pieces, removal of the guards, double attacks - normal stuff - not too
many queen sacrifices, etc.
Obviously, great sets can come in the form of books, CD's, DVD's, flashcards - t
form is not important for content. However, interactive hints, scoring, timing,
by software can add effectiveness to any grade of content. Online websites with
basic tactics explained: Predator at the Chessboard or the interactive Chess Tem
(or the usually less preferred Chess Tactics Server, which times problems). To
emulate the Bain level on Chess Tempo, set the level of problems to ~900-1250.
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Another site with MANY basic problems from several books (hopefully all legal)
is Improve Your Chess Tactics by Coffey.
Need explanation of how tactics work? I suggest Starting Out: Chess Tactics and

Checkmates by Ward, Power Chess for Kids by Hertan, & my Novice Nook The Seeds o
Tactical Destruction
Email from a student: "I've worked nearly 7,000 tactics problems on the website
and have achieved a rating of 1451
max. This seems to help my tactical vision a great deal. Remember the tournament
I've been playing in since August? The
official results are finally on USCF. My rating went from 1306 -> 1457. I have y
ou to thank for this. The training and Novice Nooks
have helped tremendously! Tonight I'm getting my first trophy for first place un
der 1400 :-)"
8+ tactics books which together may contain 97% of the
~2,000 basic tactics patterns (*= good three to start):
Chess Tactics for Students - John Bain* (can do
repetitively - see above)
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess - Bobby Fischer and
Starting out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates - Chris Ward*
Winning Chess Strategy for Kids - Jeff Coakley (a great author)
The Chess Tactics Workbook - Al Woolum
Back to Basic: Tactics - Dan Heisman (use cleaned-up
2nd printing)
The Winning Way - Bruce Pandolfini (more
difficult to find)
Power Chess for Kids - Hertan - a helpful book about
how to find basic forcing moves, easier than Hertan's also very good Forcing Che
Moves; check out his helpful essay "Adventure and Sportsmanship" on p.13, but hi
key exception on p.19 has exceptions itself!
Need more basic patterns? Throw in:
Checkmate for Children by Kevin Stark has an excellent array of
basic checkmate patterns
The Art of the Checkmate by Renaud and Kahn
Winning Chess Traps - Irving Chernev
Winning Chess Tactics - Seirawan & Silman - not a great
problem set, but good explanations of the Tactics - in that sense
similar to Learn Chess Tactics by Nunn
Novice Nook on why using these puzzles to reject your candidate
moves is the main idea for studying basic tactics
IM David Pruess's interesting insights on the 2,000 basic patterns
Dvoretsky denies the idea of 2,000 basic patterns came from him (link no
longer working and removed)
More Books with Tactical Problems in
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Algebraic or Figurine Algebraic:
Anthology of Chess Combinations - Matanovic
Chess Combinations of the World Champions - Tangborn
Combination Challenge - Hays and Hall
John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book - Nunn - each problem checked by
computer. - Excellent but very difficult.
Sharpen Your Tactics - Lein and Archangelsky
Blunders and Brilliancies - Mullen and Moss - The chapter on positions
where masters resigned where they were not losing is worth the price alone!
Tactical Chess Training - Shamkovich and Cartier
Tactical Targets in Chess - Vol I - Pongo
Test Your Chess IQ, First Challenge - Livshitz
Game Collections

Recommended Instructive Game Anthologies (in

roughly ascending order of difficulty):
Logical Chess Move by Move - Irving Chernev
Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking - Neil McDonald
The World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book - Heisman
(Note: the non-anthology A First Book of Morphy by del Rosario can be
read here)
Simple Attacking Plans - Wilson - contains a variety of master-master,
master-amateur & amateur-amateur games
Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played - Irving Chernev
The Art of Planning in Chess - Neil McDonald
Winning Chess Brilliancies - Yasser Seirawan
Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur - Euwe and Meiden
50 Essential Chess Lessons - Steve Giddins
Chess Success: Planning After the Opening - Neil McDonald
(Chess Strategy for Club Players - Grooten can be read here - it has mostly
games but some game snippets)
The Giants of Strategy - Neil McDonald
50 Ways to Win at Chess - Steve Giddins (after this book I would go to
individual game collections)
Understanding Chess Middlegames - John Nunn - Even though some of the
games omit openings, this book is similar to Most Instructive Games of
Chess Ever Played in that the games are organized by themes, and thus very
Giants of the Power Play - Neil McDonald - the final of this excellent
five-book set
Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess - Sokolov - a fitting follow-up to The Art
of Attack by Vukovich
Understanding Chess Move by Move - John Nunn
Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces - Igor Stohl
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Zurich 1953 - David Bronstein
IM David Pruess's interesting insights on Silman's suggestions about
how many games you need to review.
Novice Nook on how to review chess games
Individual Game Collections (chronological order)
Paul Morphy - A Modern Perspective - Beim (A First Book of Morphy - del
Rosario is much less advanced)
Marshall's Best Games of Chess - Frank J. Marshall
Alekhine's Best Games of Chess (2 volumes) - Alexander Alekhine
The Road to the Top and The Quest for Perfection - Paul Keres series
My Sixty Memorable Games- Bobby Fischer
Larsen's Best Games of Chess - Bent Larsen
Life and Games of Michael Tal - Michael Tal
Jon Speelman's Best Games - Jon Speelman
My Great Predecessor Series - Garry Kasparov
If you decide to shop at Amazon (especially good for used books), please take th
e link below
to give me referral credit, thanks!:
Main Chess Page
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