Six chess books you should own (and why)

For every discipline worth studying, there is a set of iconic books, a couple of classics that never go out of fashion. Chess is no exception. But with so many chess books on the market, it's often difficult to know which are the essentials to add to your collection. Here are our top picks.

1. My System - Nimzowitsch

My System - Nimozowitsch

My System is a must-read for every serious chess player. Although this isn't one for beginners, buying a copy won't mean you're wasting your money. You will eventually want (or even need) to read this book.

The author, Aron Nimzowitsch, was one of the best players of the early 20th century, playing many enlightening games against Capablanca, Alekhine and Lasker.


The book isn't just a collection of old recipes and instructions. Instead, Nimzowitsch tries to reveal his way of studying chess and his philosophy of the game. He further explains his theories of prophylaxis, blockade and much more, while providing ground-breaking insights into pawn structures. Without reading Nimzowitsch, your chess education cannot be complete.

Perhaps not all of his convictions have stood the test of time, but even today, he provides chess students with deepened understanding, while entertaining with insights and witticisms.

2. Batsford's Modern Chess Openings - de Firmian

Modern Chess Openings

When biographer, Frank Brady, asked Bobby Fischer to tutor him in chess, Fischer replied with: 'For your first lesson, I want you to play through every column in Modern Chess Openings, including footnotes. And for your second lesson, I want you to do it again.’ This illustrates the high regard in which Modern Chess Openings is held.

The book introduces each opening and outlines its essential strategic concepts, present some historical background and summarises the options available for White and Black. 

Now, over a century old, it is still a necessary book to own, and it would be especially useful to good club players. It remains the best one-volume work on the openings. 

3. Endgame Strategy - Shereshevsky

Endgame Strategy

Endgame Strategy is not a book of endgame theory, but rather a manual of how to play complex endings or even - queenless middlegames.

The book covers difficult positions where understanding and positional judgement are the most important factors. The goal is to fine-tune a player's judgment of positions, introduce and teach strategy and to introduce players to common methods.

The author, Shereshevsky was an International Master from Belarus and was one of the leading chess trainers in the former Soviet Union. Many of his pupils became Masters, or even Soviet, European or World Junior Champions.
This book is for players 1200 and up, but GM Bryan Smith says there's no harm in reading this book even if it's above your level either.

4. Art of Attack in Chess - Vukovic

Art of Attack in Chess

An instructional classic, originally written in 1965 and revised and corrected by John Nunn in this new edition, this book is still cited more than any other by players asked about their favourite book on the attack.

Vukovic classifies attacks and attacking principles into comprehensible categories, and has the art of explaining the key features of an attack in a way which the student will not forget. His analysis is deep and original and led to revised opinions of some of the most famous games in history.

This book is for players in a range from about 1500 to 2600.

5. Logical Chess - Chernev

Logical Chess
This title has earned its place as a classical text that is often recommended to players who seek to improve their chess skills. It offers lessons in elementary positional thinking, but more advanced players will also find it interesting and useful.

"The novice who plays through Logical Chess can learn an ocean of basic chess wisdom," says Leonard Barden, English chess master and broadcaster.

If you haven't got a chess book, then there really is no better way to start a collection than this one. It's a must-have.

6. My 60 Memorable Games - Fischer

My Memorable Games

This book features a classic collection of Bobby Fischer games, originally published in 1969. Naturally enough, it is a work of genius that hardly requires a reviewer’s recommendation.

My 60 Memorable Games represents Fischer’s main piece of writing on chess, and covers the period from 1957 to 1967. Of My 60 Memorable Games one can say that it will live and be read as long as chess is played. As a product of the human mind, it should be placed alongside Euclid’s Elements and the sonnets of Shakespeare. It is an engaging and analytical work of genius.

During July, we're offering 20% off our entire collection of chess books. This includes these six titles but also loads more. Simply use our voucher code "JulyBookSale" at checkout the discount will be allocated to your account.

Roline Pretorius

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