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Whether you’re a beginner chess player or have been tactfully playing the game for years, a good chess book is a must-have—not just for learning the game, but also improving your game through strategy and theory.
We set out to uncover the best chess books and used research, reviews, and grandmaster advice to source our top picks. After much comparison, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess is our grandmaster, thanks to its effective teaching method and accessibility for all skill levels.
From strategy to history to openings and winning the game, here are the best chess books for every player.
Best Overall: Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
Effective teaching method
Good for most skill levels
Simple and straightforward teachings
Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, this is one chess book everyone should have on their shelf. The chess book utilizes a special learning method designed to help you learn the game of chess and obtain that knowledge in an engaging way.
We love the interactive element of this chess guide: it tests your knowledge with a series of questions as you learn. You can only move on to the next question if you get it right. If you get the question wrong, the book doesn’t just tell you the correct answer, it tells you why your answer is wrong, which can be highly beneficial when learning something new or strengthening your skillset.
Our only complaint is that the printing appears to be subpar. But, if you can get past poor printing quality, you will certainly find this book helpful.
Best for Beginners: Complete Book of Chess Strategy
Reads like a dictionary
It’s not advanced enough for intermediate players
Looking for a chess book that’s more like a chess dictionary? You’ve met your match. This comprehensive guidebook on offers an accessible approach to chess strategy with each concept listed in alphabetical order, making it a great resource as you grow in your game. It’s easy to follow, with plenty of broken down explanations, and a great choice for anyone looking to go from beginner to amateur.
While this is a great title for new players and beginners alike, it might not be the best resource for those with more advanced skills, as some users note that it only scratches the surface of chess strategy.
Best for Intermediate Players: How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances
Focuses on game improvement
Makes advanced strategies more accessible
Hard to read without a board nearby
If you're looking to take a course in improving your chess game, this book is the next best thing. The step-by-step guidebook goes over how to grow as a player with in-depth explanations of a grandmaster’s thought process, helping the reader break through advanced strategies for a stronger game. Word to the wise: Read this book with your board close by—it’s not really built for reading without one.
Best Strategy: Logical Chess: Move By Move: Every Move Explained New Algebraic Edition
Excellent for chess players of all levels
Focused on improving your game
Beginners will need additional resources
Once you know the basics, it’s time to strengthen your game. This classic chess book is a great buy for anyone looking to gain a better understanding on the game and improve their own. It includes 33 detailed games and provides fantastic insight into how to utilize what you learn more effectively. While it is beneficial for beginners, those who are new to the game will want to purchase a book centered around tactics, too.
Best for Grandmasters: Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual
Can strengthen your endgame skills
Considered a chess bible for many advanced players, including grandmasters, this book offers a comprehensive guide to the endgame, helping to improve and strengthen your overall chess game. With that said, there’s a reason why intermediate players love it—it's a more advanced book that is certainly not recommended for someone just starting out. It even includes a foreword written by widely recognized theoretician and grandmaster Karsten Müller.
Best for Kids: Chess for Kids
Includes the history of chess
Full of illustrations
Extra historical insights get in the way of instructional value
If you’re looking for the best chess book for kids, this one comes highly recommended. The illustrated guide is a great starting point for kids ages 8 to 12 looking to learn how to play chess. This title covers everything from the basics—such as the names of each piece—to the history of chess to insights on how to improve your game and win.
Though some users say that the book is packed with extra historical information that might be too advanced for kids to absorb, it’s still a great foundational chess book for young players.
Best for Club and Tournament Players: Modern Chess Openings
An excellent resource for advance players
Includes more current theories about openings
Too advanced for beginners
Serious chess players seeking to hone their openings might appreciate this book. The book has been around since 1911 and this 15th edition copy has been updated with excellent insights on more recent matches and current theories. It continues to serve as an invaluable resource for club and tournament players, including information on recent matches and the most up-to-date theory on chess openings.
Best Memoir: Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins
Great insight on AI’s role in chess
It’s not a guidebook
This book is a look back at Kasparov’s match against Deep Blue and, although it’s mostly about his experience, it offers great insight and thought-provoking commentary on the role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in chess. While this book reads more like a memoir, it is an interesting read for anyone curious about the difference between human and machine thinking in the game of chess and what one chess champion has to say about the subject.
Best eBook: Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
Great for all skill levels
Learn as you go approach
The problems are hard to see
The hardcover version is heavy
This complete book of chess problems is a top pick for any chess player—from beginner to advanced. It takes a “learn as you go” approach, allowing you to gain the knowledge you need to play the game (and win) while getting some good practice in. There is a catch though: The book hardcover and paperback versions are huge, and some readers have complained about how small the illustrations are. For that, we recommend the eBook so you can take it with you on the go and zoom in as needed.
Best History: Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors, Part 1
It’s a series
Focused on chess strategy
Discusses chess world champions and grandmasters
It’s not a guidebook
Known as one of Magnus Carlsen’s favorite chess books, this book is an in-depth analysis of grandmasters and some of the greatest games of chess ever played. Built for those interested in chess strategy, part one (out of five) is all about grandmaster Garry Kasparov's take on four chess world champions—Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Jose Capablanca, and and Alexander Alekhine—plus some earlier grandmasters, with a great deal of chess history, too. While it’s not exactly a guidebook, it is thought-provoking, insightful, and can strengthen your own game of chess as you learn from the greatest chess players in history.
What to Look For in a Chess Book
No matter if you’re looking for a book that covers the game from A to Z or are seeking guidance on a specific aspect of the game, you’ll want to read the synopsis first. This is essentially a summary of the chess book and will tell you clearly what you can expect from the resource, whether it be a historical brief on chess, a more narrative depiction of early grandmasters, or a comprehensive guide that breaks down every move and piece.
Reviews can tell you a lot about a book, so it’s a great idea to always browse through what others have to say before purchasing a book. Another great thing about book reviews is that they offer specific insight into how well of a resource the book is, if it helped with any specific aspects of the game, and what skill level it might be good for.
If you’re serious about your chess game, another helpful thing to consider is the books recommended by grandmasters. Some of these recommendations offer well-rounded insight into the game, while others will focus on specific aspects, such as openings, endings, and strategy.
What chess books did Magnus Carlsen read?
In an interview with The Guardian in 2010, Magnus Carlsen admits he isn’t an avid reader—but he of course reads up on chess. The Norwegian chess grandmaster revealed one of his favorite chess books is My Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov.
What is the best book to help improve your chess skills?
With a history as rich as chess’, there are tons of great chess books for improving your game. The Grandmaster Preparation series by Jacob Aagaard is considered a go-to resource for chess players, with topics such as “Positional Play,” “Attack & Defense,” and “Thinking Inside the Box” to help guide you through the game.
What chess books do grandmasters use?
With so many chess books available, the grandmasters have no doubt familiarized themselves with literary’s finest chess books. However, there are a few that are most referenced among the master players, including Garry Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors, and Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky.
Why Trust The Spruce
Contributing writer Jessie Quinn is an avid book collector with a particular interest in books that help her expand her skillsets, and teach her new skills. Jessie put this passion to use when researching and sourcing the best chess books. For this story, Jessie tracked down chess books grandmasters swear by, read over 100 book reviews, and considered titles centered around specific skills and players (including kids!). As a result, Jessie compiled a list of the top 10 best chess books that are sure to improve your game—or, simply teach it to you if you’re a beginner.