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Maybe you’ve been playing chess for fun for a few years, but have never really sat down to study the game. Perhaps you’ve joined a chess club, but find you’re one of the weakest members. One way or another, you’ve reached the point where you can no longer rely on the basics you learned as a beginner to improve your game.
That’s where having a book or two that are designed to take your game up to the next level can come in handy. The five books featured here are for players who have advanced past the first, most basic steps of learning chess, and who want to become solid club players. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but if you’re looking to improve your game, check these out.
Logical Chess: Move by Move (Irving Chernev)
One of the true classics of chess writing, Logical Chess is perfect for players who want a complete explanation of why strong chess players make the moves they choose. Chernev’s guide to the game explains 33 master games in complete detail, starting with the very first move of the game and showing why each move was made (or why it was a mistake to make it). What other books take for granted, this one explains in detail, which is why Logical Chess will always be a great choice for improving players.
Play Winning Chess (Yasser Seirawan)
Play Winning Chess is just the first book in the Winning Chess series (all written by Seirawan), and the entire series could easily have found a place on this list. Play Winning Chess gives a basic overview of every aspect of chess play, from strategy to tactics, the opening to the endgame. Intermediate players might find parts of this volume too basic (it starts by teaching the moves and basic checkmates, for instance), but much of the book will be useful for advanced beginners, and the other books in the series—particularly Winning Chess Tactics and Winning Chess Strategies—will truly help take your game up to a decent club level.
The Amateur's Mind (Jeremy Silman)
Have you ever wondered what separates a decent amateur chess player from the chess professional? The Amateur’s Mind delves deeply into this topic, showing how masters and grandmasters handled difficult positions—and then showing us how Silman’s students of various levels handled (or mishandled) them when left to their own devices. While that’s interesting and instructive in its own right, this book also serves as a great introduction to Silman’s imbalances, which help explain how players achieve advantages and disadvantages from the differences in chess positions.
Looking for Trouble (Dan Heisman)
Possibly the least well-known of the books on this list, Looking for Trouble is a tactics guide that approaches the issue from an unusual angle. Rather than asking you to find the winning move, you instead have to find the opponent’s threat (or threats) and counter them before it’s too late. Since this is how tactics are primarily used in real chess games as well, this is a great skill to develop, and one that can put you well ahead of your competition.
Silman’s Complete Endgame Course (Jeremy Silman)
The second Silman book on this list, Silman’s Complete Endgame Course has something for everyone. The book is divided into sections based on rating levels, allowing players to learn the essentials to give them more knowledge than the typical player at their level. Of course, players always have the option to advance their endgame knowledge even further, but Silman is always sure to impart knowledge in a way that is understandable for the level of the player who that section is meant for. The endgame is as important as it is neglected by many amateur players, so strengthening this area of your game is a sure path to improvement.