Do Chess Books Help?

How much can a chess book help a player in competition? Step back and ask, “How much can a nonfiction instructional book help anybody?” We don’t read an algebra book like a novel, and improving our skill in playing chess takes exercise with a book or experience over the board or both. Like learning algebra well, learning to play better chess requires some kind of problem solving, some kind of exercise.

twenty-eight chess books

Twenty-eight out of many thousands of chess books

Exercise With a Chess Book

Reading enjoyment has a place in our lives, to be sure; but improving the quality of our chess moves—that requires more than just reading a chess book. Make the time resemble an actual over-the-board encounter. One way to do that is by setting up a chess set with what you encounter in your book.

Many chess books give us the full games of grandmasters, from White’s first move through the last move of the game. But don’t just rush through every move on your board, as fast as you can follow the game notation in the book. Why not ponder each position and choose your own move, by covering up the moves in the book one by one. See how many times you were able to guess the moves made by the grandmasters.

Example From The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess

The following position is taken from a chess book by Irving Chernev. It’s from next to the last move of a short correspondence game played in 1914 by Kraus (White) and Costin (Black). With White to move, do you see what wins?

white to move and win

From the book The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess (1955; Simon and Schuster)

Try to find the winning move for white. The answer is found after the following image.

ten chess books on a wooden table

In the chess position shown earlier, notice that the black queen is cramped, with few safe squares available, should it be attacked. The winning move for white is b4!, giving the black queen no safe square except c6.

But after black moves Qc6, white would move Bb5, pinning that queen. After the queen captures that bishop, the white knight at d5 would move to c7 forking the black king and that queen. After white moved b4, Black resigned that correspondence game.

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Chess Books and Purpose

When choosing a publication on the royal game, first consider the intended audience for the book.

The Best Chess Book for Beginners

Do you know the rules but almost nothing more about chess? This is the best book for the early beginner. . . . I pressed forward, with full confidence that my book, ‘Beat That Kid in Chess,’ could become the best chess book ever written for the raw beginner.

A Book for Beginners – Beat That Kid in Chess

 I may not be able to compete well with grandmasters over the chess board, but in writing a book for chess beginners, few grandmasters can compete with me. One evidence for this shows itself in the nearly-identical chess positions in my new book.

How to Beat Your Dad at Chess

The book by Murray Chandler (‘How to Beat Your Dad at Chess,’ abbreviated HBYDC) does not really compete with my book ‘Beat That Kid in Chess,’ in my opinion. . . . mine is best for the early beginner [Beat That Kid in Chess].

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