Best Chess Books in Various Categories

We’ll look at the following categories for chess books, whether to be used as a gift or for personal use:

  • Openings in general
  • Middle game
  • End game
  • For the early beginner
  • For the intermediate player
  • For the small child

One book will be reviewed for each of the above. Please be aware that there is no standard method of judging the quality of a chess book, no matter what the category. The following selections are not necessarily the absolute best choices for particular chess players.

The first three chess books are for more advanced players rather than for beginners. Beat That Kid in Chess is for the “early” beginner who knows how to play but wants to learn how to win.


Fundamental Chess Openings

ISBN-13: 978-1906454135

FCO by Paul van der Sterren

From the Introduction of this chess book we read:

Everyone who devotes even the tiniest mount of thought to his first move not only makes a start with that particular game but also with the development of opening theory. From that moment on, every new game will confront him with the starting position again and therefore with his earlier thoughts on it. . . .

From an Amazon customer review:

This book is a miracle. . . . This book is in fact a modern and a more advanced version of Ruben Fines “The ideas behind the chess openings”. And lower rated chess players (below 1800) should understand the chess opening plans, rather than memorizing openings.


Winning Chess Strategies (middle game)

ISBN-13: 978-0735606043

updated "Winning Chess Strategies"

From the first chapter, we read:

The unique beauty of chess has attracted some of the greatest minds of human history. Why? What makes chess so fascinating? . . . Things survive the test of time because they are needed. Stop and think for a moment. What is there in your life that has survived for thousands of years? Tools like the spoon have survived. . . .

Chess is the perfect tool for developing the mind. As Goethe said, “The game of chess is the touchstone of the intellect.”

An Amazon reader-reviewer said this:

The third and final part of a series by renowned International Grand Master Yasser Seirawan and International Master Jeremy Silman, Winning Chess Strategies is also the most difficult to devour. The book follows the same format Seirawan and Silman used in Winning Chess Tactics, taking one strategic element of chess at a time and spending an entire chapter on it. Each are explained, explored and exemplified individually to help the aspiring chess amateur develop these lines of strategic thought. . . .


Fundamental Chess Endings (for end game study)

ISBN-13: 978-1901983531


From the Introduction we read:

The fascinating world of chess endings has been explored in several complete works before . . . There are also many books devoted to specific piece distributions. Our intention was therefore not to reinvent the wheel, but to connect the best from the past with the most suitable recent examples and research.

From an Amazon customer review:

Please read what Grandmaster Lubosh Kavalek had to say (November 25, 2002 Washington Post chess column) “An endgame book does not often win a prestigious award, but “Fundamental Chess Endings” by Karsten Muller and Frank Lamprecht and issued by Gambit Publications in London, could not have been overlooked by the judges of the British Chess Federation’s 2002 Book of the Year Award. The clearly written volume honored by the BCF was conceived as a textbook, divided into 12 chapters with exercises. It has been meticulously checked by computer programs, correcting mistakes and some myths of the past. . . .”


Beat That Kid in Chess (for the “raw” beginner who already knows the rules)

ISBN-13: 978-1508856221

"Beat That Kid in Chess" front cover

From the Introduction:

If you know the chess rules but almost nothing about how to win, this book is for you. We’ll keep to the basics that you need most . . .

Have you ever observed someone’s reaction to a chess game between raw beginners? Did the observer walk away after grimacing or stifling a laugh? If that reaction could have come from almost any move made in that game, it was not a reasonable game of chess. You can learn to avoid that kind of embarrassment. . . .

This book can take you into a level that should help you defeat many beginners, at least sometimes. In other words, you will no longer be a raw beginner and will instead be able to defeat raw beginners, at least more often than you lose. And it may be easier than you think.

From the back cover:

Do you know the rules but almost nothing more about chess? This is the best book for the early beginner. Whatever your age, feel your understanding grow as you learn to checkmate and also learn to gain many advantages that can lead to a checkmating position.


How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (for the intermediate-level or club player)

ISBN-13: 978-1901983050

review of book "How to Beat Your Dad at Chess"

From the Introduction:

Each of the ’50 Deadly Checkmates’ catalogued here explains a specific theme used to attack the opponent’s king. These themes are recurring, and crop up again and again in chess games — virtually regardless of the level of the players, or the precise placement of the pieces. Top chess players are very skilled at recognizing these basic patterns.

From an Amazon customer review (three stars out of five):

I got this book. My dad didn’t fall for all but one of these checkmates. But then I was happy. I tried them all, but he would get me down too much to use any of them so I think just the beginners book for juniors worked better anyway. . . .


The Kids’ Book of Chess (including the rules of the game and a chess set)

ISBN-13: 978-0894807671

cover of chess book for children

From the back cover:

In the Middle Ages the knight was the ultimate warrior. In his suit of armor, on his spirited horse, he could overcome any resistance-as in the eleventh century, when it took only seventy knights to conquer the entire civilized kingdom of Sicily! Today the movements of medieval warriors are preserved in the moves of pieces on a chessboard; and by going back to the life and times of the Middle Ages, Harvey Kidder is able to explain the game of chess in an uncommonly exciting way.

An Amazon reader-reviewer said this (three stars out of five):

Actually, for a starters chess set for someone who might not get into chess seriously (by joining the school chess club) the chess set is ok. My pieces did not crack, but I only used them a short time before getting a regular tournament design chess set and roll board for playing at the school chess club.

The book is not so bad if once again if you are not sure if you are going to get very involved in chess. If you think you are then the book is not very deep and you will outgrow it very fast after reading it. . . .



Chess Books as Gifts

When choosing a publication on the royal game, first consider the intended audience for the book. . . . If the gift is for someone who is at least ten years old and already knows the rules . . . A much better choice would be Beat That Kid in Chess, which is written for the early beginner who knows how to play . . .

Chess Game in a Movie

In the 1957 Swedish film The Seventh Seal, a man’s life depends on a game of chess.

Probably best chess book for beginners

Beat That Kid in Chess – for the early beginner to win, possibly the best chess book . . .

Chess book for the beginner

. . . these appear to be chess books for REAL beginners. We’ll consider these three in alphabetical order of the title . . .


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