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The best chess books to buy in 2023

Looking to brush up on your chess skills and learn how the pros do it? You’ll need to grab one of these chess books and study a bit first

Newbie chess players understand the level of concentration required when making all-important opening moves. They might also notice that other, more experienced players don’t seem to give their openings as much thought as they’d expect. Why? Most likely because they’re following a strategy that they’ve spent hours studying, and testing over and over on the board.

In chess, opening moves are crucial, but there are also some golden rules and secrets that, once followed, can make you a much better contender. Chess players need to think of an attacking strategy, as well as focusing on defending their pieces and not committing any blunders that will result in them losing their big pieces.

If you haven’t got a chess book (or mentor) to teach you these things, then you won’t be able to take your chess-playing skills to the next level, even if you’re already an advanced social chess player. Picking up a good chess book will help you to unlock new levels and progress quicker, by breaking down some strategies and teaching you the tricks and tips you need to know if you’re going to master the game.

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How to choose the best chess book

When choosing the best chess book, you should consider two main things: your current level of chess knowledge and your preferred style of learning.

What level of chess player are you?

The aim of a chess book is to teach you some new tricks, so you’ll need to get a book that’s suitable for your learning needs and current level. It’s no use getting a book that’s aimed at complete beginners if you’ve been playing chess for a while.

Most chess books will be aimed at a certain level of chess player and it will be quite clear whether a particular book would be suitable for you. The levels can range from complete beginner to advanced, and some books even state what chess rankings readers should ideally have in order to fully grasp the information in a particular book. Therefore, when buying a chess book, it is essential to evaluate your skill level first.

Chess is quite a complex game, but reading about it can sometimes feel even more complicated. Many chess books use chess notation to explain strategies and theories, so getting comfortable with that before delving into a theoretical book would be advisable. A chess book is meant to help you, not overwhelm you, so it’s always good to be honest with yourself about your level, and perhaps aim for a beginner’s book if you’d rather it be broken down in layman’s terms.

What learning style suits you best?

Another thing to consider before picking up one of these books is what learning style suits you best. A book written for a child, for example, will be phrased very differently to a book intended for adults. Chess can be quite hard to learn about from a book for those who are more visual learners, and in those cases, a chess puzzle book with lots of diagrams and examples would probably be best.

Others will learn effectively by reading lots of text on theories and will therefore be just fine with some of the books that look purely at strategies and delve into the thinking processes of world-famous chess players.

How we test chess books

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. As such, we read all the chess books we review, comparing the texts of each book to the suggested player level or learning style to ensure we make an accurate recommendation.

We make sure each book matches the recommended skill level and evaluate the overall ease of understanding, strategy teachings and the quality of the lessons. We also consider how well any illustrations in the book match the description and gameplay. Finally, we confirm the page numbers and format of each book.

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The best chess book to buy in 2023

1. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer: The best overall chess book

Price when reviewed: £5.20 | Check price at Amazon

This chess book has not only been written by a grandmaster and the 11th world champion chess player, but by a true teacher. Bobby Fischer, a chess prodigy when aged just 14, wrote this book with the learner in mind. He has ensured that whatever the reader takes in can be easily absorbed and applied in practice, using a learning technique called “programmed instruction”.

The book takes readers step by step through small pieces of information and questions called “frames”. These frames require the reader to provide a yes or no response, which can then be compared to the answers. At the end, readers can turn the book around and continue working backwards, discovering some all-new checkmating moves that can be applied in their next game. The book is extremely well thought out and perfect for those who want to up their level.

Key specs – Format: Paperback, library binding; Publisher: Bantam USA; No. of pages: 179

2. How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Imbalances by Jeremy Silman: The best alternative chess book

Price when reviewed: £18 | Check price at Amazon

Jeremy Silman, another well-known international chess master, designed this book to help avid chess players reach master level. It’s considered a modern classic and is recommended for intermediate and advanced players (a novice would likely find it hard to follow). It’s primarily for those who already have a good understanding of the basics of chess and understand all three phases of the game: beginning, middlegame and end-game.

In this book, Silman focuses mainly on his concept of “chess imbalances”, which is often referred to as the Silman Thinking Technique. He explains in detail the basics of imbalances and ensures that each aspect of it is learned by the reader, which will help take them to the next level. It’s always nice when teachers add a little fun to their teaching, and How to Reassess Your Chess has been written with humour and instruction-rich language, making it both an easy-to-follow and informative read.

Key specs – Format: Paperback; Publisher: Silman James Press; No. of pages: 658

3. Catastrophes & Tactics in the Chess Opening by Carsten Hansen: The best chess book for winning fast

Price when reviewed: From £1.99 | Check price at Amazon

If you’re an eager player looking to advance fast, this book may be the best tool to get you there. In Catastrophes & Tactics, Carsten Hansen takes readers through the many tactics that could help you win a chess game very quickly. In just 15 moves or fewer, you could learn how to checkmate your opponent with the secrets the author provides. It sure can provide a wow factor when a chess game is won in just its opening – and this book will show you how many of the best players from the last 150 years have done so.

Hansen takes readers through seven different openings and defence strategies by looking at a collection of games that have all been over in just 15 moves. The blunders, mistakes and good chess tactics are analysed in each game. The book is designed for those who have a good level of skill already and a solid understanding of chess notation. To get the best out of this book, it’s useful to play out some of the games on a physical chessboard.

Key specs – Format: Paperback, Kindle; Publisher: Independently published; No. of pages: 178

4. Chess for Kids: How to Play and Win by Richard James: The best chess book for kids

Price when reviewed: From £3.99 | Check price at Amazon

If your child has taken an interest in chess, then chances are you have a little genius in the making. Chess is a fantastic way to develop a child’s brain and help their memory and concentration. It’s also a good way to help them solve problems, which will definitely come in handy later in life. This chess book could make the perfect present for their next birthday and could even inspire them or give them the confidence to enter competitions and take their hobby further.

The author, Richard James, has been teaching chess to children since the 1970s, and has written this book specifically for kids (recommended for those aged seven or above). It first breaks down the basic rules of the game, which is always useful for beginners, then, using a pair of fictional characters battling aliens in a game of chess, makes learning strategies fun and engaging.

Key specs – Format: Paperback, Kindle; Publisher: Right Way; No. of pages: 192

5. The Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book by John Emms: The best chess puzzle book

Price when reviewed: From £8.09 | Check price at Amazon

If you’re more of a visual learner, this puzzle book is the perfect chess learning book for you. Sometimes, there’s no better way to learn than by actually visualising what you’re reading about – and, more importantly, practising. This book contains 200 puzzles, with diagrams of chess boards at different points of a game, and challenges readers to solve the puzzle by working out what the more favourable or “correct” move would be according to the theories and strategies discussed at the start of the book.

It’s suitable for everyone from beginners to advanced chess players, as the first 100 puzzles are relatively straightforward. The next 100 are extremely difficult and would challenge even the best chess players. The author, John Emms, is an experienced trainer and grandmaster in chess, so a few lessons from him are sure to help you out and prepare you for your next chess game or tournament.

Key specs – Format: Paperback, Kindle; Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd; No. of pages: 240

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