Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chess Books -- A Waste of Time?

Here is a copy of an email I sent to a handful of skilled chess players and chess coaches:

"Hi Coach, I just discovered some interesting reading on Chess Improvement:

Rose's Rants at Chessville (

The following statement was interesting and amusing: "Kevin Spragget recommends that until you achieve master strength you need only about 25 books."

I am, as you know, on a limited quest for chess perfection. My Long Term Goal is to reach an ICC rating of 1700 within five years. I would like to ask for your "guesstimate" of the number of books needed to reach such a goal. Furthermore, if I may, I would like to have your input on which books to read for a geezer on his way to 1700.

To create a book load list might help me to be focused so I thought I shopuld give it a go!"

I was kind of surprised by the answers. Almost all of them responded that books might not be the best way to improve. One GM responded that almost any book would do the trick as the important thing was to read it in a proper way.

Anyhow, since I am addicted to buying books I would like to post the questions:

1. How would you like to design the required reading (ten book or less) for a 1700-player-to-be?
(i.e. One book on openings, three on strategy...)

2. What titles would you recommend?

note: Extra credits for a suggested list of three books for the 1400-player-to be (which happens to be my goal for next year )


  1. Required Reading on my way to 1400

    1. Silman's "Complete Endgame Course" (endgames)
    2. Vukovic's "The Art of the Attack" (tactics)
    3. Silman's "Amateurs Mind" or Purdy "Search for Chess Perfection" (strategy)

    Required Reading on my way to 1700

    1. Silman's "Complete Endgame Course" (endgames)
    2. de Villa's "100 Endgames You must Know" (endgames)
    3. Stean's "Simple Chess" (strategy)
    4. Reassess Your Chess (strategy)
    5. Palliser's "d-pawn Attack" (openings)
    6. McDonald's "How to meet 1. e4" (openings)
    7. -- more strategy -- (strategy)
    8. -- something against d4 -- (openings)
    9. -- game collection --
    10. -- game collection --

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  4. I lkie talking to myself. Here's the revised list of the 10 books:

    Required Reading on my way to 1700

    1. Silman's "Complete Endgame Course" (endgames)
    2. Vukovic's "The Art of the Attack" (tactics)
    3. Silman's "Amateurs Mind" or Purdy "Search for Chess Perfection" (strategy)
    4. Purdy's "Action Chess"(openings)
    5. de Villa's "100 Endgames You must Know" (endgames)
    6. Stean's "Simple Chess" (strategy)
    7. Reassess Your Chess (strategy)
    8. -- game collection --
    9. -- game collection --
    10. -- game collection --

  5. It matters most how we use a book. Personally I can't have too many game collections because I love playing through old games on a real board as I drink some coffee or tea! That is one of the aspects of chess that I love the most. Playing through a good game with good annotations in just like listening to a record for me.

  6. Good Point!

    Which are your favorite game collections at the moment?

  7. Forget about books.... Only 3-4 books will be enough for you...
    1. Read Nunn's Learn chess tactics (A very elemaantary book of tactics which will improve dramatically)
    2. Find a good endgame book (Karten Müller, Mark Dvoretsky etc. are recommended authors in my opinion)
    Above these would be enough for you.
    If you want to do additional efforts.
    You can read 1-2 books on strategy (but only after getting pretty good at tactics, endgame and personality stuff like concentration, patience etc.)
    Simple Nimzovitsch's My system or Watson's Secrets of modern chess strategy will do good (actually reading strategy books will harm your strength but after you compansate it it will be easier to keep on the same strength even you are tired)
    strongly recommend puzzle books of Nunn's or the same kind of books.
    For some intellectual challenge Rowson's chess for zebras

    Any patternal books of attack or strategy etc.
    Definetely no opening books.
    And i would advice first get your 1700 strength then read :p (some theoretical knowledge for gaining basic skill of tactics and endgame is ok but then lots of solving practice and a bit of playing pratice for some time (2-3 years maybe some less or more depending on your strength and self-awareness) will be good. But being bibliophile won't help you if you are not trying your best on board or exercises

  8. My favorite game collections are:

    Logical Chess Move by Move by Chernev
    Tal-Botvinnik 1960 by Tal
    My Fifty Years of Chess by Marshall
    300 Chess Games by Tarrasch
    Capablanca's Best Chess Endings by Chernev

    I am reading a cool collectuon of Tchigorin's games right now but the annotations are only so so! The above 5 are my favorites that I have read so far. I would also add Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games. It is not a great read but the games are great and his analysis is great for study not for aesthetic pleasure.