The most relevant book for beginners in my opinion is The Complete Book of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques from A to Z by IM Jeremy Silman. This is one of the first chess books I ever read, bought shortly after I learned the rules. Few other chess books can match the clarity of the prose in this one. I think this is the best of Silman’s books to start with as it gives ideas about many opening systems. Later on, you can also consider The Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery, and How to Reassess Your Chess (the latter being somewhat more advanced).

A great introduction into the world of chess is the Mammoth Book of Chess by Graham Burgess, which I read several years ago. The original book was published back in the 90s, but a revised edition came out in 2010. Burgess provides helpful advice on competitive chess (clubs and tournaments), as well as internet and computer chess. Additionally, Burgess provides insights regarding the state of the chess world.

American GM Yasser Seirawan is one of my favourite instructors. I first became acquainted with him from his great DVD the Pro Chess Video Mentor, which is an excellent introduction to the game. The DVD caters for beginners, but the material near the end builds up to become somewhat advanced. (Click here to see my review of Pro Chess Video Mentor.) Yasser Seirawan’s Winning Chess series of books is also highly acclaimed, although I haven’t had a chance to read them either.

The classic My System by Aron Nimzowitsch is one of my favourite chess books. It is suitable for reading when the player is somewhere between beginner and intermediate level. I was first introduced to this book by an early coach of mine, Don Machell. It was his opinion that this was one of the greatest books ever written and it took him to 1800 from virtually beginner level. I agree that it is a brilliant book, although the concepts can be rather confusing to grasp at times. If possible, I recommend reading Positional Ideas in Chess by John Love as a build-up to this book.

This last suggestion is optional, but a classical chess education is not complete until the player takes a look at the Evergreen (Anderssen-Dufresne), Immortal (Anderssen-Kieseritzky) and several other renowned games. These, along with dozens of others, comprehensively annotated, can be found in The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games by Graham Burgess, John Nunn and John Emms.

See my previous article for a full list of book recommendations.

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