This post is a continuation of my recommendations for Christmas 2012. If you happened to miss part 1, click here to view my recommendations for chess books published this year.
I hope that these lists will help give you ideas of gifts you could give or would like to receive. You might want to print this out and give it to your non-chess-playing friend as a hint.
Be warned! Some of these books will still have English descriptive notation. Don’t let that deter you! Learn the older system of notation and get all the benefit from the classic chess literature.
Classic Chess Books
Here is my recommendation for books from the older, classic chess literature.
The books in this list should be in any chess player’s library who aspires to get beyond novice. These books are not overly advanced, but are advanced enough for even relatively strong players to benefit from. Before purchasing these books for a Christmas gift, you may want to check what’s in your chess player’s library, as these books should be there. If they aren’t, get them!
The essential books from classic chess literature
- Pandolfini’s Endgame Course, by Bruce Pandolfini
- Pandolfini is recognized as one of the greatest chess teachers alive. His books are highly informative. And while this book cannot really be called a “classic,” it should be. In my opinion, this is one of the first books any beginning chess player should tackle. You’ll get more solid instruction about how to win a chess game from this book than from any other source. (Just my opinion. :-)) This book should be useful for any player short of expert strength, and is especially recommended for beginners.
- Learn Chess: A Complete Course, by C. H. O’D. Alexander and T. J. Beach
- Although the great chess master, author, and publisher Ken Smith recommended this book for intermediate players — just to make sure they had a sound foundation in chess fundamentals — this book is probably the best book for the beginning chess player. It covers everything from the very basics about how to move the pieces to chess tactics and basic chess strategies. If your chess player is below class A, this book is worth considering. And if your chess player is a real beginner, definitely get this book.
- Logical Chess: Move by Move: Every Move Explained New Algebraic Edition
by Irving Chernev
- This book is indispensable for beginning players who might be frustrated by the mystifying … and unexplained … moves of chess masters. The author gives a collection of master games, and explains and analyzes every move for each side. Essential for developing an understanding of the flow of a chess game, the making of plans, and the calculation of alternatives. You’ll pay a little bit for this book, but you’ll find it a worthwhile investment. Invaluable and highly recommended!
More advanced books
The following books are for those who have progressed beyond rank beginner, and are interested in devoting some serious study to the game. Each one of these books is a must for the well-rounded chess library of even the most casual tournament player.
- My System (Chess Classics)
by Aron Nimzovich
- This is, perhaps, the quintessential manual on chess strategy. Nimzovich was one of the great hyper-modern masters of the early 20th century. His approach to understanding chess has become the norm for most players. One of the true classic chess works; a masterpiece.
- Pawn Power in Chess, by Hans Kmoch
- Another seminal work on understanding chess strategy. Like My System, this book seeks to give the reader a deeper understanding of chess positions through developing a systematic approach to analyzing just about any position. Kmoch teaches the ideas behind pawn structures, their weaknesses and strengths, and what to do about them. Recommended for intermediate players and above.
- A Guide to Chess Endings, by Max Euwe and David Hooper
- Euwe was the fifth world chess champion, attaining the title by defeating Alexander Alekhine, one of the greatest players ever to play the game. Euwe’s systematic approach to chess is evident in this work, which should be in any serious player’s library. The book focuses on endgames, more specifically endgames dominated by pawns. Highly recommended for intermediate players and above.
- The Art of Attack in Chess, by Vladimir Vukovich
- This book focuses on how to win chess games by direct assault against the enemy king. Very instructive for players who like to attack or wish they could. Recommended for intermediate players and above.
- Basic Chess Endings
by Reuben Fine
- Reuben Fine was one of the American super Grandmasters of the mid-20th century. He was of world championship strength, and was invited to play in a tournament to determine the world championship in 1948, though he did not play for the title. This book may be his most important contribution to chess literature, and is still treasured by chess players today. Recommended for intermediate players and above.
- 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, by Fred Reinfeld
- This book is nothing more or less than a collection of great chess tactical ideas — 1001 of them. The answers to every position are presented at the end of the book. Mastering these positions will give you a master’s degree in tactics. Destroy the opposition with your tactical prowess!
- 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, by Fred Reinfeld
- Similar to the previous book, this one focuses on tactics ending in checkmate.
- How to Reassess Your Chess, 4th Edition, by Jeremy Silman
- This book was an instant classic when it first came out, and the 4th edition contains extensive improvements over previous editions. It might be a little advanced for most intermediate players, but I would still recommend it. Silman is one of the great chess authors, and this book will surely grace chess libraries for many decades to come.
The third part of this list will contain recommendations for chess sets, boards, and other chess-related items.
A brief reminder: most of the links in this series are affiliate links, that is, the links are either links to my chess store (links to my Amazon product pages) or are affiliate links to other web pages. If you click on those links and make a purchase, I’ll make a commission. Unless otherwise noted, you should assume I’ll get paid a commission if you click the link and buy something. Thank you very much!