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When in Rome
USA Fan
Telegraph Road
Member since Jan 2011
32184 posts

Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Over the last few months, while stuck at home, I have been playing a lot of online chess. As I play more and more, I have started to become a little obsessed with it. I’d love to read a good and comprehensive book or two about the history of the game, top world players over time, most interesting strategies, etc.

Just to clarify, I’m not looking for a “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” sort of book. I want to learn more about the origins and the nature of the game.

Any recommendations out there?

TIA!



wileyjones
Member since May 2014
440 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Related but not directly what you’re looking for:

The Knight of New Orleans is about Paul Morphy, which you may find interesting. It’s written as a historical fiction/epic, so it’s closer to reading something like The Idiot.

As an aside, he was arguably the best player of all time and was from New Orleans... his house eventually became Brennan’s restaurant.



When in Rome
USA Fan
Telegraph Road
Member since Jan 2011
32184 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Thanks! I will check it out.


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10
Kafka
USA Fan
I am the moral conscience of TD
Member since Jul 2007
114592 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
History/anecdotes:

The Fireside Book of Chess - Reinfeld and Chernev

The Chess Companion - Chernev

The World of Chess - Saidy and Leasing

Chess to Enjoy - Soltis

Playing/strategy:

A few bits of advice:

* Don't spend a lot of time studying/memorizing openings. This is the #1 mistake of nerw players. Play open games (e4) whenever possible. Play one e4 opening as white, such as the Scotch Game or the Ruy Lopez exchange variation. As black learn one defense against e4 and one against d4. Play the Closed Sicilian as white. Avoid the mainline Sicilian defense as white or black -- too much work!

* Study endgames. Know what kind of ending you want to go into, or avoid.

* Learn about pawn structure. What betting patterns are to Texas Hold 'Em, pawn structures are to chess.

I haven't played in 20+ years, so any books I recommend may be hard to find. But these books are worth studying if you can find them (check Amazon or your local libraries):

How To Open A Chess Game -- various authors. Especially the chapter by Portisch.

Ideas Behind The Chess Openings -- Reuben Fine

My Best Games Of Chess -- Alekhine

My 60 Memorable Games -- Bobby Fischer

The Most Instructive Games Of Chess Ever Played - Irving Chernev

1000 Best Short Games Of Chess - Irving Chernev

Practical Chess Endings -- Paul Keres

Practical Endgame Lessons -- Edmar Mednis

Chess Endings Theory and Practice -- Averbakh

Pawn Structure Chess -- Soltis

Also, the tactical quizzes by Reinfeld et al to hone your combinational skills


More&Les
LSU Fan
Member since Nov 2012
14684 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
On a side note: The Queens Gambit was made into a great series on Netflix


Sneaky__Sally
Alabama Fan
Member since Jul 2015
10175 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

On a side note: The Queens Gambit was made into a great series on Netflix




Watched it last week and it was very good.


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PowHound
Alabama Fan
The Peoples Moderator
Member since Jul 2014
4569 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Great series. Lead lady was HAWT


prplhze2000
LSU Fan
Parts Unknown
Member since Jan 2007
45634 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Fireside


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More&Les
LSU Fan
Member since Nov 2012
14684 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
So, out of the blue this weekend, at a litte gift shop we were at with my 6 year old, he picks up a chess game and decides he wants that over any other toy he was looking at.

We've played several times a day, every day since and he understands the board and movements and is even starting to think ahead a move or two....

Are there any kids books on Chess to recommend?


Ace Midnight
LSU Fan
Between sanity and madness
Member since Dec 2006
78084 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

Are there any kids books on Chess to recommend?




I read "Chess Fundamentals" by Capablanca when I was 8 or 9. I was a pretty strange kid, though.


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20
Kafka
USA Fan
I am the moral conscience of TD
Member since Jul 2007
114592 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

Are there any kids books on Chess to recommend?
He's already playing, so he might be beyond the total beginner level of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

At this point he just needs a general primer to show him the rudiments. There are many books like this out there -- Fred Reinfeld wrote dozens of them. Not sure which of these would be at a six year old's reading level though.

IIRC How To Open A Chess Game has an introductory chapter for beginners. This book is always my recommendation for newbs to learn about openings. I don't know if it's still in print.

The aforementioned Fred Reinfeld wrote several quiz books with titles like 1001 Brilliant Chess Sacrifices and Combinations. His Wikipedia page lists others. This kind of book would accustom a new player to different types of positions. Also it doesn't depend a great deal on reading level.

Amazon has a used copy of his book The Complete Chess Player for $1.18

I'd suggest getting a couple of cheap Reinfelds, one a primer and another a quiz book. If your son finishes these and is still interested, get How To Open A Chess Game and the two Chernevs, Best Short Games and Most Instructive Games. The two of you can go through games together. Right now you can introduce him to endgame studies by showing him The Saavedra position

Image: https://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess/anisv.gif


and The Reti endgame


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When in Rome
USA Fan
Telegraph Road
Member since Jan 2011
32184 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

Kafka
This is an awesome list. Thank you so much!!

I will add that I ended up buying three books right after I posted this thread. I haven't been able to get through any of them (life with a baby) but I will update once I have read these among some (if not all!) on your list.

These are the books I bought:

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

Chess Opening Names: The Fascinating & Entertaining History Behind The First Few Moves

Learn from the Legends: Chess Champions At Their Best

I've played almost 600 games (most of these are the 10-20 minute rapid games with other people; it's an obsession at this point) via the chess app since September, and I also took a bunch of lessons on the app as well, so I am getting there. Before September, and especially around when the baby was born in April, I only had time to do the app's puzzles (they basically throw you into a scenario and the puzzle is to perform the statistically best move) which helped a lot. I will say, with regard to opening moves and general beginning strategy, I tend to stick with really classic opening moves, developing pieces and controlling the center, castling, etc. but a guilty pleasure for me is perpetrating a wayward queen attack upon unsuspecting opponents . I do need to work on my end game, but I'm getting better at it. I really try to protect my rooks at all costs because I like using the queen/rooks to slide them to the edge and trap them there. I laughed when the app gave me a badge for checkmating someone with a pawn.

Thanks again for the tips and book suggestions; I look forward to reading these books!
This post was edited on 2/7 at 11:09 am


Kafka
USA Fan
I am the moral conscience of TD
Member since Jul 2007
114592 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess


I remember postal chess.

I love how it's presented here as some sort of bizarre ancient ritual



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MintBerry Crunch
LSU Fan
Member since Nov 2010
3060 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
Bug eyed. I think you meant bug eyed


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Jeauxs Geaux
LSU Fan
Atlanta
Member since Feb 2021
20 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

On a side note: The Queens Gambit was made into a great series on Netflix


Great book, I'll have to watch


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Jeauxs Geaux
LSU Fan
Atlanta
Member since Feb 2021
20 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:


The Immortal Game: A History of Chess



One of my favorites


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Honest Tune
LSU Fan
Bucktown, La
Member since Dec 2011
8642 posts

re: Books about the history and beauty of Chess
quote:

Are there any kids books on Chess to recommend?


I’m glad I found this thread. I recently bought a chess set for my daughter, 8 soon to be 9, and we have been playing a bunch. I’m learning on the fly, same as her.

The benefits I believe playing chess will have for her are countless, and I’ve enjoyed learning something new as well.


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