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The Best 10 Books of the 20th Century

I will take this one up front. No, there was no room on the list for Watson or Silman. But also, there was no room for Kasparov, Karpov, Kotov, Reti and so on.

John and I agreed our way to ten books and I have put them in order of quality, as I see it. It is certainly up for debate. Below I will give books that fell just outside the list.

One of the rules of the list is that the same writer cannot be repeated. Another rule is that the books should be relevant today.

 

1. Mikhail Tal: The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal

2. Bent Larsen: 50 Selected Games

3. Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games

4. John Nunn: Secret of Practical Chess

5. Isaak Lipnitsky: Questions of Modern Chess Theory

6. Mark Dvoretsky: Secrets of Chess Training (now School of Chess Excellence 1)

7. Alexander Alekhine: Best Games

8. Mikhail Botvinnik: Best Games

9. Aron Nimzowitsch: My System

10. David Bronstein: Zurich 1953

 

Other books we seriously considered were: Practical Chess Endings (Keres), Secrets of Pawn Endings (Mueller/Lambrecht), The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov), Simple Chess (Michael Stean), Endgame Strategy (Shereshevsky), Modern Ideas in Chess (Reti), Zurich 1953 (Najdorf), Three Matches (Kasparov), Karpov’s Best Games (written by Razuvaev, but published as if written by Karpov).

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  1. pabstars
    May 19th, 2014 at 14:20 | #1

    Thanks for sharing the list with us. Very interesting indeed. I’m a bit curious why you can see some questions in the below!

    Why have you made a restriction on not allowing the same author to have several books?
    Why is Larsen’s book placed higher than Fischer’s?
    What have been your criteria for ranking them?
    Have you thought of making a list of the 10 best chess books ever?

    A bit sad that no endgame and puzzle books are worthy for the top-10. I would definitely rate a lot of new books to have better chances of making chess players stronger than many of the above books but of course the list only covers relatively old books.

  2. Paul
    May 19th, 2014 at 14:29 | #2

    Interesting. Would have added Dvortesky’s Endgame Manual instead of the Secrets of Chess Training, which I thought was a bit old fashioned (“analysing adjourned positions”). And I think Shereshevsky’s book was worth a spot. Personally, when reading a lot of these older books, I tend to think they look a bit dated today (Tal, Alekhine, Bovinnik, Bronstein).

    In general I think there is some cognitive bias whatever the debate (eg football – Pele vs Messi) to favour the more distant choice.

  3. Thomas
    May 19th, 2014 at 14:33 | #3

    @pabstars
    “Why is Larsen’s book placed higher than Fischer’s?”

    Why not? It’s simply brilliant.

  4. May 19th, 2014 at 14:37 | #4

    @Paul
    Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual is not from the 20th century.

  5. pabstars
    May 19th, 2014 at 14:41 | #5

    @Thomas
    I find them both really good but far prefer Fischer’s book but it is probably just a matter of taste.

  6. Ray
    May 19th, 2014 at 14:45 | #6

    I observe a ‘game collection’ bias :-)

  7. Neil Sullivan
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:11 | #7

    “One of the rules of the list is that the same writer cannot be repeated.”

    This begs the question: What books were left off as a result of this rule?

  8. Bebbe
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:13 | #8

    I agree on some of the books on the list like the Life and Games of Mikhail Tal and my 60 memorable games. I have however not read some of the books on the list. Two books on the list that I think are overrated are School of chess excellence 1 and Zurich 1953.

    One book that I miss on the list are Shipovs two volume work on the hedgehog. It is simply amazing and teaches a lot of chess in general.

    Another is Marins three volume work on the English (by QC!) which is sheer chess poetry both in the variations and the verbal explainations.

  9. Paul
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:17 | #9

    @dfan
    Ah yes, my own cognitive biases that it was so long ago you think it was 20th Century. 1st edition, with a foreword written by one IM Jacob Aagaard in Sept 2003……

  10. May 19th, 2014 at 15:23 | #10

    @Bebbe
    Shipov’s and Marin’s books that you mention are not from the 20th century.

  11. Bebbe
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:40 | #11

    @dfan

    Oops, I did a one move blunder. Still they are very good!

  12. Dan Scoones
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:58 | #12

    Just wondering what specific title is referenced by “Botvinnik — Best Games.” Also, there were two volumes of Best Games by Alekhine — is it one or the other, or both?

  13. Dan Scoones
    May 19th, 2014 at 16:01 | #13

    Secrets of Practical Chess is indeed a great book, but for top-ten purposes I would replace it with the three-volume set on the games of Paul Keres that was edited by Harry Golombek.

  14. Maxwell Smart
    May 19th, 2014 at 16:41 | #14

    Great to see you guys put Larsen’s book ahead of Fischer’s. I learnt a lot more from it than I did from Fischer’s. I think Fischer’s is considerably overrated because of who the author is.

    I prefer Botvinnik’s Best Games over Alekhine’s Best Games, but this might be because I prefer Botvinnik’s playing style.

    Although Lipnitsky’s book was doubtless great for it’s time, I didn’t find it that relevant for today. Capablanca’s ‘Chess Fundamentals’ was better, I thought, and should be there instead – a great book!

    I can never understand why Bronstein’s ‘Zurich 1953′ gets such great accolades all the time. It’s not that great. Keres’s Best games; or Keres and Kotov’s ‘The Art of the Middlegame'; or Reshevsky’s ‘The Art of the Positional Play’ should be there instead.

    I agree that Nimzovitch’s ‘My System’ should not be higher than 9th. A somewhat cranky book.

    If they were more relevant to today, I would have Watson’s series on the English Opening close to being in there somewhere and likewise with Kasparov and Nikitin’s ‘Sicilian …e6 and…d6 systems’. The first Editions of ECO weren’t bad either. And the 10th Edition of MCO by Larry Evans (1965) was the best MCO edition ever. ‘How to play the Opening in Chess’ by several GM authors was pretty good, too.
    ‘Soviet Chess’ by Wade was good.

    Silman is extremely boring and hard going.
    Kotov’s ‘Think like a Grandmaster’ was rubbish.

  15. Nestor
    May 19th, 2014 at 16:48 | #15

    I would definitely have included Shereshevsky at the expense of Nunn or Dvoretsky. Many players find Dvoretsky too difficult, and might prefer for example The Inner Game of Chess by Soltis. I also like Pawn Structure Chess (Soltis again) and especially Winning Pawn Structures (Baburin). Finally it would be a shame not to mention The Art of Attack (Vukovic), which would surely make it into a top 20.

  16. Bebbe
    May 19th, 2014 at 17:08 | #16

    @Nestor

    For me Dvoretskys books are too difficult. I liked attack and defense though which is more on my level.

    One rather simple book which I like a lot is Capablancas best chess endings by Chernev. Chernev has the talent to explain immortal games in a way that mortal players can understand. The quality of the games are of course also amazing.

    Have any of you seen the game Capablanca-Yates from the tournament in New York 1924. The night manouver Nc3-Ne4-Nd6-Nb7-Nxa5 is immortal. The rest of the game is also instructive. If you have not seen the game please take look.

  17. John Upper
    May 19th, 2014 at 17:37 | #17

    Your list doesn’t mention any opening books, even though there must be far more of them published these days than all other sorts of chess books combined. That ought to seem strange, but it’s probably fair: when I ask people what their favourite chess book is, nobody ever names an opening book.

    Three books that ought to be on your consideration list at least:

    The Test of Time, Kasparov
    (the one where he reannotated many of his pre-World Champion games, using italics to indicate new analysis that corrected his earlier mistakes. Better than 3 Matches because there’s a much wider range of openings and opponents.)

    Pawn Power in Chess, Kmoch
    (once you get past the first 40 pages of definitions it’s the manual of how to play any middlegame based on the pawn structure.)

    1001 Sacrifices and Combinations, or
    1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, both by Reinfeld
    (so many people learned from this book, and so many later authors ripped off his examples. Why isn’t one of these two on the list?)

  18. Đoni
    May 19th, 2014 at 18:17 | #18

    From books with which I worked, sadly not a big number, I had to point out:

    1. Karolyis Karpov strategic wins1,2
    2. Mcdonald Chess giants of strategy
    3. Aaagard, Positional play
    4. Lisicin Strategy and tactics
    5. Vladimir Kovačević, 6 big (like bible is one) masterpiece on endings
    6. Nimcovič, My system in praxis
    7. Karpov – Find the right plan
    8. Gligorić, Playing against pieces.

    Of course, there is a lot of different books I tried, but never went to the end studying cause something went wrong while I was studying them and didnt finish them.

  19. Đoni
    May 19th, 2014 at 18:19 | #19

    But of course, they all are not from 20 century.

  20. May 19th, 2014 at 18:31 | #20

    How about a ‘most influential’ list of 20th Century books? I’m approaching this from a history of ideas point of view.

    1. Nimzovich, My System.
    2. Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games.
    3. Fine, Modern Chess Endings
    4. Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy
    5. Reti, Modern Ideas in Chess
    6. Dvoretsky, Secrets of Chess Training
    7. various, Modern Chess Openings
    8. Bronstein, Zurich 53
    9. Averbakh, Comprehensive Chess Endings (multi-volume but one ‘title’)
    10. Lipnitsky, Questions of Modern Chess Strategy

    Honorable mention must go to the two great disruptors of 20th century chess – the Informant series and the ChessBase programs.

  21. Maxwell Smart
    May 19th, 2014 at 19:38 | #21

    @John Hartmann
    New In Chess better than Informant! (Opinion, of course). But Informant was the groundbreaker of course, so you are right.

  22. gerando
    May 19th, 2014 at 21:20 | #22

    What’s the edition recommended for Botvinnik’s games? Is “100 selected games” the same?

  23. Jacob Aagaard
    May 19th, 2014 at 21:34 | #23

    @gerando
    I like the three volumes published in hardcover by a Czech publisher.

  24. Jacob Aagaard
    May 19th, 2014 at 21:39 | #24

    There are a lot of opinions and I do not want to comment on all of them. Relevance today was important for my list. Which books can you read and still get something from?

    I would never put Watson ahead of Dvoretsky. Watson reuses a lot of Mark’s examples and explains them worse. I have other difficulties with his books, but this is not the place for that discussion. But just on the chess point, they are obviously worse. Also, they did not influence chess in nearly the same fashion as Mark’s books did.

    We debated books by Reti, Keres and Kotov. Rating Keres highest of the three.

    We also debated Shereshevsky. The book is good, of course, but there are much better books on this topic now and the original was a copy of a lecture series given by Dvoretsky (with approval) so it did not deserve elevation to the top 10. Vuckovic’s book is unfortunately dated.

    With Kasparov; the books to read are all written after 2000, as is the case with my books and essentially all opening books :-).

  25. May 19th, 2014 at 21:48 | #25

    The publisher of the 3 Botvinnik volumes that Jacob is referring to is Moravian Chess. While you’re ordering from them, pick up the 2 Smyslov ones too; I like them even more!

  26. Jonathan
    May 19th, 2014 at 22:49 | #26

    I was surprised; but quite happy to see Simple Chess (Michael Stean) get an “honorable mention”. This little gem of a book on positional play is not mentioned enough in my opinion. My game improved measurably after going through Simple Chess a few times with a chessboard.

  27. Helmut
    May 19th, 2014 at 23:04 | #27

    A very intersting list. Considering myself to be a chess literature enthusiast, I have nevertheless only read 1,3,6,9 and 10. The following is my two cents on what could also have been included (though of course a list of ten cannot accommodate everyone):

    – Test of Time: It has been mentioned above, and while I have great respect a grandmaster’s opinion (‘With Kasparov; the books to read are all written after 2000′), here I would beg to differ and say that this volume captures the bristling energy of the 1980’s Kasparov in a way that his series of the 21st century cannot.

    – Storming the Barricades: Probably wasn’t considered because it appeared in 2000, which year can however formally be considered part of the 20th century. Anyway this would still be my number one recommendation as a book on attacking strategy . (I have not read Jacob Aagaard’s Attacking Manuals yet though.)

    -The Game of Chess/The Modern Game of Chess: Perhaps he is a purely national phenomenon much like Reinfeld (although a far more significant player), but even I having been raised on Nimzowitsch was distraught at no mention of Tarrasch anywhere in the post including the comments.
    These books are simply what chess was like in the first third of the 20th century, and it is ridiculous how much can still be learned from them.

  28. May 19th, 2014 at 23:32 | #28

    I second dfan’s recommendation of the Smyslov books from Moravian. They’re fantastic.

  29. Klaus Kristensen
    May 19th, 2014 at 23:56 | #29

    1) Capablanca’s best chess endings by Irving Chernev.
    It consists of complete games with the emphasis on endings. There are surprisingly few mistakes in it (according to Houdini) taken into account how old the book is. No book will learn you more about how to play complex endings than this one. Most of Irving’s books are not top notch, but this one is.

    2) 50 selected games by Bent Larsen.
    Best single volume game collection ever, Larsen’s comments are excellent.

    3) Botvinnik’s best games (3 volumes from Moravian chess)
    Best game collection to get for instructional value. The quality of these books is amazing.

    4) 300 games of chess by Siegbert Tarrasch.
    Even though it’s dated it’s still the best game collection to get for anyone starting to take chess serious.
    It was the book that taught me how to play chess.

    5) Questions of modern chess theory by Isaac Lipnitsky
    I wish I had had this book when I started playing chess.
    That would have saved me a few thousand hours in not having to learn what this book teaches the hard way.

    6) Essential chess sacrifices by David LeMoir
    This was the book that did the trick for me, enabling me to break the 1800 ELO rating barrier.
    It’s an attacking manual based around sacrifices. It teaches how to build up the attack better than any other book I have seen.

    7) Endgame strategy by M. Shereshevsky
    Still the best book on strategy in endgames.

    8) Positional Play by Dvoretsky and Yusupov.
    Best book on positional chess ever. Anybody aspiring to become a master must read this one several times.

    9) Fundamental chess endings by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht.
    I prefer this one over Dvoretsky’s endgame manual which is also excellent. But this one covers a lot more and does it in a short and precise way.

    10) Alexander Alekhine: Best games.
    Anything by Alekhine is always worth reading. The same can be said about Larsen, Keres, Botvinnik, Tal and Tarrasch.

    Others worth mentioning: Winning pawn structures by Alexander Baburin, Positional play by Jacob Aagaard, Secrets of pawn endings by Müller and Lamprecht.
    And Najdorf’s book on Zurich 1953 really is better than Bronstein’s.

  30. David
    May 20th, 2014 at 00:48 | #30

    Did you consider Grandmaster Preparation by Lev Polugaevsky? Or Jan Timman’s Art of Chess Analysis?

  31. May 20th, 2014 at 06:38 | #31

    “The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal” is an interesting book, but not a perfect choice for the following reasons:
    1)The collection stops at 1975, and is not comprehensive.
    He went on to play right till his demise in 1992.
    2)Tal is less than candid about both his personal and professional life.
    3)Unlike Botvinnink or Kasparov, Tal seldom bothered to have a
    second look at his analysis. So it leaves much to be desired.
    “Tal-Botvinnik Match 1960” by Tal is a better choice.
    The analysis is rich and detailed.
    What is more, it is a superb narrative of the world championship match.
    It’s entirely free of ego or malice.
    Not like Alekhine and Kasparov who otherwise wrote brilliant accounts of their matches.

  32. Thomas
    May 20th, 2014 at 10:27 | #32

    @chessbibliophile
    For obvious reasons Tal failed to write a more comprehensive volume in 1993.

  33. Gary
    May 20th, 2014 at 11:14 | #33

    I have to agree with the inclusion of Lipnitsky’s “Questions of Modern Chess Theory”, I’ve found it to be one of those books that really opens your eyes and your mind to the possibilities in chess, much in the same way that Chernev’s classic “Logical Chess” did for me as a beginner. The way it encourages you to think about the reasons behind certain opening decisions leaves you better prepared to handle the positions arising once an opening leaves your preparation, and as such makes it timeless.

  34. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 12:19 | #34

    @David
    Also great books. I only had 10 spaces and modern relevance was a strong emphasis.

  35. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 12:20 | #35

    @Helmut
    I can honestly say that Storming the Barricades is not on any of my lists :-). We all have different tastes.

  36. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 12:21 | #36

    @chessbibliophile
    I do not want to know about Tal’s struggles with drug addiction in a chess book. To me it is the best book. And to criticise it for covering only 25 years and then saying you want the match book instead (which is also fantastic) is sort of ironic :-).

  37. Paul
    May 20th, 2014 at 12:55 | #37

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Jacob, could I ask which books you view as successors to Shereshevsky? I can possibly think of Muller’s (and Pajekin) “How to Play Chess Endgames”. I can think of only Shereshevsky and the 1st Dvoretsky where I really noticed a leap in my playing strength after reading (perhaps some of your earlier Everyman books too), but the Shereshevsky book was one I consciously understood so left a better impression on me. Obviously I exclude QCs books as I have less time and an older brain today!

    The other book I would maybe include in the list is the long out of print “No Regrets”, Seirawan’s book on Fischer-Spassky II. I think it had everything (fighting games and a lot of background, though some of the content Seirawan clearly made up).

  38. Indra Polak
    May 20th, 2014 at 13:05 | #38

    The book I would like to mention is “The King: Chess Pieces” by J.H. Donner. Some of the material is dated, but in my view his style of writing is the best I have ever seen in chess literature.

  39. Indra Polak
    May 20th, 2014 at 13:13 | #39

    Hmmm. Except it says on the first page it was produced in 2006. But the dutch version was published earlier in 1987, so I am entitled to mention the dutch version at least.

  40. pabstars
    May 20th, 2014 at 13:44 | #40

    “Think like a grandmaster” by Kotov could definitely be far ahead of most of the books on the top-10 I find. It is ridiculed a bit in one of the Grandmaster Preparation books but I’m sure that many players have paid a lot of attention to planning and thinking in a structured way due to this book which has increased the strength of many players.

  41. Indra Polak
    May 20th, 2014 at 14:21 | #41

    I think I learned more from “Play like a grandmaster” which focussed more on positional aspects of the game. I had great expectations from Think like a grandmaster but somehow it did not compute for me.

  42. pabstars
    May 20th, 2014 at 14:53 | #42

    @Indra Polak
    I agree that his writing style is excellent. Chess secrets I learned from the masters (Edvard Lasker) is, however, IMO even more entertaining. However, this book will not make you a stronger chess player :-)

  43. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 15:18 | #43

    @Paul
    I think there are a few, but if nothing else, then I like Excelling at Technical Chess more, just to mention a book I can fully endorse!

  44. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 15:19 | #44

    @Indra Polak
    Also a really good book.

  45. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 15:21 | #45

    @pabstars
    It is definitely an influential book. But it is influential in the same way as a lot of other failed attempts to deal with issues are; like for example Freud and his obsession with cocaine :-).

    The mechanical way of thinking illustrated in the book are not what people do; it is even not what machines do. We obviously considered it seriously, but if I had to choose a Kotov book, I would chose the one he co-wrote with Keres “Art of the Middlegame” – although the adjournement chapter is definitely dated.

  46. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 15:25 | #46

    @pabstars
    And I do take offense with the word “ridiculed”. I am sure that people in 60 years will know much more about chess than we do now. Currently I am one of the more influential chess writers, but let us take Dvoretsky just to take the ego out of it.

    Do you not think that ordinary grandmasters will be able to see holes in Dvoretsky’s thinking in 60 years from now? Of course they will. This does not mean that pointing them out is ridiculing him.

    But if he was to write a book structured all around a big idea, which was flawed, and it was still in print. Would it not be false to not point it out?

    Take the ego-stuff out of it. Chess books are allowed to be entertaining. It does not make them insulting. And to point out mistakes in other people’s thinking is not to insult them; it is called debate and is meant to make us all smarter…

  47. May 20th, 2014 at 17:24 | #47

    @pabstars
    Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters by Edward Lasker will perhaps give you an enduring love of the game.

    I’d only definitely revisit the Tal, Larsen, Fischer and Alekhine game collection books on the above list.

    Right now the level of instructional material is so much higher than it was 30-40 years ago. In fact I’d say don’t touch anything written before the mid to late 1990s. In particular I think Kotov was just bad.

    A small mention to Chess Combination as a Fine Art by Werner Golz and P. Keres (Kurt Richter chess columns) which I carried around for years to read on buses.

  48. tonifa
    May 20th, 2014 at 17:38 | #48

    I missed: Tal – Botvinnik 1960 by Tal (someone already mentioned it) and,surprisingly, nobody said “Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies” by Kasparian that i think is one of the greatest books ever made. Am i wrong??

  49. May 20th, 2014 at 17:54 | #49

    I have Tal – Botvinnik 1960 but only got it later in l don’t think it was easily available when I was learning. Will have to get it out! I had to make do with Tal’s Winning Chess Combinations which I read cover to cover, the RHM book mentioned above and also Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess by PH Clarke.

    Anyone spend time with Tigran Petrosian – World Champion [Paperback]
    A. O’Kelly De Galway?

    I have Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies by Kasparian I don’t think I’ve ever read it. Am I wrong? 8-)

  50. tonifa
    May 20th, 2014 at 18:08 | #50
  51. Paul Brondal
    May 20th, 2014 at 19:07 | #51

    @Jacob Aagaard
    It was not my intention to insult anyone. I have several times praised your Calculation book a lot and I found your comments on Kotov humorous in the book. Your book will make anyone much stronger than Kotov’s old book but his ideas are beautiful even if they are incorrect. By the way, I far prefer your books to Dvoretsky’s which I’m sure many others do as well. However, I feel that chess books of a high quality are much better now than 15 years ago.

  52. Mario
    May 20th, 2014 at 19:53 | #52

    jacob I don´t know if I put my finger in the fan, but what do you think about cjs purdy’s books ?

  53. Jacob Aagaard
    May 20th, 2014 at 19:54 | #53

    I am of course happy when someone say that my books are better than Dvoretsky’s. But let us be honest, my work is so deeply based on Mark’s to start with, that I have simply taken all the good ideas and added a few of my own on top. I would be pretty poor if I could add nothing!

    And then Mark is a trainer first, a writer second. While I am definitely a writer first and a trainer second.

  54. Alasdair Alexander
    May 20th, 2014 at 21:02 | #54

    I’d have as a top 5 (no particular order), the following which I have re-read multiple times:

    Tal’s Life and Games,
    Capablanca by Winter
    The King by Donner
    Chess for Tigers by Simon Webb
    Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games

    Two guilty secrets (flawed but interesting) are Soltis’ Soviet Chess and the Complete Chess Addict

    I have Larsen’s book and am yet to start it and next on my list to buy are anything by and about Botvinnik (I love his World Championship books – he was brutal to both sides) , Smyslov and Keres (Practical Chess Endgames was a neglected book from my Childhood and I seem to have lost my copy).

  55. Ray
    May 20th, 2014 at 21:04 | #55

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Modesty is definitely one of your strong points :-)

  56. GM Rob
    May 20th, 2014 at 22:31 | #56

    @Jacob Aagaard
    You may well have used Dvoretsky’s ideas and added to them but to many less gifted players they struggle to understand Mark’s work while your books are far more comprehensible to the average chess club player.
    Of course in a few years time when every average club player understands the game better than myself and beats me I will come back and blame you!

  57. May 21st, 2014 at 01:14 | #57

    Mr. Aagaard- I don’t know about “best”, but the books I enjoyed the most that aren’t on your list are: Chess From Morphy to Botwinnik by Konig, The Book of the Nottingham International Tounament by Alekhine (in his game he lost against Capablanca he gave himself three exclamation marks and Capa only one) and my first book I read as a kid that I remember fondly and think the title was The Fireside Book of Chess, think by Chernov.

  58. Michael Bartlett
    May 21st, 2014 at 06:07 | #58

    My top 10 (in no order):

    * Logical Chess move by move
    * Zurich 1953
    * Stein’s ‘Simple Chess’
    * Endgame Strategy
    * Tal Botvinnik 1961
    * Capablanca’s best chess endings
    * Pawn Power in Chess
    * Attacking Technique (Crouch’s book)
    * The Amateur’s Mind
    * Questions of modern chess theory

    And the best ever written? For me it has to be Stein’s ‘Simple Chess’

  59. Michael Bartlett
    May 21st, 2014 at 06:10 | #59

    Oh one other amazing book – “The Best Move” – incredible text.

  60. Jacob Aagaard
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:50 | #60

    @GM Rob
    When I wrote Excelling at Chess Calculation there was no disguise that I was trying to bring across Mark’s ideas with a few of my won in a more readable way. Mark thought I had succeeded and have recommended the book in the past.

  61. Jacob Aagaard
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:51 | #61

    @Mario
    I think very little about them. They were never really relevant to me. A lot of people love them, so they must have helped a lot of guys. I never liked the way they were marketed, but I have no opinion on the content; except that I know a lot of people held them in high regard.

  62. Jacob Aagaard
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:53 | #62

    @Alasdair Alexander
    Gelfand mentioned Keres 1948 match book when I spoke to him a few days ago. And then he has an old love of Razuvaev’s book on Rubinstein. In the office we all joked to put Chess for Tigers on. It was one of my first chess books and I love it dearly. I played Simon twice in Sweden (won both times) in thrilling games. It was a great experience. The way he died was truly sad…

  63. pabstars
    May 21st, 2014 at 11:37 | #63

    Bent Larsen made a series of books called Skakskole. I don’t know if they were ever translated to other languages but they were IMO absolutely fantastic. They were 5 small books which hardly cost anything and the first 4 were stuffed with exercises. Find the combination, Find the plan, Find the best moves and Practical endgames. The last book Solid openings made the Bronstein/Botvinnik variation in the caro-kann gxf6 seriously popular in Denmark for a long time. The first book which is from 75 has 100 combinations which aren’t very tough but for children/youngsters, some of these books are still relevant I think. If you have been away from the chess scene for many years, solving the 100 combinations is still just great!

  64. May 21st, 2014 at 14:29 | #64

    The best chess book of the 20th century is still missing:
    Stefan Zweig: “Schachnovelle”

  65. Indra Polak
    May 21st, 2014 at 14:33 | #65

    The Defence – Nabokov

  66. Indra Polak
    May 21st, 2014 at 14:36 | #66

    The Floating Chessboard – Couperus (not about chess though)

  67. Mario
    May 21st, 2014 at 14:51 | #67

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Thanks Jacob

  68. Ray
    May 21st, 2014 at 15:01 | #68

    @Indra Polak
    I agree, Nabokov’s ‘The Luzhin Defence’ is my favourite as well.

  69. Maxwell Smart
    May 21st, 2014 at 17:48 | #69

    One book I haven’t seen mentioned (rightfully in my opinion) is Tony Kosten’s runaway success “The Dynamic English” (1999!).
    This is another book that I don’t understand getting so many rave reviews.
    Kosten has some good stuff vs. 1…e5, but there is little content against other moves. The Anti-Slav and Anti-KID stuff is, frankly, pathetic, even for then.
    Be interested in others’ opinions on this.

  70. Ray
    May 21st, 2014 at 17:50 | #70

    @Maxwell Smart
    Might also be a interesting to have a top 10 of worst, least influential, books. Any book by Schiller would have to be on that list.

  71. Maxwell Smart
    May 21st, 2014 at 18:05 | #71

    @Ray
    I think even if we made it the worst 100, Schiller would fill the lot!

  72. Master McGrath
    May 21st, 2014 at 18:34 | #72

    Somewhere in the top ten I would have chosen

    “The Tactics of End-Games” by Jeno Ban. (Originally published by Corvina Press, Budapest 1963; Dover edition 1997 (descriptive notation).)

  73. Mehmet
    May 21st, 2014 at 18:41 | #73

    My personal top 10 for the 20th century , based on not very big reading(or working) experience:
    1)Reti:”New Ideas in Chess-Masters of the Chessboard”.They were translated and published as an unified book in my country.
    2)Dvoretsy,Yosupov: “Positional Play”
    3)Capablanca:”Fundamentals of Chess”
    4)Nimzowitch: ” My System”
    5)Karpov : ” My Best Games”
    6)Bronstein: “Zurich 1953″
    7)Tal: ” Life and Games”
    8)Sahovski Informator series
    9)Keres and Kotov: ” The Art of the Middlegame”
    10)Bobby Fischer: ” My 60 Memorable Games”
    This is very subjective of course.

  74. Kinghartattack
    May 21st, 2014 at 22:05 | #74

    My favourite: Endgame Preparation by Jon Speelman.

  75. Stigma
    May 22nd, 2014 at 02:28 | #75

    Hard to argue with most of the Aagard/Shaw list.
    However, there are two books I really feel are missing:

    Dvoretsky/Yusupov: Positional Play
    Shereshevsky/Slutsky: Mastering the Endgame (2 vols)

    That means Secrets of Chess Training would have to go, and I would also leave out Nunn’s Secrets of Practical Chess, which I feel contains too much obvious advise and is overrated.

    I have a soft spot for the big, systematic middlegame texts covering lots of standard position types. I’ll refrain from suggesting Silman’s best book here, but Euwe/Kramer: The Middlegame surely has enough credibility to be considered. It’s been said the Euwe never fully understood Nimzowitsch’ ideas, but then Nimzowitsch was wrong about quite a few things too.

    One game collection I really like is Polugaevsky’s very personal “Grandmaster Performance”, but of course he wasn’t an infuential enough player for a top 10 list.

    “The Test of Time” was also great. One of the very first chess books I owned, I won it as a prize when I was around 10 and enjoyed the stories of the young, dynamic Kasparov challenging the Soviet hegenomy. The actual chess content was way over my head at the time!

  76. Ray
    May 22nd, 2014 at 06:56 | #76

    @Stigma
    Pachmann’s 3-volume middlegame series is also a classic, which I studied in my younger years.

  77. Jacob Aagaard
    May 22nd, 2014 at 09:56 | #77

    I would agree that Keres, Polugaevsky and Shereshevsky were all great writers that we could have included. But we had to go with our own best judgement. And taste does differ.

    I would want to say that simple is for me a plus: actually doing the simple things is the big challenge.

  78. May 22nd, 2014 at 16:03 | #78

    @pabstars
    These articles were reprinted as Bent Larsen’s Good Move Guide and was published by Oxford chess books. It never got widely known in English. You’re right it is an outstanding book that should be reprinted. I was rereading it recently.

  79. Dave G
    May 22nd, 2014 at 17:06 | #79

    When I was learning to play chess my favourite book was Batsford Chess Openings 2.

  80. Jay
    May 22nd, 2014 at 18:26 | #80

    I see that New in Chess is soon publishing “Bent Larsen´s Best Games” by Larsen. But it says there are 120 games, so I’m wondering where the other 70 games come from as the selected game book Jacob lists above had 50 games. Is it based on a later edition of the 50 game book or did NIC pull together 70 games that were published in non-book form and add them to this edition?

  81. May 22nd, 2014 at 19:49 | #81

    @Jay There is a 2009 version of Larsen’s book in German with more material https://shop.schachdepot.de//catalog/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=42&products_id=2222&osCsid=b63a9373d789f0f07acd9c349eeb2c62 it may be based on that. This New in Chess version is certainly something I’m keeping an eye out for.

  82. chessbibliophile
    May 23rd, 2014 at 16:49 | #82

    @Thomas

    That is is just a joke.Tal played many brilliant games between 1975 and 1989. Sadly he had no time to have his book updated. He was more interested in playing and he left the commentary to others. A game like Kasparov-Tal 1983 that Garry himself annotated later in extraordinary detail.

  83. Soviet School
    May 25th, 2014 at 13:33 | #83

    Why is Nunn’s Secrets of Practical Chess so high?
    To my mind Chess For Tigers had a bigger influence on pragmatic methods of chess players approach to the struggle.
    The list should have a tournament book and personally New York 1924 is a better book than Zurich 53 as New York 1924 featured Lakers last great win and rise of the Reti System. I well remember my excitement on first getting Zurich 53 but Alekine’s notes in NY 24 seem to have ideas followed by los of latterannotators.

    • Jacob Aagaard
      May 26th, 2014 at 10:21 | #84

      Because we like it that much, obviously. We find it really really useful.

  84. SovietSchool
    May 25th, 2014 at 20:14 | #85

    I am very interested to know why Nunn’s book is rated so high. I thought it had some good practical advice but 4 th best book of the century? Is there a confusion between Secrets of Practical Chess and the original version of Nunn’s Best Games ?

  85. Alexander
    May 25th, 2014 at 21:55 | #86

    Leaving out “Endgame Strategy” by Shereshevsky should in my opinion be put (somewhere) on the top 10 “biggest mistakes of 20th century”-list.

    It’s a book with which I have, and always will have, a special memory saying to myself “finally a book which doesn’t drown the reader in endless lines of theory without emphasizing the main points”.

    Only a handfull of other books can claim to be of such nature, like for instance Marin’s 3 volume series on the English Opening (which I have fully read, often come back to and treasure as probably one of the best set of books I’ve ever read).

  86. Andre
    May 26th, 2014 at 14:19 | #87

    What’s so great about The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov)? I could buy it for cheap but the descriptive notation is a PITA.

  87. Jacob Aagaard
    May 26th, 2014 at 17:13 | #88

    @Andre
    I loved it. Everyone has his own taste…

  88. PeterM
    May 26th, 2014 at 20:10 | #89

    I have three books from Nesis, Die kunst der Vereinfachung. Lots of endgame positions. Not theoretical, more practical. Just examples. It helped me to improve my chess a lot.

  89. Jacob Aagaard
    May 26th, 2014 at 21:53 | #90

    @PeterM
    Luckily there are many good books. But also, luckily, there are not yet too many :-).

  90. PeterM
    May 27th, 2014 at 17:36 | #91

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Yeh, you are right.

    There will be much more books to mention. But the books from Nesis were really very useful. I started studying chess in de 80’s. In those years you could do some endgame training, but it was very boring. Lowenfisch and Smyslov on Rookendings for example. For me this wasn’t inspiring and useful.
    But Nesis books I played through with pleasure.

    Today there are much better endgame books. Such like Dvoretsky, your book, the book From Amateur to IM, Grandmaster Strategy (endgames of Ulf Anderson).

    Greetings and keep up the good work!

  91. Grant
    May 28th, 2014 at 06:08 | #92

    Yes it is very personal. I really like the book on Boleslavsky’s games which was translated by Jimmy Adams. That book deserves a much wider audience. Gligoric’s Selected Chess Masterpieces which I think is based on a column he wrote for a US chess magazine was an early favourite of mine. The book Grandmaster of Chess: The Complete games of Paul Keres would give some of the top 10 books a run for their money. I probably would include all these in my list of favourite books- if not the “best” books.

  92. Jacob Aagaard
    May 28th, 2014 at 08:06 | #93

    @Grant
    It is possible I would write a different list after the debate than before! Keres should have been on it. I do not know the Boleslavsky book. A fault of mine!

  93. Pawn to King Four
    May 28th, 2014 at 23:12 | #94

    Andre :What’s so great about The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov)? I could buy it for cheap but the descriptive notation is a PITA.

    If you can read descriptive notation there are heaps of classic chess bargains available. To be frank I just cannot see how any one interested enough to read chess books at all would find descriptive notation a problem.

  94. Ruben
    July 24th, 2014 at 20:48 | #95

    What would be an up to date equivalent of Vuckovic’s book? I am looking for something like his that applies to a wide variety of rated echelons.

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