How to Read Chess Books

Today, I’m going to pick a rather unusual topic to talk about. At some point when I was rated around 1000, I started to find that reading chess books over a chess set was tiring and boring. I wasn’t sure how other people read so many chess books, so at that time, I somewhat shunned chess books, except those that could be read without a chess set. Eventually I came across the ability to play over moves on the computer, which seemed so much more convenient than throwing physical chess pieces around.

Here is a quote from the Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games by Grandmasters Dr John Nunn, John Emms and FIDE Master Graham Burgess that sheds some light on the topic (the book covers the 100 best games ever as judged by the authors):

“[In reading this book] you may find it convenient to use two chessboards – one to keep track of the position in the main game, and another to play over the variations. Alternatively, and preferably, play over the over using a suitable chess program (for example ChessBase). Keeping a program such as Fritz running in the background will reveal analytical points we had no space to include in the book.”

This quote suggests that it is best to analyse on the computer board with Fritz or similar programs. Preferably you can save the games you enter so that you can revise them in the future.

If you’re on the move, it will be difficult to analyse on the computer. In these situations, I like to read chess books that can be read without a chess set. Examples of these books are 101 Tips to Improve Your Chess by GM Tony Kosten and The Complete Book of Chess Strategy by IM Jeremy Silman.

If you dislike reading chess books altogether, one can also learn from chess DVDs or asking a coach for lessons.

Chess DVDs theoretically cannot contain information that is more extensive than a book, but they provide it in a format that is easier to understand for most people. Try looking the DVD sections or the New in Chess shop.

Having a coach is another good option, although it is often more expensive than buying books or DVDs. For the highest ranked coaches, you can’t look past the coaching services offered at chess servers such as the Internet Chess Club. Keep in mind that the highest rated players aren’t necessary the best coaches.

Just a special note on opening books. It is probably more cost effective to go to a website such as ChessPublishing, which provides monthly opening updates, than it is to actually buy books on specific openings. This plan is recommended by IM John Watson.

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