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I will introduce my request by saying that up until fairly recently I was completely oblivious to chess despite practicing as a kid, I have a clear understanding of the FIDE rules but that's about it.

Though being an advanced player in similar disciplines I understand the concepts of opening theory, endgame, evaluation of position, albeit not in a chess context.

What are the best books of reference on:

(A) General Theory: or ways to think about chess beyond the rules themselves, having heard terms such as scope, dynamics, positional judgement, the importance of the center, pawn structures, etc/?

(B) Calculation in chess: a description of the thought process, methods for improving?

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Chess principles:

  • Aron Nimzowitsch's My System [Essential. Good for beginners as well]
  • School of Chess Excellence series 3 - Strategic Play by Mark Dvoretsky. [Intermediate level]
  • Grandmaster Preparation - Strategic Play by Jacob Aagaard [Advanced. Aagard's books have tough puzzles which will be very hard for Beginners.]

Pawn Structures: [You can read the theory and games to understand the principles. Not very technical, so should be equally understanable by Beginners. At the same time, intermediate/advanced level player will be better able to participate with the book using analysis.]

  • Winning Chess Middlegame by Sokolov
  • Winning Pawn Structures by Alexander Baburin

Calculation:

  • Think like a Grand Master - Kotov [Good for all levels. But beginners will find the technical parts difficult]
  • Secrets of Chess Training by Mark Dvoretsky. [Advanced. dot. A difficult book since it dwells on analysis and getting better at the technical aspects]

  • Other authors: Jeremy Silman, Andrew Soltis (The Inner Game of Chess?) [I have all the above books in my library, and have read them in parts at least, but I don't have the books of Soltis and Silman. Never read them, But I heard good feedback about them. Worth a try, I guess.]

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    Great books, but a pretty crazy schedule for a beginner. "Strategic Play" was my gift to a IM who is close to his final GM norm. For Dvoretzky's stuff one should be beyond Elo 2000 (as I know from painful experience). – BlindKungFuMaster Feb 3 '16 at 8:36
  • Indeed, Let me add the levels next to my suggestion to make it easy for him. – Arun J Feb 3 '16 at 9:04
  • I would add that there are some slightly wrong things in My System, that a beginner could perhaps not spot. Even if I adore the book and the style. – Olorin Jun 16 at 11:10
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I would recommend Chess Tutor Step 1. It is a training software that starts with the most basic level and goes until 1800 rating, more or less. The software costs around $20. When you finish you can follow with Chess Tutor Step 2 and Chess Tutor Step 3. Even they have several languages available. I have been a chess trainer for 30 years, and I have never seen something so good. I have no commercial relation with the author. The program includes puzzles, lessons, and even a chess program that you can play with. I would not go with a book because this chess software check if the move that you propose is right, and gives you advises if your move is wrong. If you want something extra, even though they are designed for kids, I would also recommend Dinosaur Chess. I love also Fritz and Chesster. You can find computer, tablet, and phone versions. Definitely, do not start with a book. You can find where to buy them with Google, Bing, Amazon, or any search engine. If you want additional advises, just write me. I like to help.

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