What are the best chess books regarding theory and such for beginners?

  • 4
    Beginners don't need theory with the possible exception of general rules such as 'control the center' and "don't move the same piece twice in the opening." There are several threads here on those topics.
    – Tony Ennis
    Feb 10, 2013 at 14:24
  • 3
    Fishes, it's not clear exactly what you intend with the word "theory." I could imagine different intended meanings. Could you elaborate perhaps?
    – ETD
    Feb 10, 2013 at 14:42
  • 1
    Also, there are many stages of "beginner", from literally not knowing the rules to being a tournament "D" player. Which interests you?
    – Tony Ennis
    Feb 10, 2013 at 15:29
  • Best way to learn chess, is to get a good book which is well annotated, like Fischer's my best 60 games, or Alekhine's 3 books annotated by himeself also, and just play over the games but read the analysis after each move to understand why the moves are made. Any other, well annotated chess games book will do. The important part, is to read the annotations (analysis) to understand why a move are made and what the player was thinking when they made it.
    – Nasser
    Feb 10, 2013 at 17:45
  • "theory and such" sounds just slightly too broad... May 14, 2014 at 11:48

9 Answers 9


A book often recommended to beginners is Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev. It contains 33 games with text explanations for every single move.

Dan Heisman also recommends other books in his web site, here are a few:

  • Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking - Neil McDonald
  • A First Book of Morphy by del Rosario
  • Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played - Irving Chernev
  • Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur - Euwe and Meiden

[edit] Here's a PGN file of Logical Chess that you can play through using a game viewer like Scid vs. PC while you read the book. Or you can just use a regular chess set.


It's a bit old, but I cut my teeth on "Chess Fundamentals" by former world champion JR Capablanca. Moreover, it's one of the few books in the public domain, so you can access it online.

  • Be careful, though: some editions don't have diagrams, which makes it quite difficult to follow the text. Apr 22, 2014 at 16:38
  • And many of the available editions have errors in the diagrams, which is potentially worse! Apr 24, 2014 at 21:24

To take the beginner up a notch "My System" by Aron Nimzowitsch ... it goes over basics of theory like open files which even a beginner can get a feeling for. This book will move the person to an advance beginner or to intermediate (with practice). The skills in the book are essential. Here is a link to download the classic: http://www.taflfelag.is/assets/files/Nimzowitsch,.Aron.My.System.(21st.century.ed).pdf The sort of companion to "My System" is "Chess Praxis" which gives games to see the applications of the concepts in "My System". That would probably be a next book. If you want something for the total beginner then something like "A Primer of Chess" by Capablanca Be sure to learn all the basic endgame mating combinations (queen, rook, bishop-bishop, bishop-knight) as well.

  • Nimzowitsch is not for beginners. His books are informative, but neither he or Tarrasch were correct. Their argument was good for the advancement of chess, but later work has merged their ideas.
    – newshutz
    May 14, 2014 at 17:36
  • My System is just fun to read and I definitely learnt something from it. Apr 2, 2015 at 8:34

Agree with others regarding Nimzowitsch - I would not recommend that to beginners for many reasons. I would add to retrodanny's recommendations, I would also add

  • Best lessons of a chess coach by Sunil Weeramantry and Ed Eusebi - joy to read

I would start with Logical Chess Move by Move and then move to Best Lessons (above) and then to others.


Not sure the best books to read but i did notice the other day that Regency Chess are giving away free books on their twitter account https://twitter.com/regencychess.

Might be worth a try.


A little indirect of an answer here but because you mention that you are looking for books strictly for beginners I thought this point might be of use to you:

No real theory is needed in the beginning stages of chess. The most rapid chess improvement to be gained for the beginning chess player will come in the form of chess tactics. Studying chess tactics alone will result in huge rating gains. Once you reach an ELO of about 1800 then it becomes necessary to start studying positional theory.

It really is a Maslow's hierarchy type of dynamic. If you match two computers against each other, one with high tactical knowledge and low positional knowledge and the other with high positional knowledge and low tactical knowledge - simulate it 100 times -- the computer with tactical knowledge will still win all the games.

Hope this makes sense :D

  • That's true up to a point, but I would say that an ELO of 1300 is more like when to begin learning openings. In my first USCF tournament, I beat a 1450 player and an 1100 player, and lost all my other games, including to weaker 1300 and 1400 players. In the games I lost, I was generally in a losing position out of the opening and unable to recover. Studying openings over the next year brought my provisional rating from 1256 to 1505 to 1653.
    – BobRodes
    Apr 2, 2015 at 3:39
  • If that's true for you that's awesome but I think the operating idea behind my idea would probably still have applied to your games. E.g. take the notation from the games you lost (esp. to the lower rated players) and throw them into a computer for analysis, even though you may have played terribly in the opening chances are very high that the lower rated player made at least one tactically disastrous move which you may have been able to exploit with stronger tactical awareness.
    – maxwell
    Apr 2, 2015 at 17:50
  • I agree with everything you say about tactics, except the computer part since my story happened in the late 70's. :) I'm only saying that I think study of openings should begin at a lower level than you say, like 1100. Of course, if you're running all your games through Stockfish, then you're studying openings anyway, so perhaps the distinction doesn't apply the way it did 40 years ago.
    – BobRodes
    Apr 5, 2015 at 23:56

Learn Chess by John Nunn is a fantastic book for beginners, do not be fooled by the title

Build up Your Chess 1: The Fundamentals (Yususpov's Chess School) by Artur Yusupov will definitely make you shed your beginner skins!

50 Essential Chess Lessons by Steve Giddins, a very easy book to read, fantastic


I recommend the following :

  1. CHESS FOR CHILDREN by Murray Chandler & Helen Milligan
  4. CHESS OPENING FOR KIDS by John Watson & Graham Burgess
  5. THE STEPS METHOD (Learning Chess Step 1 to 6) by Rob Brunia and Cor van Wijgerden

read more click


  • Do you also have suggestions for adult beginners? Mar 26, 2015 at 14:36

My 60 Memorable Games is a great book on so many levels. There's something in it for everyone, from beginner to grandmaster. If you want to learn the Ruy Lopez, go over the Ruy Lopez games. (While Fischer was known for the Sicilan, Sicilian opening theory has changed more than Ruy Lopez since the 70's.) It's especially fun to go over Fischer's analyses with an engine, to see if his opinions about his games where really correct or not.

While it isn't the only book on chess to read, it is one of the great classics. If it is the only one you read, you'll still find that it improves your game.

I've seen recommendations for Chernev's Logical Chess. That is indeed a good book, one of the few that explains every move. When I was a beginner, I often found it frustrating to go through books and have no idea why a particular move was chosen. If you can get past his gushy style, there's a lot of good insight in there.

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