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I am a recreational chess player, hoping to understand the game a little more by reading chess books. I am looking for books that explain each and every move like Understanding Chess Move By Move by John Nunn. The only problem with this book is that fundamental concepts like pawn structure and the importance of the center are assumed knowledge. Although I am aware of these concepts, I have no idea why the center is important or how one can take advantage of it if the opponent willingly gives it up. I also do not know why, for example, one sometimes prefer the move Bd3 over Bc4 or vice versa and this is a point which the author does not go over. Sometimes people play Bc4, then trades with the knight. My inexperience tells me that here White played two moves only to lose the bishop, which does not seem ideal in the opening.

I suppose that I am looking for a book which explains all the fundamental concepts but not for complete beginners, either. I am aware of all the basic tactics like forks, pins, etc., and things like Scholar's mate, smothered mate, etc.

What are good books to address these issues and why do you recommend them?

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4 Answers 4

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I've focused this answer on resources that have clear, strong writing with good explanations. Some also have puzzles that support the author's presentation of ideas.

When I first started playing chess seriously, I found Yasser Seirawan's Play Winning Chess a nice introduction to the practical considerations of

  • Force (material)
  • Time
  • Space
  • Pawn Structure

and the narrative, games, tips, puzzles, and quizzes explicitly targeting beginners.

Seirawan's Winning Chess Strategies was a useful foray into basic strategy and helped me come up with plans and evaluate candidate moves better. Very useful chapters relevant to your question such as

  • Ch. 4: "Understanding Where the Pieces Go"
  • Ch. 5: "Superior Minor Pieces"
  • Ch. 6: "How to Use Pawns"

again with easy to follow writing and lots of puzzles and quizzes.

I found Best Lessons of a Chess Coach: Extended Edition to have useful explanations for piece placement decisions, including how to punish certain moves by the opponent where the explanation covers the "why" and not just the correct lines. This book targets a slightly stronger audience than Seirawan's books, but the narrative (words!) is pretty detailed.

Chernev's Logical Chess Move by Move is also fairly well known where "[e]very single move of every game will be commented on, in simple, everyday language." Games included cover

  • The Kingside Attack (16 games)
  • The Queen's Pawn Opening (7)
  • Other Strong Master Games & Their Ideas (10).

Book covers.

Of course, there are many other great resources. I'm sure fellow answerers will come up with even better recommendations.

Some relevant episodes of The Perpetual Chess Podcast with discussions on book resources for these topics mentioned by the OP:

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I think that you are looking for a kind of first book on chess strategy, that explains things in words (and not just with puzzles or analysis).

A good example would be Chess Strategy for Club Players by Herman Grooten (he is an IM and very experienced coach). But there are many more.

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    'you are looking for a kind of first book on chess strategy, that explains things in words' - this perfectly sums it up. Thanks for the recommendation and I regret not being able to give more than one answer a ticks.
    – David Dinh
    Dec 10, 2022 at 20:44
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Some solid recommendations:

  • Logical Chess Move By Move by Irving Chernev. Excellent for those with ratings <1400.
  • Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vukovic
  • 60 memorable games by Bobby Fischer
  • How to Reassess Your Chess by Jeremy Silman
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Excellent question! Without any doubt, the most famous book about this topic is "My System," by Aron Nimzowitsch. Some people say that "My System" is difficult to understand. However, another way to view the difficulty of understanding "My System" is that chess is difficult. I discovered that the former World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian read "My System" 10 times. "My System" was difficult for him or is it just that chess is difficult, or he thought that anybody needs to master any detail of "My System"? Two books that are easy to read and teach fantastic lessons are "Judgement and Planning in Chess", by the former World Chess Champion Max Euwe and "Chess Giants of Strategy," by grandmaster Neil McDonald.

I want to conclude by saying that I consider it a mistake to start with chess strategy because chess strategy uses tactics and endgames. One of the most important Soviet schools suggested starting with endgames. There are several reasons behind this. From the mathematical perspective, you have a smaller number of pieces in the board, so it is an "easier" problem because the number of possibilities (combinations) is smaller. In addition to that, many tactical and strategical problems switch to an endgame, so if you do not master endgames is difficult to master and even understand tactics and strategy. Also, you will have a great tactical "baptism" with the study of endgames because tactics are required to master endgames. If you would like to know the best endgame books it is better that you post a new question.

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