What books have made the greatest impact on your game?


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What books have made the greatest impact on your game?

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maig 15, 2007, 1:21pm

I have read (and I mean read carefully, cover to cover) many chess books, but very few of them have had a noticeable effect on my win/loss ratio.

The first one that made a difference was The Art of Chess Combination by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky. That was my first introduction to the classic bishop sac on h7. A better discussion is in The Art of Attack in Chess, by Vladimir Vukovic, but I didn't find that until much later.

Next was Test Your Positional Play by Bellin and Ponzetto. It got me thinking at the 1800 level, but my tactical ineptitude kept me in the 1600s.

Then, I took a long break from chess. During that time, the meaning of "1600" changed. A 1600 player today would have been pretty close to an 1800 player from the '80s. Anyway, when I returned and tried getting back into tournament play again, I lost a lot of points, and made the "mistake" of trying to recover them in tournaments where there were young kids whose skills were advancing much faster than their official ratings.

Next was My System. I had read it once when I was in high school, but it didn't sink in. As a middle-aged duffer, I finally grasped the significance of overprotection and all his other little ideas. It gave me the edge I needed to overcome a fellow I had challenged to a match.

But the best thing that's happened to me since coming back is Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games by Laszlo Polgar. I'm pretty certain that drilling in tactics is the single most useful thing I can do at this point to improve my results.

Does anyone else have book ideas?

jul. 1, 2009, 5:22am

Polgar's book is a good tool to work with and I enjoy using it, but for a good workout everyday, you might want to checkout http://chesstempo.com/

Lots to work on and it can be used free.

jul. 1, 2009, 5:27am

Korchnoi/Zac - King's Gambit

ag. 2, 2009, 5:26pm

Think Like a Grand Master by Alexander Kotov.

Editat: feb. 21, 2010, 10:33am

My earliest book that had a profound impact was The Art of Checkmate. After that My System: 21st Century Edition and its companion Chess Praxis: 21st Century Edition which I have re-read many times, each time returning richer from the experience. I also re-read cover-cover many times Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge. I went through Think Like a Grandmaster and it helped but at the time I may not have been ready for it and have re-read sections of it now and then. Chess Exam And Training Guide: Rate Yourself And Learn How To Improve has helped me find where my weaknesses were and what titles to read to improve. I have used CT-Art 3.0 by ChessAssistant (Software Title) to improve my tactical eye. Lastly Improve Your Chess Now is one that has helped me the most in tactics and in generalized knowledge of chess, it borrows a lot from many books in the past (actually most that I have listed) and uses it to present a very holistic view of chess. If I had to pick one it would be last one Improve Your Chess Now since it presents a core of knowledge as opposed to discreet topics, mind one would be much the better off if all were read.

Maybe we should start a thread on desert island collection of say of 10 chess books to take.

març 7, 2010, 9:02am

None. I'm still terrible.

nov. 2, 2011, 11:52am

Several books just hit the spot at the right time. those that jump to mind are:

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess - a tactics primer.
Simple Chess by Michael Stean - possibly the most effective, ideal for learning what to do when you stop losing pieces !
100 Selected Games by Mikhail Botvinnik - a wonderful games collection.
Silman's Endgame Course by Jeremy Silman - where was this book all these years ? An endgame book you actually want to read.

nov. 7, 2011, 4:56pm

The Inner Game of Chess
Fundamental Chess Endings
Bishop v Knight: The Verdict
Chess Is My Life (Both the 50 games as White, and 50 Games as Black - Basically Korchnoi's best games)

des. 20, 2011, 10:15am

Hi ThrillerFan,
I've just got the 80th Birthday version of Korchnoi's best games. I've just started it and hope to read more over the holidays.

des. 20, 2011, 11:59am

Good luck. I'm starting up the My Great Predecessors series for 2012. Also currently reading books on the Ruy Lopez (White), Petroff (Black) and Slav (Black).

des. 20, 2011, 3:13pm

> 10

The My Great Predecessors series is not the best selection out there. You would be well advised to avoid it. Go for something else. Once you develop more knowledge you can go back to it perhaps.

des. 22, 2011, 9:43am

#11 - What are you rated?

You say "Once you develop more knowledge you can go back to it perhaps."

Uhm...I learned how to play the game in 1983, and have played regularly in tournament competition since 1996. I'm not some 1500-rated chump.

Case in point: This past Tuesday night, I had White vs a 2023 player, and destroyed him (uhm - hint hint, I'm higher than that, this was no "fluke" game)

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.g3 b5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.d3 e6 6.f4 (The preferred move against 5...e6, 6.Be3 and 7.Qd2 being right approach against 5...g6) Nf6 7.Nf3 d5 (The pawn belongs on d6, not d5) 8.e5 Nfd7 9.Qe2 Be7 (Black should play ...b4 here or next move) 10.O-O Nc6 11.f5! Nb6 12.fxe6 fxe6 13.Bh3 Bc8 14.Ng5 Bxg5 15.Qh5+ g6 16.Qxg5 Qxg5 17.Bxg5 (With the Bishop pair and better development, along with the e5 pawn tactically defended, White's better here) Nd4 18.Rf2 Nd7 19.Ne2 Nf5 (19...Nxc2? 20.Bxe6 Nxa1? 21.Bf7+ Kf8 22.Bxd5+ +-) 20.Re1 h6 (Black should castle here) 21.Bd2 Nf8 22.Ref1 g5 (Weakening the light squares, and now the LSB invades) 23.Bg4 Ng6 (23...h5 drops a pawn) 24.Bh5 Ne7 25.Rf7 Rg8 26.Rh7 (Black's dead) Bd7 27.Ba5! (Stopping castling, and trapping the King in the center on e8, where the Knight remains pinned) Rc8 28.Rff7 Nc6 29.Rxd7 (29.Bb6? Ncxe5) Nxa5 30.Rdg7 (Winning at least a piece, and in this case, it came with interest) Kf8 31.Rf7+ Ke8 32.Rf6 Nc6 33.Rxe6+ Kf8 34.Rf6+ Ke8 35.Bxg6+ Rxg6 (35...Kd8 36.Rd6#) 36.Rxg6 Ne7 37.Rh8+ 1-0 (Black had enough, and threw in the towel).

des. 22, 2011, 5:51pm

> 12

I'm saying that series of books is probably rather advanced for you at this time: looking at your game, it is played out between two solid club players, but definitely not even at FIDE CM standard.
At this stage you should not be too worried about making woeful blunders, but improving your positional play - there seems to be a reliance on tactical motifs which is okay at your standard but if you wish to progress further you will have to look for the subtle long term pressures that yield won endgames rather than pitched battle fights that you will run into with lesser rated players like the chap above.
Give me a shout if you need any advice on this. Cheers.

Editat: des. 27, 2011, 4:44pm

> 13

You never answered the question. What are you rated? I have many wins via tactics, and many others by positional play. I don't dictate a positional or tactical game. I let the game itself dictate the play. I'm over 2050 USCF, and almost 2100 ICCF and FIDE. Again I say, you? I have many wins against 2200s, and I've beaten a 2447, and came very close, one subtle mistake move 28 in 2003, against a 2637 (Sarunas Sulskis, round 1 of the US Open in Los Angeles.) I don't need beginner books like the tone of your message implies.

des. 27, 2011, 4:54pm

> 14

I mean no disrepute to you my friend. As a seasoned player, I can only comment on the information you have posted: you say you have been playing for around 20 years - and regularly in tournaments in the last 15 years, yet your ratings in only 2100 FIDE.

I don't know what to say to you. Perhaps go back to the drawing board. Look at your opening systems. Your endgame is probably weak and you might have been relying too much on middlegame tactics. I am no chess trainer but if I were you I might consider going over some tournaments which involve the like of Reti and Capablanca.

I remember receiving an award from GM Motwani in Edinburgh, years ago. It was a good tournament for me. But after analysing all of my games, I saw that many of my wins were no more than my opponents losses, if that makes sense. Since that day, I concentrated on my own game more and more - good advice.

Let us know how you get on. Cheers.

Editat: des. 27, 2011, 9:04pm

It is indeed hard to determine whether LesMis is earnest but oblivious to social cues, intentionally disparaging, or trolling. Unless there is history to this conversation not obvious to the casual reader.

des. 27, 2011, 9:15pm

> 16

I find that disconcerting. I am under no obligation to reveal my FIDE rating: all I will say is that I have the authority to make such comments; enough said.

I think also the player above needs help. He seems to have plateaued.

des. 27, 2011, 9:25pm

LOL. You do stay in character, I'll give you that!

Do you agree he sounds exasperated and offended?

Editat: gen. 1, 2012, 1:39am

> 18

I'm not sure if it is a he or she: exasperated and offended? Frustrated perhaps? One can get quite upset when they see their rating plateau or fall. You just have to go back to the drawing board. I'm not sure I see a problem with trying to assist a fellow chess player with some friendly advice, based on my own experience.

des. 27, 2011, 10:37pm

Ah, I see how it is.

des. 31, 2011, 12:51pm


RIGHT ON! Disconcerting or not, if LesMiserables is too embarassed to come out of the closet and expose either his/her real name on his/her profile (so as to be able to look up their FIDE rating) or specifically state their FIDE rating, he/she must not be very good, and is probably just trying to give off a spin to make people thing he/she is that good, and probably is about USCF 1500 strength (FIDE doesn't go that low).

Obviously, LesMiserables has no clue what he's talking about because first off, the Endgame is one of my strongest points, as is the opening, the Middlegame, and specifically TACTICS (Yes, FOOL, Tactics!). My positional play is better than my tactical play, and I'm a strong defender. However, one slip-up to a player 150 rating points down and it takes many wins to make that up when the area you live in is mostly A-players, and you're an expert. The fact that many of them play drawing crap like the London System, losing points in those draws, doesn't help either.

Make matters worse, forget 1 bad game, 1 bad tournament, and it will take for ever to recoup. I don't live in NY or TX where the strength is higher, but when I get my few and far between opportunities to play outside of the area (Job, Wife, and Daughter keep me from doing it more than twice a year max), I tend to score really well.

Case in point, US Open, Dallas TX, August 2008. I scored 6/9, being not far above the mid-point amongst all players. My results? See for yourself!

Round 1 - Black - Forfeit Win (opp didn't show)
Round 2 - White - Win vs 1800
Round 3 - Black - Draw vs low-2300s
Round 4 - White - Draw vs 2202
Round 5 - Black - Loss vs upper 2100s
Round 6 - White - Win vs 1860
Round 7 - Black - Win vs 2212
Round 8 - White - Win vs 2173
Round 9 - Black - Loss vs 2404

The other problem, not many tournaments with long time controls. At that US Open, I played in a G/30 side event, 3 rounds, and lost all 3, so instead of gaining over 50 points, I gained closer to 25 (I seem to recall the side event pushing me from 2053 to 2029, and then the main event going from 2029 to 2080).

Most local events are short time controls, and my choice is play G/30, G/60, G/75, and G/90, or don't play. That also kills my rating at times.

So, LesMiserables, if you think you are such a hot shot, go find yourself a job, a wife, have a child, and when that child is 2, you come to where I am, and we'll play a 12 game match, time control 40 moves in 2 hours, sudden death in 1 hour, and I'll smoke your a$$.

Editat: gen. 1, 2012, 1:38am

> 20

Yes, quite.

gen. 1, 2012, 12:39am

#18 - Exasperated and Offended is about accurate.

However, it has nothing to do with hitting a lull, or plateauing.

It has to do with a douche bag posting judgmental comments about what I'm about to read when that same douche bag is too embarrassed to expose his or her own rating. Shows a clear sign of low-balling. It's like some highschool basketball wannabe trying to coach Michael Jordan.

I talk to people that are higher rated than myself in person. I believe them before I believe a trolling douche bag, plain and GDMF simple!

Editat: gen. 1, 2012, 1:40am

> 23

It has to do with a douche bag posting judgmental comments about what I'm about to read when that same douche bag is too embarrassed to expose his or her own rating. Shows a clear sign of low-balling. It's like some highschool basketball wannabe trying to coach Michael Jordan.

I talk to people that are higher rated than myself in person. I believe them before I believe a trolling douche bag, plain and GDMF simple!

I am quite offended by your abusive comments. As a veteran chess player, I have tried to advise you in the spirit of friendship, based on my experience.

I have been polite to you throughout, yet you have adopted an aggressive, almost violent tone.

Very sad indeed.

gen. 1, 2012, 2:35am

#24 - If everything you claim is true, you wouldn't be embarassed to expose your rating.

"Your endgame is probably weak and you might have been relying too much on middlegame tactics."

Uhm, yeah, that's why I've had Philidor's Draw a good 20+ times, Lucena's position a few times, the Short-Side defense a time or two, and familiarity with the Long-Side defense, active Rook is worth a pawn, and non-Rook-and-Pawn scenarios, like Bahr's Rule (K+2P vs K+P, 2 of them blocked on the a- or h-file), Troitzky Line (for K+2N vs K+P), executing KBN vs K, corresponding squares, etc. I've seen other 2000 players that didn't even know how to execute Philidor's Draw, one of the easiest scenarios.

Unlike you, I can prove my statements:

Problem: http://www.charlottechess.com/MVC-046puzF.jpg

Answer (My post):

"But after analysing all of my games, I saw that many of my wins were no more than my opponents losses, if that makes sense."

DUH! Chess, at least as of now, is considered to be a draw with perfect play by both sides, so of course your opponent screwed up. That's true in all of my wins, and my losses I screwed up.

And lastly, I simply asked you your FIDE rating, because I was suggested the My Great Predecessors series by a Master, and if you are a certified GM or IM (which obviously you aren't as you are too embarrassed to expose your rating), then possibly your statement would have more validity, but no, instead, you crawl up in your little hole making claims that you know everything with complete refusal to back yourself up, and talk just like some advertising scheme for this great product that turns out to be a complete piece of sh*t, but why does he or she care? They got your money at that point! When you make all these "claims" with absolute refusal to back yourself up, it screams 15 minutes of fame, implying you aren't truly good enough to make valid suggestions.

Editat: gen. 1, 2012, 3:51am

> 25

I'm sorry that you are insulated against people trying to help you. By the information you have given, I have looked up your rating and it is obvious that you have plateaued - this is exactly what I have said above. I am trying to help you here. If you want to remain where you are, then decline, then so be it.

gen. 1, 2012, 4:21am

Apparently, you guys should have asked him for Patrick McCartney's rating. Then he would have posted his own!

gen. 1, 2012, 11:41am

#25 - Uhm, I do take advice from people PROVIDED they can validate that they are worthy of being listened to. Either you are outright stubborn, and don't accept that fact, or are just outright stupid, and don't even remotely understand that fact.

Use your head for once, if you were in my shoes, who would you trust? A player that you KNOW is a master (about 2300, 250 points above me)? Or somebody that refuses to identify themselves or their strength?

But, since you seem to think that because I won't listen to somebody who won't identify themselves makes me a good for nothing idiot, I guess I can say the same anybody who refuses to take some random, unknown drug that claims to relieve every possible symptom you could possibly have, all with one pill!

gen. 1, 2012, 4:22pm

> 28

My friend, if you wish to reveal your identity to all and sundry than so be it. On my part, I do not wish to do that, hence my reluctance to bow to your demands.

If I were to give you my FIDE rating, then you would not believe me. You would demand to know my name and country along with my FIDE registration number to verify.

So when you are asking for my rating, you are really asking for a whole lot more than that.

Suffice to say, that from the links you posted in #25...

Unlike you, I can prove my statements:

Problem: http://www.charlottechess.com/MVC-046puzF.jpg

Answer (My post):

...it is self evident that your opponents are weak club players. This may be one reason why your rating has not basically moved in any meaningful sense for around a decade.

gen. 1, 2012, 9:20pm

LesMis, you really are quite good at this game.

And TF, surely you have enough information to understand what is going on here?

gen. 10, 2012, 6:01pm

Let's be honest here. LesMis, is your current FIDE rating 2280? That's my best guess as to your identity.

As for Patrick (ThrillerFan) - you have to admit that playing at the Charlotte Chess Club certainly hurt your game, and due to the lack of turnover in players at the club, you've been playing Leland "I made NM in 1985, and the only reason my rating hasn't dropped below 2000 USCF is due to rating floors!" Fuerstman, Frankie "Colle 4 EVA 4 LIFE!" Newton, and apart from a few guest appearances over the years from young players who have quickly moved away such as Daniel "I made IM after I moved out of the country!" Tapia, that club has remained stagnant for that same decade.

A more disturbing trend would be your lack of improvement in speed chess, where on the Internet Chess Club you've been hovering around the 1400 level after being in the 1800s for most of the late 90's and early part of the 2000s. As LesMis has stated, your time might be better served studying than playing in 500+ USCF tournaments. It's kind of like the European vs American soccer scene - the Europeans spend more time training and play a few matches, while the Americans play thousands of matches and very little time training. Consequently, not much improvement has been made on the American side.

While you may not like LesMis or the way in which he delivered the message, it rings true. I have nothing to hide. I've never studied chess seriously, and played in very few tournaments. As a result, my rating is nowhere close to my actual playing strength. And I'm well familiar with the Charlotte scene. The only addition I have to contribute to this banter is that online chess play is often a vastly better indicator of your actual strength than USCF or FIDE ratings are - this has been confirmed multiple times by World Open winners and other major open class event winners over the past several years.

Editat: gen. 11, 2012, 12:20pm


A few items I need to correct of yours.

Actually, I rarely play at the CCC - I played 1 week in December. I mostly play at the QCCA on Tuesday nights, which has better opposition.

I haven't faced Leland since 2009, and I haven't faced Frankie since 2008.

My ICC rating is low because I really don't care about that rating. And actually, while my "3-minute" rating is in the 1400s, I mostly play 5-minute, which is upper 1600s. Nothing worth bragging about, but clarifying your comment. I use the ICC to test out openings I'm studying. If I really wanted my ICC rating to rocket, I'd only play openings I've played for years.

And your comment about online play being a better indicator, baloney! I know a guy in Charlotte that plays on Yahoo, his blitz rating there is about 2300. I've faced him twice over the board. He's about 1850, and his play is weak. You must be drunk if you really think that how you do in 5-minute chess is a better indicator of your strength than how you do at a board in a game that takes multiple hours to complete.

My USCF rating has inched up a little as time has gone on. 5 years ago, I would peak in the mid-2000s, and dip well into the 1900s.

2011 is actually my first year never to dip below 2000 (lowest was October, which was 2005, mainly because of one really horrible tourament I had in August), and instead of peaking at 2050, I'm holding steady there for now, and actually will be 2055 once the last tournament I played in is updated, and also have 1 win pending, which will put me around 2060.

Also, if you truly have been paying attention, I don't play on ICC much at all. I played a good number of games on this past Sunday, but I actually only play about twice a month, and occasionally 1 or 2 games maybe 2 other times in the month if I happen to have 10 minutes to kill.

Otherwise, most of what I've been doing is studying. Actually, after reading "Forcing Chess Moves" in 2011, and switching back over from 1.c4 to 1.e4, my White game and attacking ability has improved dramatically. In fact, since September 1st, which I've played 43 games if you include the 5 not rated yet, roughly half of them White, I've only lost with White twice.

As for Black, I'm getting older, and these wild, crazy lines that I've played in the past, like the King's Indian, Semi-Slav, Modern, Scandinavian, and Zaitsev, were killing me on the clock. I've kept 1...e5, and have done well with the Berlin Defense, but it's also more of a draw line, and I'm still in a transition phase with my Black game, and have been studying the Slav, Petroff, and Caro-Kann, more solid openings that still contain winning chances. I've had a few good wins with them, but I am still taking a bit of a hit in my Black game (of my 9 losses since September 1st, 7 of them are with Black), and that will change over time.

I've gained about 50 points since September 1st. Once I get my Black game ironed out, I should hit 2100.

Books I'm currently reading:

The Slav: Move by Move
Petroff: Expert Repertoire for Black
My Great Predecessors I (Plan to read II thru V as well, but one at a time)
Grandmaster Secrets: Caro-Kann*

* The last one is mainly the Panov-Botvinnik attack as I play 1.c4 c6. When The Caro-Kann: Move by Move comes out, I'll likely study the whole thing, and play the Caro-Kann with more regularity, and having it as another option along with 1...e5.

set. 22, 2012, 8:19pm

Best books of chess I've read are the endgame book of Dvoretsky and the endgame strategy by Shereshevsky.

juny 15, 2013, 10:25pm

I'm late to this thread, but new to the site. My nod will go to Jon Tisdall's "Improve Your Chess Now". I credit it with getting me (barely) over 2200.

The main thing I took away was to feel no guilt over being unable to think in a tree-like manner as dictated by Kotov. His book also seemed to give me a new way of thinking at the board.

juny 15, 2013, 10:57pm

> 34

That's interesting C_D. Can you tell us any more about it?

juny 15, 2013, 11:20pm

Perhaps I will let John Watson speak for me the book as he can do so far more eloquently than I could manage. :)


There are a number of very complimentary reviews to be found. I think one reason why it didn't reach a wider audience is marketing. It has a very unassuming title.

juny 16, 2013, 2:12am

Thanks. I note also the Motwani review which I think he does an injustice upon. Unlike him I have all three and consider them accessible and humorous, with much benefit up to the IM level.

juny 16, 2013, 10:13am

Paul Motwani wrote 5 books at the end of the eighties and some of them were quite ... quirky! The acronym books (H.O.T Chess, S.T.A.R. Chess and C.O.O.L. Chess) seemed particularly affected. They apparently struck a chord with the readers even if the critics were less kind. I remember being impressed and repelled in equal measure by some of the writing. I'm pleased to have all 5. I wish I could say that for all my titles!

I am only putting my chess books on Librarything. So far, it has been a pleasure handling each volume as I catalogue them and has brought back a lot of great memories.

One interesting feature is seeing how many others have the same book. When you're the only one or there are only one or two others, you know you have something "different". The Motwani books, by the way, seem to have an average of 10 owners each on this site. That defines them as a little less than mainstream.

juny 18, 2013, 7:40pm

I have 111 titles logged on LT. Many are humdrum, whilst many are legendary in my estimation like Improve Your Chess Results
by Vladimir Zak.

Editat: jul. 4, 2013, 2:47pm

I don't think I could name one book that has had the greatest impact on my play. Like many chess players, competitive or not, I have many chess books still waiting to be read in their entirety. lol. I am also interested in endgame studies and heterodox chess, so maybe I could say that "A Guide to Fairy Chess" by Anthony Dickins has had the most influence. ha ha. Just kidding.

The discussion about the best methods for improvement I found interesting, so I set up an account to add a remark or two. Now I see that LesMiserables has already provided a link to Michael de la Maza's ideas, so I don't need to. It seems that LesMis is simply re-iterating de la Maza's arguments and it seems strange for others to take offence at that. oh well.

I teach chess to beginners, both children and adults, and I am finding out which methods work best. A writer in the UK is very interesting - Richard James - and I've ordered his brand new book, The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids which should be arriving soon. The teaching methods used in much of the Anglosphere (USA, Canada, and the UK) contrasts with the approaches in Continental Europe and, as James argues, is inferior. Retaining chess players, helping them to improve and play competitively if they wish, and generally taking a wiser approach requires what James calls the "Steps" method. Anyway, you can read about this stuff if you are interested.

James' thinking can be found over here ... http://www.richardjames.org.uk/teaching.htm