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A Core Chess Library
– Jan. 28, 2015

A good many years ago, I believe in a forum associated with FICS (the Free Internet Chess Server, but don't hold me to that), a question was asked as to the most essential books to buy for the study of chess. This list was the answer given. And even for my limited chess acumen at the time, it was a very well chosen list. Most people with enough knowledge seconded the list. While I would never have claimed myself to be terribly advanced in chess, I did for a while enjoy collecting chess books. (Indeed, I am sure I clocked far more hours reading chess books than actually playing chess.) For that, either at the time of the conversation or since, I have come at least to recognize most of these. So, finding the list once again in my wallet, I figured I would share it here.

Now, it was many years ago, so it is very likely that some challengers have arisen since then. But then most of these books are so fundamental I cannot imagine them being replaced, only supplemented. Indeed, I have since carried this list around in my wallet to see how many I could pick up through my used book store explorations.

And that should serve as ample introduction. This is the list; I keep broken up as it is on my little piece of paper:


  • My System. Aaron Nimzovich
  • Three Steps to Chess Mastery. Alexi Suetin
  • Art of the Attack. Vukovic
  • Complete Chess Strategy (3 vol.). Pachman
  • Endgame studies by Cheron (4 vol.), Fine (1 vol), Averbakh (1 vol)
  • Rook Endings. Levenfish and Smyslov
  • My Best Games. Alekhine
  • Art of Chess Analysis. Jan Timman
  • One Hundred Select Games. M. Botvinnik.
  • Test Your Tactical Ability. Neishtadt
  • Tactics for Advanced Players. Averbakh
  • Attacking the King. Neishtadt
  • Practical Chess Endings. Keres
  • Pandolfini's Endgame Course. Pandolfini
  • Endgame Lessons. Benko
  • Capablanca's 100 Best Games of Chess. Golombek
  • The Middlegame (vol I & II). Euwe and Kramer
  • Judgement and Planning in Chess. Euwe


You know, I was sure that Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess was on that list. Perhaps it was added in the discussion or I didn't copy it down since I already owned it. Also, last time I picked up a new edition of My System it seemed heavily abridged. (I own the old edition, I believe by Dover. I say "believe" because it's currently in a box so I can't look to be sure.)

Any aditions to the list are welcome. Also, I should be upright and say I fell out of playing chess a long time ago; though I do still pick up a book here and there. Currently, I've been rereading my old go books, though. Which is not to say I am in any way capable of playing. The ratio time spent playing go over time spent reading about it approaches zero.