Are you on the verge of becoming a grandmaster and just wanting to give yourself a little boost to go the final miles on your journey? Or are you curious about what it takes to achieve grandmaster status? Whichever it is, there are great chess books to suit you that will both educate and entertain! Let’s take a look.
Of course, a book cannot guarantee that it will make you into a grandmaster but it can certainly pave the way if your potential merits that rank. Most of them are fascinating and exciting reads in their own right too. You won’t be wasting your time with these books.
Garry Kasparov On My Great Predecessors (All 5 Volumes!)
There are an incredible five volumes in the set “On My Great Predecessors” by Kasparov and while he may not have turned out to be the greatest coach (he was famously sacked by Magnus Carlsen) there’s no doubting the ability of the former world champion to teach the game.
These are not small books and at nearly 1,000 pages each, you don’t need to rush out and buy the entire set. It’s better to start with the first volume (they are in chronological order) and allow Kasparov to work you through every chess champion and their game. He also illustrates this with stories of the people, the politics, culture and history that made these men great.
If you read one set of chess books in your life, it should be this one. It brings the entire history of chess to life while teaching the secrets of the greatest players of all time. It’s a bargain at any price but the e-book is particularly good value.
You can find Garry Kasparov On My Great Predecessors (All Volumes) on Amazon starting at Volume 1 here.
My 60 Memorable Games By Bobby Fischer
We’ve written about Fischer’s genius extensively including in our round up of “who is the greatest player” and also in examining why he quit chess and whether he ever lost a game. There’s no doubt that Bobby Fischer was one of the most talented players of all time and that he may have been the greatest creative force that the game has ever seen.
What is surprising is that his “My 60 Memorable Games” is so free of the bruising ego which destroyed his reputation on and off the board after he left the world of professional chess. From the “Game of the Century” (played against a chess master when he was just 15) to some of his most apocalyptic victories (and losses) against the world’s finest this is a superb insight into just how deep chess can be.
The version of this book that we’ve linked to is the unedited, original version. There is another later version published but, sadly, the publisher felt the need to speak for Bobby and changed the wording, we think it’s best to hear directly from the former world champion himself.
You can find My 60 Memorable Games By Bobby Fischer on Amazon here.
Think Like A Grandmaster By AA Kotov
This is a classic text which does show some signs of age but unlike nearly every other chess book – it digs deep into the thought processes of the grandmaster themselves. Kotov wanted to determine just exactly what tools we could use to become a chess playing great.
Of course, there are plenty of games analyzed, etc. but this isn’t the purpose of the book. It’s to give you a mental framework to approach every game and how to make decisions that will benefit you on the board.
He tackles the development of tactics (using analysis trees, calculation exercises, and candidate moves) and positional growth (that covers exploiting weakness, using tension in the game, how pawn islands work and more).
The only downside of this book is that it’s hard work. Kotov is writing for an audience that is expected to be on the verge of becoming a grandmaster before they pick up this title. If you’re a more junior player, it may be too overwhelming – come back to it at a later date, it will reward you for doing so.
You can find Think Like A Grandmaster By AA Kotov on Amazon here.
Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky
Mark Dvoretsky is the best chess instructor in the world. There is, perhaps, no-one that has spent as much time analyzing and disassembling the greatest games of all time as Mark. His Endgame Manual is one of the most comprehensive works ever put together on the chess endgame.
The good news? It’s super accessible and it’s a great book to have in your first months of learning the game as well as when you’re making that last push to grandmaster status. Dvoretsky layers wisdom on wisdom here and each time you return to the book, you will learn something new.
The first edition was published back in 2003 and it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece in the chess world. It has several recommendations from grandmasters and Artur Yusupov, the Russian Grandmaster, wrote the original foreword.
If you want to make sure that your games end in the best way possible then there’s really no better investment you can make than a copy of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual.
You can find Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky on Amazon here.
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Mikhail Tal
Possibly, the greatest chess autobiography of all time Mikhail Tal’s “The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal” is a tour de force journey from the first game to the world championship and beyond. Many would say that Tal was the finest attacking player in the history of the world championships and those who like to put an aggressive edge on their chess, this might be the perfect first stop.
Tal was fond of constantly sacrificing material in order to gain a series of advantages that would eventually allow him to overwhelm his competition. In this book you can examine his thought processes and see exactly what made him an all-time great.
The story is accompanied by a breakdown of 100 of his greatest games complete with a detailed analysis of each. Tal is frank and honest about his strengths and his weaknesses and there’s a lot more balance on display than you might expect.
The journey to grandmaster might just be impossible if you don’t familiarize yourself with this work.
You can find The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Mikhail Tal on Amazon here.
Positional Decision Making In Chess By Boris Gelfland
By far the most expensive text that we recommend, this is the sort of book that you invest in when you know that you’re going to make the leap to grandmaster in the next 2-3 years, it’s not that it won’t be valuable earlier in your chess playing career but it’s not really designed for that time in your game either.
There are only 5 chapters in this book – a tribute to the Gelfland’s hero Akiba Rubenstein, “the squeeze”, the “space advantage”, and how to transform pawn structures culminating with how to transform advantages.
We were worried that when we picked this up that it would an overwhelming deluge of complex information but it’s actually very accessible. There’ s no moment when the author tries to drown you in detail or makes you work through similar positions over and over again – he clearly feels you can take that on once you’re done with the book.
Many of the games he references are his own against the modern elites of Carlsen, Anand, Gricshuk, etc. his insight and honesty are outstanding. This is a book that will truly pave the way to chess greatness.
You can find Positional Decision Making In Chess By Boris Gelfland on Amazon here.
The best chess books to become a grandmaster should give you plenty of inspiration on your way to better and better chess. Even if you don’t intend to take your game to the next level the Kasparov, Fischer and Tal books are great reads that ought to help you while away a slow Sunday without dragging you down.
The others are essential theory components of a grandmaster’s game and while they can be explored by players of any ability, you might want to leave them until your FIDE ranking is heading towards 2,000 at least. All great chess players study the game and these are the materials that have helped many grandmasters in the past.