The Best 10 Books of the 20th Century

I will take this one up front. No, there was no room on the list for Watson or Silman. But also, there was no room for Kasparov, Karpov, Kotov, Reti and so on.

John and I agreed our way to ten books and I have put them in order of quality, as I see it. It is certainly up for debate. Below I will give books that fell just outside the list.

One of the rules of the list is that the same writer cannot be repeated. Another rule is that the books should be relevant today.


1. Mikhail Tal: The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal

2. Bent Larsen: 50 Selected Games

3. Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games

4. John Nunn: Secret of Practical Chess

5. Isaak Lipnitsky: Questions of Modern Chess Theory

6. Mark Dvoretsky: Secrets of Chess Training (now School of Chess Excellence 1)

7. Alexander Alekhine: Best Games

8. Mikhail Botvinnik: Best Games

9. Aron Nimzowitsch: My System

10. David Bronstein: Zurich 1953


Other books we seriously considered were: Practical Chess Endings (Keres), Secrets of Pawn Endings (Mueller/Lambrecht), The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov), Simple Chess (Michael Stean), Endgame Strategy (Shereshevsky), Modern Ideas in Chess (Reti), Zurich 1953 (Najdorf), Three Matches (Kasparov), Karpov’s Best Games (written by Razuvaev, but published as if written by Karpov).

127 thoughts on “The Best 10 Books of the 20th Century”

  1. Thanks for sharing the list with us. Very interesting indeed. I’m a bit curious why you can see some questions in the below!

    Why have you made a restriction on not allowing the same author to have several books?
    Why is Larsen’s book placed higher than Fischer’s?
    What have been your criteria for ranking them?
    Have you thought of making a list of the 10 best chess books ever?

    A bit sad that no endgame and puzzle books are worthy for the top-10. I would definitely rate a lot of new books to have better chances of making chess players stronger than many of the above books but of course the list only covers relatively old books.

  2. Interesting. Would have added Dvortesky’s Endgame Manual instead of the Secrets of Chess Training, which I thought was a bit old fashioned (“analysing adjourned positions”). And I think Shereshevsky’s book was worth a spot. Personally, when reading a lot of these older books, I tend to think they look a bit dated today (Tal, Alekhine, Bovinnik, Bronstein).

    In general I think there is some cognitive bias whatever the debate (eg football – Pele vs Messi) to favour the more distant choice.

  3. Neil Sullivan

    “One of the rules of the list is that the same writer cannot be repeated.”

    This begs the question: What books were left off as a result of this rule?

  4. I agree on some of the books on the list like the Life and Games of Mikhail Tal and my 60 memorable games. I have however not read some of the books on the list. Two books on the list that I think are overrated are School of chess excellence 1 and Zurich 1953.

    One book that I miss on the list are Shipovs two volume work on the hedgehog. It is simply amazing and teaches a lot of chess in general.

    Another is Marins three volume work on the English (by QC!) which is sheer chess poetry both in the variations and the verbal explainations.

  5. @dfan
    Ah yes, my own cognitive biases that it was so long ago you think it was 20th Century. 1st edition, with a foreword written by one IM Jacob Aagaard in Sept 2003……

  6. Just wondering what specific title is referenced by “Botvinnik — Best Games.” Also, there were two volumes of Best Games by Alekhine — is it one or the other, or both?

  7. Secrets of Practical Chess is indeed a great book, but for top-ten purposes I would replace it with the three-volume set on the games of Paul Keres that was edited by Harry Golombek.

  8. Maxwell Smart

    Great to see you guys put Larsen’s book ahead of Fischer’s. I learnt a lot more from it than I did from Fischer’s. I think Fischer’s is considerably overrated because of who the author is.

    I prefer Botvinnik’s Best Games over Alekhine’s Best Games, but this might be because I prefer Botvinnik’s playing style.

    Although Lipnitsky’s book was doubtless great for it’s time, I didn’t find it that relevant for today. Capablanca’s ‘Chess Fundamentals’ was better, I thought, and should be there instead – a great book!

    I can never understand why Bronstein’s ‘Zurich 1953’ gets such great accolades all the time. It’s not that great. Keres’s Best games; or Keres and Kotov’s ‘The Art of the Middlegame’; or Reshevsky’s ‘The Art of the Positional Play’ should be there instead.

    I agree that Nimzovitch’s ‘My System’ should not be higher than 9th. A somewhat cranky book.

    If they were more relevant to today, I would have Watson’s series on the English Opening close to being in there somewhere and likewise with Kasparov and Nikitin’s ‘Sicilian …e6 and…d6 systems’. The first Editions of ECO weren’t bad either. And the 10th Edition of MCO by Larry Evans (1965) was the best MCO edition ever. ‘How to play the Opening in Chess’ by several GM authors was pretty good, too.
    ‘Soviet Chess’ by Wade was good.

    Silman is extremely boring and hard going.
    Kotov’s ‘Think like a Grandmaster’ was rubbish.

  9. I would definitely have included Shereshevsky at the expense of Nunn or Dvoretsky. Many players find Dvoretsky too difficult, and might prefer for example The Inner Game of Chess by Soltis. I also like Pawn Structure Chess (Soltis again) and especially Winning Pawn Structures (Baburin). Finally it would be a shame not to mention The Art of Attack (Vukovic), which would surely make it into a top 20.

  10. @Nestor

    For me Dvoretskys books are too difficult. I liked attack and defense though which is more on my level.

    One rather simple book which I like a lot is Capablancas best chess endings by Chernev. Chernev has the talent to explain immortal games in a way that mortal players can understand. The quality of the games are of course also amazing.

    Have any of you seen the game Capablanca-Yates from the tournament in New York 1924. The night manouver Nc3-Ne4-Nd6-Nb7-Nxa5 is immortal. The rest of the game is also instructive. If you have not seen the game please take look.

  11. Your list doesn’t mention any opening books, even though there must be far more of them published these days than all other sorts of chess books combined. That ought to seem strange, but it’s probably fair: when I ask people what their favourite chess book is, nobody ever names an opening book.

    Three books that ought to be on your consideration list at least:

    The Test of Time, Kasparov
    (the one where he reannotated many of his pre-World Champion games, using italics to indicate new analysis that corrected his earlier mistakes. Better than 3 Matches because there’s a much wider range of openings and opponents.)

    Pawn Power in Chess, Kmoch
    (once you get past the first 40 pages of definitions it’s the manual of how to play any middlegame based on the pawn structure.)

    1001 Sacrifices and Combinations, or
    1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, both by Reinfeld
    (so many people learned from this book, and so many later authors ripped off his examples. Why isn’t one of these two on the list?)

  12. From books with which I worked, sadly not a big number, I had to point out:

    1. Karolyis Karpov strategic wins1,2
    2. Mcdonald Chess giants of strategy
    3. Aaagard, Positional play
    4. Lisicin Strategy and tactics
    5. Vladimir Kovačević, 6 big (like bible is one) masterpiece on endings
    6. Nimcovič, My system in praxis
    7. Karpov – Find the right plan
    8. Gligorić, Playing against pieces.

    Of course, there is a lot of different books I tried, but never went to the end studying cause something went wrong while I was studying them and didnt finish them.

  13. How about a ‘most influential’ list of 20th Century books? I’m approaching this from a history of ideas point of view.

    1. Nimzovich, My System.
    2. Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games.
    3. Fine, Modern Chess Endings
    4. Watson, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy
    5. Reti, Modern Ideas in Chess
    6. Dvoretsky, Secrets of Chess Training
    7. various, Modern Chess Openings
    8. Bronstein, Zurich 53
    9. Averbakh, Comprehensive Chess Endings (multi-volume but one ‘title’)
    10. Lipnitsky, Questions of Modern Chess Strategy

    Honorable mention must go to the two great disruptors of 20th century chess – the Informant series and the ChessBase programs.

  14. Jacob Aagaard

    There are a lot of opinions and I do not want to comment on all of them. Relevance today was important for my list. Which books can you read and still get something from?

    I would never put Watson ahead of Dvoretsky. Watson reuses a lot of Mark’s examples and explains them worse. I have other difficulties with his books, but this is not the place for that discussion. But just on the chess point, they are obviously worse. Also, they did not influence chess in nearly the same fashion as Mark’s books did.

    We debated books by Reti, Keres and Kotov. Rating Keres highest of the three.

    We also debated Shereshevsky. The book is good, of course, but there are much better books on this topic now and the original was a copy of a lecture series given by Dvoretsky (with approval) so it did not deserve elevation to the top 10. Vuckovic’s book is unfortunately dated.

    With Kasparov; the books to read are all written after 2000, as is the case with my books and essentially all opening books :-).

  15. The publisher of the 3 Botvinnik volumes that Jacob is referring to is Moravian Chess. While you’re ordering from them, pick up the 2 Smyslov ones too; I like them even more!

  16. I was surprised; but quite happy to see Simple Chess (Michael Stean) get an “honorable mention”. This little gem of a book on positional play is not mentioned enough in my opinion. My game improved measurably after going through Simple Chess a few times with a chessboard.

  17. A very intersting list. Considering myself to be a chess literature enthusiast, I have nevertheless only read 1,3,6,9 and 10. The following is my two cents on what could also have been included (though of course a list of ten cannot accommodate everyone):

    – Test of Time: It has been mentioned above, and while I have great respect a grandmaster’s opinion (‘With Kasparov; the books to read are all written after 2000’), here I would beg to differ and say that this volume captures the bristling energy of the 1980’s Kasparov in a way that his series of the 21st century cannot.

    – Storming the Barricades: Probably wasn’t considered because it appeared in 2000, which year can however formally be considered part of the 20th century. Anyway this would still be my number one recommendation as a book on attacking strategy . (I have not read Jacob Aagaard’s Attacking Manuals yet though.)

    -The Game of Chess/The Modern Game of Chess: Perhaps he is a purely national phenomenon much like Reinfeld (although a far more significant player), but even I having been raised on Nimzowitsch was distraught at no mention of Tarrasch anywhere in the post including the comments.
    These books are simply what chess was like in the first third of the 20th century, and it is ridiculous how much can still be learned from them.

  18. Klaus Kristensen

    1) Capablanca’s best chess endings by Irving Chernev.
    It consists of complete games with the emphasis on endings. There are surprisingly few mistakes in it (according to Houdini) taken into account how old the book is. No book will learn you more about how to play complex endings than this one. Most of Irving’s books are not top notch, but this one is.

    2) 50 selected games by Bent Larsen.
    Best single volume game collection ever, Larsen’s comments are excellent.

    3) Botvinnik’s best games (3 volumes from Moravian chess)
    Best game collection to get for instructional value. The quality of these books is amazing.

    4) 300 games of chess by Siegbert Tarrasch.
    Even though it’s dated it’s still the best game collection to get for anyone starting to take chess serious.
    It was the book that taught me how to play chess.

    5) Questions of modern chess theory by Isaac Lipnitsky
    I wish I had had this book when I started playing chess.
    That would have saved me a few thousand hours in not having to learn what this book teaches the hard way.

    6) Essential chess sacrifices by David LeMoir
    This was the book that did the trick for me, enabling me to break the 1800 ELO rating barrier.
    It’s an attacking manual based around sacrifices. It teaches how to build up the attack better than any other book I have seen.

    7) Endgame strategy by M. Shereshevsky
    Still the best book on strategy in endgames.

    8) Positional Play by Dvoretsky and Yusupov.
    Best book on positional chess ever. Anybody aspiring to become a master must read this one several times.

    9) Fundamental chess endings by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht.
    I prefer this one over Dvoretsky’s endgame manual which is also excellent. But this one covers a lot more and does it in a short and precise way.

    10) Alexander Alekhine: Best games.
    Anything by Alekhine is always worth reading. The same can be said about Larsen, Keres, Botvinnik, Tal and Tarrasch.

    Others worth mentioning: Winning pawn structures by Alexander Baburin, Positional play by Jacob Aagaard, Secrets of pawn endings by Müller and Lamprecht.
    And Najdorf’s book on Zurich 1953 really is better than Bronstein’s.

  19. “The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal” is an interesting book, but not a perfect choice for the following reasons:
    1)The collection stops at 1975, and is not comprehensive.
    He went on to play right till his demise in 1992.
    2)Tal is less than candid about both his personal and professional life.
    3)Unlike Botvinnink or Kasparov, Tal seldom bothered to have a
    second look at his analysis. So it leaves much to be desired.
    “Tal-Botvinnik Match 1960” by Tal is a better choice.
    The analysis is rich and detailed.
    What is more, it is a superb narrative of the world championship match.
    It’s entirely free of ego or malice.
    Not like Alekhine and Kasparov who otherwise wrote brilliant accounts of their matches.

  20. I have to agree with the inclusion of Lipnitsky’s “Questions of Modern Chess Theory”, I’ve found it to be one of those books that really opens your eyes and your mind to the possibilities in chess, much in the same way that Chernev’s classic “Logical Chess” did for me as a beginner. The way it encourages you to think about the reasons behind certain opening decisions leaves you better prepared to handle the positions arising once an opening leaves your preparation, and as such makes it timeless.

  21. Jacob Aagaard

    I do not want to know about Tal’s struggles with drug addiction in a chess book. To me it is the best book. And to criticise it for covering only 25 years and then saying you want the match book instead (which is also fantastic) is sort of ironic :-).

  22. @Jacob Aagaard
    Jacob, could I ask which books you view as successors to Shereshevsky? I can possibly think of Muller’s (and Pajekin) “How to Play Chess Endgames”. I can think of only Shereshevsky and the 1st Dvoretsky where I really noticed a leap in my playing strength after reading (perhaps some of your earlier Everyman books too), but the Shereshevsky book was one I consciously understood so left a better impression on me. Obviously I exclude QCs books as I have less time and an older brain today!

    The other book I would maybe include in the list is the long out of print “No Regrets”, Seirawan’s book on Fischer-Spassky II. I think it had everything (fighting games and a lot of background, though some of the content Seirawan clearly made up).

  23. The book I would like to mention is “The King: Chess Pieces” by J.H. Donner. Some of the material is dated, but in my view his style of writing is the best I have ever seen in chess literature.

  24. Hmmm. Except it says on the first page it was produced in 2006. But the dutch version was published earlier in 1987, so I am entitled to mention the dutch version at least.

  25. “Think like a grandmaster” by Kotov could definitely be far ahead of most of the books on the top-10 I find. It is ridiculed a bit in one of the Grandmaster Preparation books but I’m sure that many players have paid a lot of attention to planning and thinking in a structured way due to this book which has increased the strength of many players.

  26. I think I learned more from “Play like a grandmaster” which focussed more on positional aspects of the game. I had great expectations from Think like a grandmaster but somehow it did not compute for me.

  27. @Indra Polak
    I agree that his writing style is excellent. Chess secrets I learned from the masters (Edvard Lasker) is, however, IMO even more entertaining. However, this book will not make you a stronger chess player 🙂

  28. Jacob Aagaard

    I think there are a few, but if nothing else, then I like Excelling at Technical Chess more, just to mention a book I can fully endorse!

  29. Jacob Aagaard

    It is definitely an influential book. But it is influential in the same way as a lot of other failed attempts to deal with issues are; like for example Freud and his obsession with cocaine :-).

    The mechanical way of thinking illustrated in the book are not what people do; it is even not what machines do. We obviously considered it seriously, but if I had to choose a Kotov book, I would chose the one he co-wrote with Keres “Art of the Middlegame” – although the adjournement chapter is definitely dated.

  30. Jacob Aagaard

    And I do take offense with the word “ridiculed”. I am sure that people in 60 years will know much more about chess than we do now. Currently I am one of the more influential chess writers, but let us take Dvoretsky just to take the ego out of it.

    Do you not think that ordinary grandmasters will be able to see holes in Dvoretsky’s thinking in 60 years from now? Of course they will. This does not mean that pointing them out is ridiculing him.

    But if he was to write a book structured all around a big idea, which was flawed, and it was still in print. Would it not be false to not point it out?

    Take the ego-stuff out of it. Chess books are allowed to be entertaining. It does not make them insulting. And to point out mistakes in other people’s thinking is not to insult them; it is called debate and is meant to make us all smarter…

  31. @pabstars
    Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters by Edward Lasker will perhaps give you an enduring love of the game.

    I’d only definitely revisit the Tal, Larsen, Fischer and Alekhine game collection books on the above list.

    Right now the level of instructional material is so much higher than it was 30-40 years ago. In fact I’d say don’t touch anything written before the mid to late 1990s. In particular I think Kotov was just bad.

    A small mention to Chess Combination as a Fine Art by Werner Golz and P. Keres (Kurt Richter chess columns) which I carried around for years to read on buses.

  32. I missed: Tal – Botvinnik 1960 by Tal (someone already mentioned it) and,surprisingly, nobody said “Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies” by Kasparian that i think is one of the greatest books ever made. Am i wrong??

  33. I have Tal – Botvinnik 1960 but only got it later in l don’t think it was easily available when I was learning. Will have to get it out! I had to make do with Tal’s Winning Chess Combinations which I read cover to cover, the RHM book mentioned above and also Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess by PH Clarke.

    Anyone spend time with Tigran Petrosian – World Champion [Paperback]
    A. O’Kelly De Galway?

    I have Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies by Kasparian I don’t think I’ve ever read it. Am I wrong? 😎

  34. @Jacob Aagaard
    It was not my intention to insult anyone. I have several times praised your Calculation book a lot and I found your comments on Kotov humorous in the book. Your book will make anyone much stronger than Kotov’s old book but his ideas are beautiful even if they are incorrect. By the way, I far prefer your books to Dvoretsky’s which I’m sure many others do as well. However, I feel that chess books of a high quality are much better now than 15 years ago.

  35. Jacob Aagaard

    I am of course happy when someone say that my books are better than Dvoretsky’s. But let us be honest, my work is so deeply based on Mark’s to start with, that I have simply taken all the good ideas and added a few of my own on top. I would be pretty poor if I could add nothing!

    And then Mark is a trainer first, a writer second. While I am definitely a writer first and a trainer second.

  36. Alasdair Alexander

    I’d have as a top 5 (no particular order), the following which I have re-read multiple times:

    Tal’s Life and Games,
    Capablanca by Winter
    The King by Donner
    Chess for Tigers by Simon Webb
    Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games

    Two guilty secrets (flawed but interesting) are Soltis’ Soviet Chess and the Complete Chess Addict

    I have Larsen’s book and am yet to start it and next on my list to buy are anything by and about Botvinnik (I love his World Championship books – he was brutal to both sides) , Smyslov and Keres (Practical Chess Endgames was a neglected book from my Childhood and I seem to have lost my copy).

  37. @Jacob Aagaard
    You may well have used Dvoretsky’s ideas and added to them but to many less gifted players they struggle to understand Mark’s work while your books are far more comprehensible to the average chess club player.
    Of course in a few years time when every average club player understands the game better than myself and beats me I will come back and blame you!

  38. Mr. Aagaard- I don’t know about “best”, but the books I enjoyed the most that aren’t on your list are: Chess From Morphy to Botwinnik by Konig, The Book of the Nottingham International Tounament by Alekhine (in his game he lost against Capablanca he gave himself three exclamation marks and Capa only one) and my first book I read as a kid that I remember fondly and think the title was The Fireside Book of Chess, think by Chernov.

  39. Michael Bartlett

    My top 10 (in no order):

    * Logical Chess move by move
    * Zurich 1953
    * Stein’s ‘Simple Chess’
    * Endgame Strategy
    * Tal Botvinnik 1961
    * Capablanca’s best chess endings
    * Pawn Power in Chess
    * Attacking Technique (Crouch’s book)
    * The Amateur’s Mind
    * Questions of modern chess theory

    And the best ever written? For me it has to be Stein’s ‘Simple Chess’

  40. Jacob Aagaard

    @GM Rob
    When I wrote Excelling at Chess Calculation there was no disguise that I was trying to bring across Mark’s ideas with a few of my won in a more readable way. Mark thought I had succeeded and have recommended the book in the past.

  41. Jacob Aagaard

    I think very little about them. They were never really relevant to me. A lot of people love them, so they must have helped a lot of guys. I never liked the way they were marketed, but I have no opinion on the content; except that I know a lot of people held them in high regard.

  42. Jacob Aagaard

    @Alasdair Alexander
    Gelfand mentioned Keres 1948 match book when I spoke to him a few days ago. And then he has an old love of Razuvaev’s book on Rubinstein. In the office we all joked to put Chess for Tigers on. It was one of my first chess books and I love it dearly. I played Simon twice in Sweden (won both times) in thrilling games. It was a great experience. The way he died was truly sad…

  43. Bent Larsen made a series of books called Skakskole. I don’t know if they were ever translated to other languages but they were IMO absolutely fantastic. They were 5 small books which hardly cost anything and the first 4 were stuffed with exercises. Find the combination, Find the plan, Find the best moves and Practical endgames. The last book Solid openings made the Bronstein/Botvinnik variation in the caro-kann gxf6 seriously popular in Denmark for a long time. The first book which is from 75 has 100 combinations which aren’t very tough but for children/youngsters, some of these books are still relevant I think. If you have been away from the chess scene for many years, solving the 100 combinations is still just great!

  44. Maxwell Smart

    One book I haven’t seen mentioned (rightfully in my opinion) is Tony Kosten’s runaway success “The Dynamic English” (1999!).
    This is another book that I don’t understand getting so many rave reviews.
    Kosten has some good stuff vs. 1…e5, but there is little content against other moves. The Anti-Slav and Anti-KID stuff is, frankly, pathetic, even for then.
    Be interested in others’ opinions on this.

  45. Master McGrath

    Somewhere in the top ten I would have chosen

    “The Tactics of End-Games” by Jeno Ban. (Originally published by Corvina Press, Budapest 1963; Dover edition 1997 (descriptive notation).)

  46. My personal top 10 for the 20th century , based on not very big reading(or working) experience:
    1)Reti:”New Ideas in Chess-Masters of the Chessboard”.They were translated and published as an unified book in my country.
    2)Dvoretsy,Yosupov: “Positional Play”
    3)Capablanca:”Fundamentals of Chess”
    4)Nimzowitch: ” My System”
    5)Karpov : ” My Best Games”
    6)Bronstein: “Zurich 1953″
    7)Tal: ” Life and Games”
    8)Sahovski Informator series
    9)Keres and Kotov: ” The Art of the Middlegame”
    10)Bobby Fischer: ” My 60 Memorable Games”
    This is very subjective of course.

  47. Hard to argue with most of the Aagard/Shaw list.
    However, there are two books I really feel are missing:

    Dvoretsky/Yusupov: Positional Play
    Shereshevsky/Slutsky: Mastering the Endgame (2 vols)

    That means Secrets of Chess Training would have to go, and I would also leave out Nunn’s Secrets of Practical Chess, which I feel contains too much obvious advise and is overrated.

    I have a soft spot for the big, systematic middlegame texts covering lots of standard position types. I’ll refrain from suggesting Silman’s best book here, but Euwe/Kramer: The Middlegame surely has enough credibility to be considered. It’s been said the Euwe never fully understood Nimzowitsch’ ideas, but then Nimzowitsch was wrong about quite a few things too.

    One game collection I really like is Polugaevsky’s very personal “Grandmaster Performance”, but of course he wasn’t an infuential enough player for a top 10 list.

    “The Test of Time” was also great. One of the very first chess books I owned, I won it as a prize when I was around 10 and enjoyed the stories of the young, dynamic Kasparov challenging the Soviet hegenomy. The actual chess content was way over my head at the time!

  48. Jacob Aagaard

    I would agree that Keres, Polugaevsky and Shereshevsky were all great writers that we could have included. But we had to go with our own best judgement. And taste does differ.

    I would want to say that simple is for me a plus: actually doing the simple things is the big challenge.

  49. @pabstars
    These articles were reprinted as Bent Larsen’s Good Move Guide and was published by Oxford chess books. It never got widely known in English. You’re right it is an outstanding book that should be reprinted. I was rereading it recently.

  50. I see that New in Chess is soon publishing “Bent Larsen´s Best Games” by Larsen. But it says there are 120 games, so I’m wondering where the other 70 games come from as the selected game book Jacob lists above had 50 games. Is it based on a later edition of the 50 game book or did NIC pull together 70 games that were published in non-book form and add them to this edition?

  51. chessbibliophile


    That is is just a joke.Tal played many brilliant games between 1975 and 1989. Sadly he had no time to have his book updated. He was more interested in playing and he left the commentary to others. A game like Kasparov-Tal 1983 that Garry himself annotated later in extraordinary detail.

  52. Soviet School

    Why is Nunn’s Secrets of Practical Chess so high?
    To my mind Chess For Tigers had a bigger influence on pragmatic methods of chess players approach to the struggle.
    The list should have a tournament book and personally New York 1924 is a better book than Zurich 53 as New York 1924 featured Lakers last great win and rise of the Reti System. I well remember my excitement on first getting Zurich 53 but Alekine’s notes in NY 24 seem to have ideas followed by los of latterannotators.

  53. I am very interested to know why Nunn’s book is rated so high. I thought it had some good practical advice but 4 th best book of the century? Is there a confusion between Secrets of Practical Chess and the original version of Nunn’s Best Games ?

  54. Leaving out “Endgame Strategy” by Shereshevsky should in my opinion be put (somewhere) on the top 10 “biggest mistakes of 20th century”-list.

    It’s a book with which I have, and always will have, a special memory saying to myself “finally a book which doesn’t drown the reader in endless lines of theory without emphasizing the main points”.

    Only a handfull of other books can claim to be of such nature, like for instance Marin’s 3 volume series on the English Opening (which I have fully read, often come back to and treasure as probably one of the best set of books I’ve ever read).

  55. What’s so great about The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov)? I could buy it for cheap but the descriptive notation is a PITA.

  56. I have three books from Nesis, Die kunst der Vereinfachung. Lots of endgame positions. Not theoretical, more practical. Just examples. It helped me to improve my chess a lot.

  57. @Jacob Aagaard
    Yeh, you are right.

    There will be much more books to mention. But the books from Nesis were really very useful. I started studying chess in de 80’s. In those years you could do some endgame training, but it was very boring. Lowenfisch and Smyslov on Rookendings for example. For me this wasn’t inspiring and useful.
    But Nesis books I played through with pleasure.

    Today there are much better endgame books. Such like Dvoretsky, your book, the book From Amateur to IM, Grandmaster Strategy (endgames of Ulf Anderson).

    Greetings and keep up the good work!

  58. Yes it is very personal. I really like the book on Boleslavsky’s games which was translated by Jimmy Adams. That book deserves a much wider audience. Gligoric’s Selected Chess Masterpieces which I think is based on a column he wrote for a US chess magazine was an early favourite of mine. The book Grandmaster of Chess: The Complete games of Paul Keres would give some of the top 10 books a run for their money. I probably would include all these in my list of favourite books- if not the “best” books.

  59. Jacob Aagaard

    It is possible I would write a different list after the debate than before! Keres should have been on it. I do not know the Boleslavsky book. A fault of mine!

  60. Pawn to King Four

    Andre :What’s so great about The Art of the Middlegame (Keres/Kotov)? I could buy it for cheap but the descriptive notation is a PITA.

    If you can read descriptive notation there are heaps of classic chess bargains available. To be frank I just cannot see how any one interested enough to read chess books at all would find descriptive notation a problem.

  61. What would be an up to date equivalent of Vuckovic’s book? I am looking for something like his that applies to a wide variety of rated echelons.

  62. very good! ,here are the top 10 by qualitychess , we can know your personal top 10 Jacob? 🙂 i imagine something very similiar but maybe with some important diferences and new important names of books.. 🙂

  63. Oh no! I’m sorry, I meant that this was the top 10 QC (John and you) and was taken into consideration the importance of books in a historical context, but especially books that you both agreed. I wonder if we know ‘your’ ‘top 10 (just yours, ie .. you liked, was impressed, and can not join this list for not having perhaps the same historical relevance that mentioned or shaw not agree ..) I hope it has now become clear

  64. Jacob , top ten of your favourite books.,this post are about the top ten books 20century in the opinion of qualitychess no? , I would like to know the 10 best books of the 20th century in the opinion ONLY of Jacob, I imagine it is a very similar list, but maybe with some new names?:)

  65. My main additions are in the notes. Basically, I would take out Zurich 1953. John would put in Smyslov’s Best Games if I remember correctly. There is virtually no difference.

  66. I own 5 of the top ten on that list and I may be tempted to read them carefully (as opposed to what I did in my youth), but, the important question is:

    If my main motivation to study chess books is to pump my rating as much as possible for the time invested, are they worth my time?

    I feel that while they are good books, I would be gaining more going for more up to date examples. Not only has chess changed a lot since the classics, but the computers have shown us that many of our preconceptions were wrong.

    So which is better, go for any of Dvoretsky, Yusupov or Aagaard books, or go for any of that top ten?

  67. @Gollum
    If you want an either or, then I would go for the workbooks; meaning the newer books. But if you want to read as well as solve, you should dive into the top 10. Really, the best is: both.

  68. Ok thank you very much ,but, Jacob , just one request for one reader of all your books , and your blog too :,Some of the books mention in this list , has a lot of historical importance, but do not have any instructive value (like the Reti´s , or even Lipnitsky , but Of course lipnitsky are a good book , but we can really compare the instructive value of this book with for example any of your books?!) and overall it is disappointing to see this type of books in a list like this. I think most of us readers, we would like to know books that influenced you, who taught you, and not just books that teach about chess history (you know that your books are better than the authors of the past, and not only your books!), this is my request. , more instructive books , and less books with only historical value.

  69. @gliga
    Respectfully disagree.
    Reti’s book is still a great book. Cannot speak to Lipnitsky’s but Jacob and the rest of QC thought it had enough instructional value to reprint it.

  70. @gliga
    A good book will always be a good book.

    By the way, I’d love to see an english version of “Pričao mi Gliga” by Miroslav Nešić. Unfortunately NiC cancelled the already announced translation.

  71. Completly agree with you., i read the two books , and are very good books , i am not talking about that. , i am talking about the instructive value of Reti book in comparison with for example the books by Dvoretsky .,ambitious players learn much more in any book of dvoretsky about chess and rules, and in the book by reti for example we learn much more about history than any other things., but don´t understand me wrong , i am not saying that the book by reti are bad books, i am just saying that for the point of view of the ambitious public of jacob , this list can be much better..

  72. Reti’s books are surely better for a lower rating class than Dvoretsky.
    I am just on the edge(1800) of being able to get much out of the latter while I read the former as a 1100-1300 range and learned a lot.

  73. @gliga
    First of all, you are deeply wrong if you think that the Lipnitsky book has not influenced me. It is the most important book in my career. I founded Quality Chess because Everyman did not want to publish it and a book on the Berlin Wall.

    And also, please forgive me, I am not going to spend too much time on listing which books you should buy from other companies. My heart is just not in it :-).

  74. Jacob, about what editor of ” my best games” of karpov are mentioned? Have his 100 best games , or his edition of bastford ,and many others ,with an different number of games ., What are exactly the book mentioned?

  75. @Jake
    It is hard to really work out who wrote what. 100 Best Games is probably a mix, but as far as I know, mainly Razuvaev. If that was indeed the question.

  76. Opinions differ understandably, but mere mortals wonder which books produced Grandmasters themselves which is rather different topic. I heard one of the Gms on live stream said that he did not read any book cover to cover. I believe good coaches and writers opinion is what matters on this topic. Coaches read the book and taught their pupils what they found useful from those books. I am not really interested in GMs opinions who actually read books after they became GM.
    And one other list advice might be “inspiring books of 21st century” which would be rather tough selection.

  77. One remark about Niemzowitsch from someone having read his book and the books of Tarrasch in the 60th and early 70th. N. writes in a very special style and going through the book had normally at first the effect of a lesser playing strength in my surroundings. I did like N’s style. I disliked his analysis, which was too often wrong.

    T’s Dreihundert Schachpartien had another effect. They made people directly stronger. If you looked at the books a little deeper he was clearly the better teacher and not a worse player. His analysis is far more exact than N’s.

    Personally I really do believe the preference of Niemzowitsch is a cultural phenomenon. He was not the assimilated jew, still fitting with his behaviour to the east european jewish culture and was so better accepted in this world, especially the USSR, compared to the german nationalist Tarrasch, who showed his nationalism sometimes even in his comments. As I read in a german chess magazine: Moskau locuta, causa finita. The word about Niemzowitsch spread from Russia around the world.

    2nd remark: Emanuel Lasker – Common sense in chess is lacking at least in the comments.

  78. Jupp53 :
    Personally I really do believe the preference of Niemzowitsch is a cultural phenomenon. He was not the assimilated jew, still fitting with his behaviour to the east european jewish culture and was so better accepted in this world, especially the USSR, compared to the german nationalist Tarrasch, who showed his nationalism sometimes even in his comments.

    I’m sorry, but this is far away from the truth. Ni(e)mzowitsch wasn’t a practising Jew and had little to do with what you call “east european jewish culture”, coming from a rather “burgoise” family in Riga and living in Skandinavia from 1920 on.
    As for the chess content: Maybe you should read his books again.

  79. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    I learned a great deal from both Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch. Neither played exactly the way they wrote.

    Common Sense in Chess is the 1896 equivalent of a chess video.

  80. 888 ( or 555 -Ist edition) miniature studies by Kasparian is great book which shows the beauty of chess composition . Wow effect guaranteed .

  81. Jacob , what do you think about Dorfman work? i read many books of you , and i can just remember you saying about his books in a single book , and very little , also i never see you put much importance in ” the theory of dynamics and stactics” in your own ( Jacob ) work., what do you think about that?
    thank you very much.

    1. Different approaches is more useful for different people. I am inspired by the direction of Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov, as is no secret. The Dorfman books did not really work for me. I do use dynamics and statics a lot in my work, as a way of how to play the positions, but what I disliked with Dorfman (remember that it is more than 10 years ago I read his books) is that the positions did not reflect the method and the method seemed to be based on algorithms, more than how the brain actually works. Dorfman was a great player and a successful trainer, but his books have not made a great impact on chess thinking; and probably for a reason. We have them in the office, maybe I will look at them once again.

  82. A couple of lists from chess trainers/authors.

    My System – Nimzovich
    Zurich 1953 – Bronstein
    Nottingham 1936 – Alekhine
    300 Best Games (Alekhine) – Panov
    100 Best Games – Keres, Golombeck, Nunn
    My 60 memorable Games – Fischer
    Best Games – Smyslov
    Best Games – Botvinnik
    Capablanca – Panov
    The Middlegame – Euwe

    Sakaev & Landa
    Mastering Chess Middlegames – Panchenko
    Theory and Practice of Chess Endings – Panchenko
    Endgame Strategy – Shereshevsky
    Mastering the Endgame – Shereshevsky
    600 Endgames – Portisch
    Positional Chess Handbook – Gelfer
    Think Like a Grandmaster – Kotov
    Strategy and Tactics – Euwe
    The Development of Chess Style – Euwe
    For Tactics – the books of Slavin, Ivashenko, Konotop

    They also mention studying, at a later stage of development, Intuition – Beliavsky and Mikhalchishin, and the books of Nunn, Dorfman, Tukmakov and Dvoretsky.

    For more advanced tactics – The Best Move – Hort and Jansa
    Perfect Your Chess – Volokitin
    Dvoretsky’s books

  83. Also, in my humble opinion, “Lasker’s Manual of Chess” might be the greatest chess book ever written. No where, before this book, were Steinitz’s chess principles ever enunciated, not even in Steinitz’s own writings. Lasker did the formulizing and then gave all the credit to Steinitz. This is chapter 4, Positional Play.

    Lasker also was the first to show that combinations could be classified. He introduces it without the slightest fanfare but he was absolutely breaking new ground in chess literature. This is Chapter 3, The Combination.

    The book is also a great read and really shows his love for chess.

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