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6 Best Chess Books That Shed Light on the Beloved Game

Great reads that'll help you see the whole board.

chess books
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  • Photo Credit: Randy Fath / Unsplash

Chess is a game of patience, anticipation, and above all, strategy. Believed to be derived from the Indian game chaturanga sometime before the 7th century, chess is now a pastime in which millions of people across the globe indulge. An all-consuming passion for professionals and casual players alike, the game has earned itself quite the interesting history. Whether you're looking to dive deeper into the lives of grandmasters or trace the evolution of the game itself, here are six essential books about the game of chess.

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Searching for Bobby Fischer

Searching for Bobby Fischer

By Fred Waitzkin

This gripping memoir inspired the iconic film of the same name. Fred Waitzkin authors this memoir about his son Joshua's journey through competitive chess. Joshua started playing in Washington Square Park at just six years old, and it soon became clear that he was a prodigy. When he was discovered by coach Bruce Pandolfini, Joshua's natural poise and constrained violence was refined as he stepped deeper into the world of chess.

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However, the mysterious withdrawal of Bobby Fischer—the prodigy who inspired both Joshua and his father—from the world of chess left the Waitzkins with a feeling of emptiness. And though Joshua won eight national championships before the age of 20, the pressure weighed heavily on him. Fred is forced to ask himself if he not only pushed his son too hard, but if he pressured Joshua to follow his father's dreams rather than his own.

Mortal Games

Mortal Games

By Fred Waitzkin

Another great nonfiction read by Waitzkin, this book takes a look at renowned chess champion Garry Kasparov. Known for both his remarkable creativity and explosive passion, Kasparov has led an unprecedented career. Not only he is a chess grandmaster, Kasparov is also a dedicated political activist. Waitzkin got a close look at his subject during his 1990 match against Anatoly Karpov, and here he details every complex side of this talented player and outspoken advocate for Russian democracy.

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all the wrong moves

All the Wrong Moves

By Sasha Chapin

This memoir by Sasha Chapin dives into the darker aspects of the chess world. All the Wrong Moves details the inevitable obsession and heartbreak that comes with the game. First hooked on playing chess in high school, Chapin had his addictive passion reignited by street hustlers in Kathmandu. And once he was pulled into the game, nothing else mattered to him—not for hours, days, or weeks. The more he tried to walk away, the deeper he fell in.

What else was there to do but succumb to the irresistible pull of the game? Chronicling his two-year journey around the world in search of victory, Chapin tells his story of the highs and lows of fixation with humor and inventive style.

game of kings

Game of Kings

By Michael Weinreb

This book offers a glimpse into the highly competitive world of high school chess. Sportswriter Michael Weinreb follows members of the Edward R. Murrow High School chess team through the course of a season. Boy geniuses in their own right, these public school students are powerhouse players. And as Weinreb recounts their games, he weaves in the history of chess in America.

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chess books

Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual

By Mark Dvoretsky

First published in 2003, the most recent addition of this manual came out mid-2020. Universally acknowledged as one of the best books about the endgame, this is a must-read for both novices and professionals. The fifth edition has been meticulously updated by Karsten Müller—a German grandmaster who is regarded worldwide as one of the best endgame theoreticians—with assistance from American grandmaster Alex Fishbein.

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chess books

Birth of the Chess Queen

By Marilyn Yalom

Did you know that for the first 500 years of chess, the queen wasn't even a part of the game? Now the most dominant piece on the board, the queen got her start as chess rose to popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages. In this text, Marilyn Yalom follows the queen from her timid beginnings in the Holy Roman Empire to her vicious rule during the reign of Isabel of Castile. In this insightful investigation, readers are given a link between the rise of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe.

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Featured photo: Randy Fath / Unsplash