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9 Books to Help You Actually Learn Chess After Binge-Watching The Queen’s Gambit

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9 Books to Help You Actually Learn Chess After Binge-Watching The Queen’s Gambit

9 Books to Help You Actually Learn Chess After Binge-Watching The Queen’s Gambit

If you’ve been binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, you might be itching to learn chess or improve your chess game. Fortunately, we’ve got a selection of chess books from our friends at Gambit Publications that can help you out.

If you’d like to purchase any of these books, we’d highly recommend seeking out your local independent bookstore. Your business helps ensure the survival of these vital cultural institutions during this difficult time.

1. Learn Chess by John Nunn

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Learn Chess by John Nunn (Gambit Publications)

If you want to learn chess, what better place to start than a book called…well, Learn Chess?

Starting with the very basics, this book tells you everything you need to know to become a successful chess-player. No prior knowledge is assumed. The reader learns step-by-step, with each new point illustrated by clear examples. By the end of the book, the reader will be fully ready to take on opponents across the board, or on the Internet, and start winning.

2. How to Beat Your Dad at Chess by Murray Chandler

Cover Art for How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess by Murray Chandler (Gambit Publications)

This is a chess book for everyone, from eight to eighty, beginner to master. In a clear, easy-to-follow format it explains how the best way to beat a stronger opponent (be it a friend, clubmate – or Dad!) is by cleverly forcing checkmate. Delightful and instructive positions from real games are used to show the 50 Deadly Checkmates that chess masters use to win their games.

3. FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren

Cover Art for FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings
FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren (Gambit Publications)

Because chess openings are what? Fundamental!

This is not a book that provides masses of variations to memorize. Paul van der Sterren instead offers a wealth of ideas and explanation, together with the basic variations of each and every opening. This knowledge will equip players to succeed in the opening up to good club level, and provide a superb grounding in opening play on which to build a more sophisticated repertoire. The strategies he explains will, unlike ever-changing chess opening theory, remain valid as long as chess is played, and so the time spent studying this book will be rewarded many times over.

4. Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson

Cover Art for Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy
Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson (Gambit Publications)

This one is for the more advanced player, and covers advancements in chess theory and strategy since Aron Nimzowitsch’s seminal book, My System.

The first section of the book discusses how the understanding of classical themes, such as pawn majorities, the centre, and structural weaknesses, have been refined. Watson then moves on to discuss new concepts, including the willingness of modern players to accept backward pawns in return for dynamic play, the idea of a good ‘bad’ bishop, knights finding useful roles at the edge of the board and the exchange sacrifice idea that became prevalent with the post-war Soviet champions. This profound yet thoroughly practical work is rounded off with sections on prophylactic thinking, dynamism, modern concepts as they apply to the critical contemporary opening systems, and some thoughts on the future of chess.

5. 600 Modern Chess Puzzles by Martyn Kravtsiv

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600 Modern Chess Puzzles by Martyn Kravtsiv (Gambit Publications)

Ready to practice? Why not try your hand at some of these devilish chess puzzles!

Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!

The solutions feature plenty of verbal explanations of the key points and cover most of the logical but incorrect answers. The book is completed with a set of ‘no clues’ tests, and an index of themes that will be useful to coaches and those looking to focus on specific aspects of tactics – or just seeking extra clues!

6. 1001 Deadly Checkmates by John Nunn

Cover Art for 1001 Deadly Checkmates
1001 Deadly Checkmates by John Nunn (Gambit Publications)

For all chess-players, from beginners to world champions, from kids to seniors, delivering checkmate is the greatest thrill the game has to offer. The ability to spot checkmates is a vital skill – and this easy-to-use book shows you how it is done. With the help of Grandmaster John Nunn, you will be ready to shock your next opponent with a deadly checkmate, whether in a school match, a club tournament – or even a championship game!

By focusing exclusively on positions from real games, ranging from junior events to grandmaster encounters, Nunn ensures that the mates featured are those which arise most often in real life. He also highlights themes and ideas that are often missed in practice. While solving these puzzles, your all-important ‘mental library’ of patterns will grow, leading to an immediate increase in your playing strength.

7. An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire by Graham Burgess

Cover Art for An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire by Graham Burgess (Gambit Publications)

In this book, award-winning author Graham Burgess has come up with the ultimate simplified repertoire. But it is not based on boring or unambitious openings. The aim is to avoid symmetry and mass exchanges, and reach an unbalanced middlegame. You won’t be dumped into do-or-die tactics where the penalty for forgetting a key move is an instant loss. There are plenty of sharp and aggressive ideas within these pages, but the openings chosen provide a firm and sound base for experimentation. If you forget the critical line and have to make something up at the board, then if you have understood the key strategic themes – which are explained with the use of mini-rules and reminders – then you should get a playable game.

8. The Chess Endgame Exercise Book by John Nunn

Cover Art for The Chess Endgame Exercise Book
The Chess Endgame Exercise Book by John Nunn (Gambit Publications)

Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings… But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.

All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb. You will learn by experience, but always backed up by Nunn’s expert guidance to ensure that the lessons you take away from the book are correct and useful.

9. Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book by John Emms

Cover Art for The Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book
The Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book by John Emms (Gambit Publications)

It is generally agreed that one of the best ways for a chess-player to improve is by studying tactics – and the best way to do that is by practising. This book provides a wealth of puzzle positions to test just about every facet of your tactical skills.

The puzzles in this book have been selected by analysing games new and old in search of original puzzle positions (rather than simply trawling through previous puzzle books, as is all too often the case). It is therefore very unlikely that even seasoned solvers will recognize many of these positions. Emms, by allying his skills with those of powerful computers, has also made every effort to ensure that the solutions are sound, and that there are no unmentioned alternative solutions.

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