Top 10: Chess for Beginners
Carsten Hansen is a FIDE Master and FIDE Trainer, residing in Bayonne, New Jersey. He has written twenty-eight books, mostly on chess opening, the recent of which is "The Full English Opening" (New In Chess 2018). His next book, "Daily Chess Training - Volume 2" will be out this month. You can find his work on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
CHESS FOR BEGINNERS
The most frequently asked questions I get when people reach out to me via e-mail or social media:
- 1. I’m a beginner at chess, I love to play chess, how can I get better?
- 2. Which chess books should I buy as a beginner?
There are, of course, a million answers to these questions and if you jump onto one of the many Facebook pages dedicated to chess and ask those questions, a million different answers is exactly what you will get and some of the answers are at best terribly wrong. I have seen somebody recommend “Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual” as a beginner’s guide to endgame… Really, Dvoretsky? While it is an amazing book, it is decidedly not for beginners. Similarly, in a world where self-publishing is a reality, and I have personally published several books of my own in this fashion (through the Amazon platform), there is unfortunately a lot of books “for beginners” that have been published in this fashion, and many, if not most, are pretty bad or worse. That is not to say that there aren’t any good ones in between, statistically speaking it should be possible, but so far, my experience has been that much better books are available from the more traditional chess publishers.
So, as my first blog entry, I have decided to look at some of the products, I have recommended in the past and that is available in the store.
Before we continue, keep in mind, that the recommended items are one for beginners or near-beginners, I will return in a later entry with products who are ready to take the next step up the ladder. That being said, some of the can be used for both. It is also worth mentioning, that despite these books are written with beginners in mind, I still have them on my shelf to remind what good beginner writing is all about.
A World Champion’s Guide to Chess
There are several all-round beginners books out there. They are off the kind that takes you from how the pieces move, getting to know chess notation, and moving forward into the territory of chess improvement, strategy and so forth. This book is one of the very best ones. It covers a lot of subjects and more ground than any of the other books below. So if you are person who like to work methodically through a book, and add to your skills incrementally, this book is for you.
Coach Jay’s Chess Academy #1 White Belt – Lessons + Puzzles
In full disclosure, I consider Coach Jay a friend of mine. We first met at a FIDE Trainer seminar that took place just before the Carlsen-Karjakin match in New York in 2016. Jay showed me some of his materials that he was using for his scholastic chess program in California and was quite frankly blown away by the creativity and the quality of the material. He has since then updated and expanded the material into a series of instructional books with accompanying puzzle books, and they progress in levels from the very elementary White Belt (the books in this link) to the considerably more difficult, but still manageable, Black Belt. They are very entertaining with a mix of instruction, interesting stories, chess characters and animated characters, including one of Coach Jay himself. This series is decidedly for younger readers/students.
1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate
Checkmate ends the game, so getting familiar with concluding the game in this fashion should be on anybody’s to-do list. It covers everything from the most elementary mates to the slightly more complicated stuff. It is entertaining, good and a classic for reason.
1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations
It has been said that chess is 99% tactics, I have even mentioned this quote in a couple of my books and while the number seems high, tactics is definitely important. As a beginner, you will have countless opportunities to win material and finding decisive continuations if you are more alert to them than your opponent. This book will definitely lift your skill level measurably and undoubtedly have you spot many more combinations than you ever thought possible. Like its sister volume above, it is a classic and it is good.
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
This book is a modern classic and it is decidedly not just for children who wants to beat their dad at chess, but also a guide how to beat your work colleagues or friends at chess. It is simple and not too long, but it has a lot of quality material that will decidedly help you from being a pure beginner to winning games regularly.
Winning Chess Openings
When I started playing chess, one of my very first books on chess was Bent Larsen’s The Opening Play in Chess it was from 1965 and written in Danish. I treasured and reread it countless times, but as far as I know, it is not available in English. Then some years ago, I wrote Back to Basics: Openings (which is not available in the store, but if you are interested, I’m sure they can get a copy for you…) and it took a lot of inspiration from Larsen’s book but another book, I often consulted was this one, by grandmaster Yasser Seirawan who is multiple times winner of the US championship and of course a great, one of the greatest, in my opinion, commentators in the chess broadcasting world. He has written a series called Winning Chess and, quite frankly, all of them are good, but here I will just mention the one on openings as it is quite elementary and will get you familiar with all the classical openings, some basic opening strategy, opening traps and much more.
My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White
We have already dived into openings above with the
book by Seirawan above and while it discusses opening repertoire, this book is
dedicated to a repertoire for White. There is a sister volume covering a
repertoire for Black as well.
It is not at all heavy like the many other opening repertoire books but rather focuses on presenting a simple, easily-approachable opening repertoire where the author explains basic ideas about the chosen openings as well as give you the basics of what you need to know in each opening and why they correspond well with each other. There are also complete game examples so that you will see how the games can develop from the opening into the middlegame and onward to the conclusion of the game.
Chess Endgames – Basic Knowledge (DVD-ROM)
There are few feelings in chess that are worse than having an easily won endgame and then not being able to convert it to a full point. The German grandmaster Karsten Mueller has recorded countless DVD-ROMs on the endgame in chess and nearly all of them are really, really good. But most of them are decidedly not for beginners. This one, however, is exactly for beginners, it begins with mating with queen, rook, two bishops then moves on to fundamental pawn endings and much more. It is good start because you will gain the fundamental understanding of what good endgame play is all about and prepare you to get even better at this phase of the game.
Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners
Arthur van de Oudeweetering
This book is probably the most complex book of the recommendations. It is right there from beginner level becomes improver level. When you want to win more games, chess strategy becomes relevant and knowing what to look for is essential. This book delivers in that department, really taking your game from pure beginner to knowing why and where to place the pieces. It can also be used by those who have been playing for a while.al pawn endings and much more. It is good start because you will gain the fundamental understanding of what good endgame play is all about and prepare you to get even better at this phase of the game.
Basic Chess Set Combo
This is exactly what it sounds like: chess board and pieces. When you have to buy your first chess set, it can seem like an impossible task to find the right set because there are so many to choose between. My own first chess set was a wooden one, but the set I will recommend is better than that. It is made of plastic and quite durable. It has the same size as those that are being used in chess tournaments, so if you want to feel what it is like to play in one of those, you are already familiar with that size and shape of pieces. They are weighted which helps to prevent the pieces from constantly tumbling over and you having to figure out on which squares they were supposed to be, something that terribly confused and frustrated me when I first started out. Finally, it is cheap. There is no need to invest in an expensive board and piece set when you first start out. Of course, they look nice, but it is not necessary. My first “expensive” set was given to me by my parents when I made it master level, this set will easily be able to last you from beginner to master as well, even if it doesn’t have to.