Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (7)

8/10/2008 – Mr Jones, a bookshop owner, wants to stock only the very best chess volumes which are in print, and he has a headache. Not surprisingly, he feels overwhelmed by the flood of books on the market, so which are the very best in the various categories? The Editor of Chess Notes makes a few suggestions and invites further proposals from readers.

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Chess Explorations (7)

By Edward Winter

The subject of the ‘very best chess books’ was raised in Chess Notes two years ago. In C.N. 4485 we wrote:

‘Mr Jones runs a typical bookshop which has just a few chess volumes on its shelves. Not a chessplayer, he cannot know whether he is offering a helpful selection to potential customers or whether he has a hit-and-miss assortment, perhaps even including books which are useless or worse.

It would certainly be worthwhile for Mr Jones to be given a brief, extremely select, list of the very best chess books in various fields (e.g. a first manual on the game, an introduction for children, a general overview of the openings and a lucid anthology of annotated games). Having seen no such authoritative list, we plan to compile one (featuring books in English which are in print). It will be rigorously independent and objective, and only titles which meet the highest standards will be included.

Readers are invited to send in proposals, bearing in mind that the intention is to focus on the broad market and not on specialized works of primary interest to, for instance, the historian. Authors and publishers are welcome to put forward their own books to us for consideration, and such suggestions will be treated confidentially. No book in which we have had any personal involvement will be mentioned.

The goal is gradually to draw up a short (though, we hope, prestigious) list of books which Mr Jones could order with confidence to ensure that his shelves offered customers the optimum choice.’

It cannot be claimed that there was a stampede by Chess Notes readers to suggest titles. Below we list the current nominations, and other proposals for these or other categories are invited.


Introduction for beginners:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chess by Patrick Wolff. Published by Alpha, New York in 2005. Softback, 428 pages. Price $16.95/£12.99. This is the third edition, the previous ones having been published in 1997 and 2002. A fine introduction to chess which assumes no prior knowledge.


Lucid and instructive anthology of annotated games (intermediate):

Understanding Chess Move by Move by John Nunn. Published by Gambit, London in 2001. Softback, 240 pages. Price $19.95/£14.99. Thirty instructive games annotated virtually move by move and with impeccable clarity.


Introduction for children:

Chess from first moves to checkmate by Daniel King. Published by Kingfisher, London, 2000. Hardback, 64 pages. Price £9.99. A softback edition was brought out in 2004 at £6.99, and there is also The Chess Box (£9.99), which comprises the softback book, a board and a set of pieces. Clarity of presentation and striking production values are the hallmarks of this book for younger readers.


General overview of the endings:

Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht. Published by Gambit, London in 2001. Softback, 416 pages. £19.99/$29.95. An authoritative reference work which covers all the main endgames.


Other possible categories include: General overview of the openings, General overview of the middlegame (tactics) and Treatise for children (intermediate). Readers’ nominations will be very welcome.

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All articles by Edward Winter


Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then over 5,700 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989).

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.



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