Q: What are the best books I can use for self-study to improve my own game?
There are literally thousands of books for Novice/Intermediate (defined as those who already know how the pieces move, how to checkmate, etc). Below are listed some of my picks, based on my own reading experience and the advice of expert chess teachers. You do not need to buy all these - pick and choose as you please. For example, I recommend buying one "general" work (like #8), supplementing it with a good tactics book (#3-#7), and an end game book (#9 or #10). Here is my list:
1. Square One: A Chess Drill Book for Children and Their Parents by Bruce Pandolfini. For the earliest of novices and children. The only book on this list that actually teaches beginners (i.e., how the pieces move, etc.). Workbook format. The paragraphs are numbered. Lots of diagrams, lots of questions to answer.
2. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Robert Fischer. Kids love this book. No notation. Every page contains a single problem. The answer (and the next problem) is overleaf. After reading the right-hand pages, you turn the book over and go through it again, reading the left-hand (upside-down) pages. Concentrates on MATE! No board required.
3. Winning Chess: How to See Three Moves Ahead by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld. A solid tactics book containing hundreds of positional quizzes arranged by theme; pin, fork, double attack, etc. Might be out of print, but worth looking for in used bookstores or chess booksellers.
4. Winning Chess Tactics by Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Silman. Explanation of basic tactics, examples, and tests. Biographies of famous "tactical" players, from Anderssen to Kasparov, along with representative games. An excellent first tactics book that will still challenge you as you increase in strength.
5. Simple Chess Tactics by A. Gillam. A first tactics book for novices.
6. Your Move by Yakov Neishtadt. A good tactics book with 350 positions for you to try with solutions and explanations.
7. 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations by Fred Reinfeld. A cheap book of 1001 tactical "quizzes," most from actual games. Some are easy, some are hard. Great for improving tactical ability.
8. Logical Chess Move by Move by Irving Chernev. Looks at 33 games, and comments on the thought behind every move. I grew up with this book and still enjoy playing through the games today. Hard to find these days.
9. Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move by Silman. Very clear explanations of basic endings. Silman is one of the best chess writers you'll find anywhere.
10. Pandolfini's Endgame Course. Another good endgame book for novices and intermediates.
11. Chess for Tigers by Simon Webb. General advice on a wide variety of chess topics, with a lesson woven into every chapter. An entertaining read.
12. How to Reassess Your Chess by Jeremy Silman. Explains how to play with a plan. May be too advanced for many young players an excellent improvement program for the intermediate player.
13. Comprehensive Chess Course by GM Lev Alburt and Roman Pelts. A very comprehensive text patterned after early study offered to school children in the former Soviet Union. Much material for teachers, may be too much for the casual student.
14. From Beginner to Expert in 40 Lessons by Kostyev. Highly recommended for chess teachers and students alike. Each lesson is easily digestible and will lead to concrete improvement.
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