Best Chess Books for Beginners (>1500 rating)

I’m a huge chess player. Or…at least, I’m trying to be.

Being inspired by quite many YouTubers (more on that later), I decided to dig deep into chess.

I bought about 10 chess books from Amazon when I started to get serious about my chess. This article both contains books I can recommend. And those that I will strongly NOT recommend you to buy. That will save you a little money. 🙂

As you can see, I’ve gone from being a ~600 rated player to become a ~1250-1300 player at blitz games. And that has a lot to do with reading the right chess books:

PS! If you ever need a physical chessboard, I’ve written an article about the best wooden chess boards available. “Why wood?”, you might ask. Well – it’s because it’s an environmentally friendly material to make chess boards out of. And this is, after all, a website about sustainability. 🙂

This isn’t an article about any environmental topics. However, once I got something super useful to share, I decided to do it regardless. After all, I bet no one is reading this article thinking:

“Oh god, NO! Not another chess article on Sustainability Matters Daily!!!”

In a hurry? Here’s the top 3 chess books for beginners on Amazon

Brilliancy
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
Chess puzzles
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
Psychology
The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions Into Chess Mastery
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions Into Chess Mastery
$7.99
$23.99
$19.95
Brilliancy
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
$7.99
Chess puzzles
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
$23.99
Psychology
The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions Into Chess Mastery
The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions Into Chess Mastery
$19.95

Okay, these three books are all BRILLIANT if you want to become better at chess. But don’t get me wrong. They are also VERY different from each other.

And if you put them all together, you have a high chance of mastering a lot of the game from an early stage.

Why are these chess books recommended for beginners? Let me try to explain what you will gain from each of these books.


1. Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery

“Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery” is a book you can’t live without as a newbie. I’ve read it twice. To be frank, I’m probably going to read it again.

What this book offer is unique. It doesn’t consist of numerous puzzles or hard theory. However, it goes directly into the core of what you are doing wrong with your chess as a beginner. When I read this book, I was sometimes getting a feeling that the author had already seen and analyzed my games.

I was like: “Oh darn, how do you even know that I do this every time!?”.

And you’re probably gonna get that feeling too.

Key elements that will be improved by reading this book:
  • You will understand WHY you’re not that great at chess
  • You will learn to spot your mistakes 100 times better than what you could dream of
  • This book is an eye-opener for most chess noobs.

2. Chess 5334 Problems

On the other hand, “Chess 5334 Problems” is a book that literally consists of a lot of chess puzzles. And it’s good. It’s easy to understand. And you can literally spend hours on this book without getting bored.

I’m a big fan of this book. After downloading several apps and seeing a lot of similar books: this is, by far, the best one I’ve seen. And that says a lot.

This book will give you loads of chess puzzles for quite a small amount of money.

PS! If you want to interact with such chess puzzles online, I will recommend you to check out “Puzzle Rush” on Chess.com. I am writing more about that feature later in the article.

Key elements that will be improved by reading this book:
  • Understanding checkmate patterns
  • Get an overview of the different TYPES of situations that occur during a chess match
  • Understand why sacrificing pieces in certain situations is very important

3. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

Finally, Bobby Fischer provides you with the thoughts of a mastermind. That might sound like a clichè. And it probably is.

However, this is a book that is written by one of the best chess players that ever existed. That is a fact that won’t help much by itself. But this book is easy to read and gives the reader an understanding of chess from a masterminds’ perspective.

Bobby Fischer is so good at chess that he is able to explain complicated things in a very easy manner. And that’s a skill more people should develop. 🙂

Key elements that will be improved by reading this book:
  • Understanding the complexity of chess
  • Understanding the importance of discipline and consistency
  • It features many great examples from well-known chess games

Additional recommendation: Silman’s Complete Endgame Course

Why is “Silman’s Complete Endgame Course” recommended as well?

I was not certain whether I would recommend this chess book. However, it’s a quite unique and delicate piece that might be helpful for some of you.

Let me explain exactly what it is.

The endgame refers to when both sides have a few pieces left. That could for instance be that both players have a rook and some pawns. Or both players have a queen + rock and some pawns left.

Still not sure what an endgame situation is? Let me illustrate that for you.

A typical chess endgame. Photo: Sustainability Matters (lichess)

The game might look simple to play.

But believe me: its SUPER complex.

And the more you learn about how complex end games are, the better chances you have in such positions.

I was totally unaware of the importance of studying endgames before I bought this book. This book alone helped med to beat almost all players below 1500 ELO in an endgame – and I’m not even joking.


Now that you’ve read my chess beginner book recommendations, I’m going to dig a bit deeper into exactly why these books will help you with your ranking.

What makes a great chess book for beginners?

  • Easy to understand. What a lot of chess authors do is that they try to act as smart as possible. But if you are unable to write a book that explains something difficult in an easy way…you’re out. Beginners are not going to buy your book. Simple as that.

  • A lot of pictures of the chess boards. Illustrations are important. For more advanced players, it would be enough to read this line to understand what’s going on: “40.Bb6 gxf4 41.gxf4 h3 42.Kf3 Bh4 43.Be3 Be1 44.Bd4 Bd2”. Most beginners would go: “Huh? What’s that?”

  • Affordable. I have no interest in paying more than 60 $ for a chess book that only covers one single topic (for example rook endgame).

Now, books isn’t everything. There are many other ways of becoming better at chess.

And this is coming from someone who’s already been through the path that you’re struggling with. In the next paragraph, I’ll show you five useful tips to improve your chess game (in addition to reading chess books). 🙂

Five great tips if you want to become better at chess

This is coming from a guy who went from 800 ELO to 1300 ELO. That means I’m not an expert in chess. But I’m an expert in growing from absolute garbage to become quite an “OKish” chess player.

It’s the same with my chess level as with my Chinese level. I’m not a native Chinese speaker, but it’s super helpful to have been through the learning process in order to educate other people on how they should improve their Chinese. That’s also something I’ve written about on this website, which you can read about here.

And I got some tips I wanted to share with you:

#1: Learn the openings.

I can’t remember how many times I got checkmated after ten moves. That will make you lose the motivation.

If you learn three-four openings that you consistently play, I can almost guarantee you that you will have more fun. And that you will start to win games.

#2: Do not play without knowing what you’re doing

When I got that message (loud and clear), it revolutionized the way I played chess. I literally went from 800 to 1000 just by skipping moves like “oh, I’ll just move the queen a bit higher on the board. It might or might not help!”.

No.

Don’t do moves like that. Make sure that your queen is in a position that covers a lot of squares. But moving it just for the sake of moving it is the worst thing you can do.

#3: Try to keep your head calm while playing chess

I rage when I lose. And a lot of chess beginners are like me.

Losing games will, unfortunately, be a huge part of what you’re going to do for the first year. And the way you deal with that has a lot to say. If I lose one game, you can be sure that I will also lose the next three games. That type of behavior is often called “to go on a tilt”.

Try not to become emotional about the game.

I couldn’t. But I really hope you can. 🙂

#4: Hire a (cheap) chess teacher

If you have the budget, I would definitely hire a teacher. Mine is called Michael and comes from The Philippines. He charges 10 USD per hour, which is reasonable for me as a Norwegian.

There are many websites out there where you can hire online chess teachers. However, I’m not gonna recommend any of them as I don’t have any experience with that.

Michael was referred to me by a friend.

How to find a chess coach? Google!

It doesn’t take you many seconds to perform a Google search like this:

Just remember that being good at chess doesn’t automatically make you a good coach. There are many people rated around 2200 that are much better coaches than the absolute best players in the world. 🙂

#5: Buy Chess.com premium.

Trust me: I’m not affiliated with Chess.com in any way (and neither will I be in the future).

But there’s one amazing premium feature that has probably done more to my chess middle and end game than anything else: Puzzle Rush.

Puzzle Rush. A brilliant way to become better at chess. However, it requires chess.com premium membership.

Puzzle Rush is gameplay where you do as many chess puzzles within five minutes as possible. Three mistakes and you’re out. My record is 25, which I guess is decent. But it has learned me so much about checkmate patterns that I really want to recommend this.

These tips are all great for learning more about chess. However, there’s one more thing I would love to introduce: Chess Youtube Learning.

Youtube channels you should follow if you want to learn more about chess


1. Chessbrah

Probably the best channel on Youtube. And I’m not talking about chess channels, but ALL Youtube channels.

Aman Hambleton (GM) and Eric Hansen (GM) are two young, enthusiastic, and funny chess players. They do everything they can to entertain

Please note that this channel do contain a bit “harsh type of humor”. But you will quickly understand if this is something for you or not.

I’ve laughed and learned from them for about a year. And I think you should give it a try as well.


2.Gotham Chess

This guy really got his breakthrough on Youtube in 2020. Despite not being a GM (Grand Master), he is very good at explaining constantly what he does on the board.

Gotham is a local guy from New York that tend to play chess with some of the best players on the planet.

You can see him teaming up with Nakamura for some live stream sometimes. But his Youtube channel is really a goldmine for anyone that wants to learn basic chess principles.


3. Eric Rosen

Probably the nicest, calmest and most polite chess player out there. Eric Rosen is someone you just want to give a hug.

He is also an extremely good chess player. What he does best is educate the viewers while playing. Where Chessbrah let their focus be on the entertainment side of chess, Eric Rosen is very educational.

I would almost recommend sitting with a notebook while watching his videos. 😉 You might actually learn something…

Should I watch Youtube instead of reading chess books?

No, you shouldn’t. You should do both. I’ve learned SO much more from chess books compared to Youtube.

I would honestly say that Chess Youtube is more of an entertainment thing rather than an educational thing.

You might watch a 10-minute video about the queen’s’ gambit opening. But frankly, you have probably forgotten all about it after an hour.

Wrapping things up

Buying chess books is a great way to improve your chess as a beginner. And believe me: buying the right books will make your learning curve be super steep. That’s something I have personally seen with my own game.

I will really recommend you to read. However, that’s just the beginning. Playing a lot of games online is probably the best way to get better. I’m a huge fan of Puzzle rush, but playing “normal” games is also a great alternative. And it’s free.

I am not going to dictate what books you are going to buy. But I can honestly say that all the books mentioned in this article have helped me a lot as a chess player. If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know in the comment section below!

20 thoughts on “Best Chess Books for Beginners (>1500 rating)”

  1. Hi Amund, great sight and advice, I am based in Ireland and can’t seem to get:
    Amateur’s Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery

    anywhere except Amazon.com which doesn’t deliver to Ireland, any advice?

    Anthony

    1. Hi Anthony.

      Sorry for late reply.

      I’m sorry to say that I don’t know. I have seen more and more chess books in the “normal” book stores here in Oslo, so that could be something you could try out. I also know that the book stores have the possibility to order one specific book if you ask them.

      Wish you the best!!

      Kind regards,

  2. Hey, I just wanna say thank you for these book recommendations, but I want to know if you have any recommendations on how to learn opening theory?. If so, thank you

    1. Hi Anas! Frankly, I believe Youtube videos are very good at learning opening theories.

      Another thing you can try is to open Chess.com or Lichess.org. Turn on stockfish against the computer. Try different openings and see how Stockfish (the computer) reacts to your different moves. After trying your favorite opening for an hour or so, you start to learn all the good (and more importantly: all the BAD) moves that you can do. That worked wonders for me! 🙂

  3. Markus from Germany

    seeing all these comments from “up and coming” chess players make me really happy 😛

    I’ve played chess for about 10 years and i’m rated ~2000-2200 on Chess.com. I can’t really remember how many games I have played throughout my career, but it’s A LOT. And these puzzle books helped me to develop my skills early on. I agree that books can help, but you have to combine these books with playing a lot – especially playing online.

    1. If you’re 2000-2200, you’re a super good player. I mean, you’re almost at the level where you can compete against people like Chessbrah and Eric Rosen?

      I agree that puzzles online and puzzle books are super helpful to become better at chess. They’re almost better than playing a lot. I hate the feeling of playing chess openings and not being sure what to do after move 3. I would love to learn theory better, which is why I’m focusing a lot on reading books at the moment 😛

  4. The n00b Chess player

    Wow, you really had some great progress!

    I’m a 900 rated player now. About a week ago, I thought I was quite decent at chess. Then my friend dragged me to this “noob chess tournament” that was hosted in a bar.

    Let me put it this way: I am not a great chess player! 😀

    I guess that’s why I am reading this article trying to get some books that can help me grow. I’ll definitely order one of these – the one about endgame seem interesting enough

    1. Good story! 🙂

      It’s nothing as subjective as saying that you are “good at chess”. And to be fair: tournament players are usually rated above 1500. So don’t be sad that you didn’t win any games.

  5. I’m even hosting chess tournaments now. And I’ve only played for about six months 😀

    Chess books recommendations = the more heavy theory, the better. Like a rook endgame…it looks so basic and simply when you see the board. But in fact, it’s super complicated. You can study rook endgames until your tongue falls out haha.

    I’ll try to pick up some of the books mentioned in this article.

  6. I “discovered” chess about two months ago and I’ve gone from 800 to 1200. frankly, i’ve always been good at seeing patterns, doing mathematics and all that. And it’s so good feeling when you go from 1000 to 1200 in a weekend of studying and playing chess.

    But i’m a very dedicated guy. I sit down, write down all my openings, and try to analyze every single game that I play.

    Might also be buying chess books shortly, which is why I’m reading this article 😀

    1. Wow!

      If you go from 800 to 1200 in two months, you really got some serious chess skills. I’m very impressed.

      Studying chess is the part where most people drop out. Playing chess is fun, but the “studying part” can kill the interest of people. That’s why I haven’t really progressed even more. Playing 100 games equal 1 hour with a chess book…or something. 😉

  7. “Youtube Chess” is for entertainment. I agree.

    Hikaru Nakamura is a brilliant chess player, but a poor streamer. He is only famous because he is one of the best bullet and blitz players in the world. What makes him so good is his ability to think fast. But he is DEAD BORING and extremely socially awkward when he streams 😛

    so having a good chess teacher is not only about how good they are at playing chess. They also have to be extremely well at teaching you stuff. I’d rather have a chess teacher which is rated 2000 and is great at explaining end games compared to one rated at 2500 that don’t have EQ

    1. Hello. I couldn’t agree more. Their ability to teach chess is not necessarily in correlation with their rating.

      That also applies to books. The top grandmasters are not necessarily the people who writes the best chess books.

  8. Inspring! Thanks a lot. It’s quite clear that you’ve been through exactly what I will be through: to become a better chess player. I am rated around 1300 now, but want to grow to at least 1500.

    That being said, I struggle to become better in the openings. Do you believe that any of those books are good for openings or are they just better at understanding the game?

    Sorry for all the quesitons, but do you also have some recommendations on the opening?

    1. Hello ungarne.

      Good to hear that you’re progressing with your chess. Frankly, my tips on the opening (that have helped me quite a lot to progress):

      1) Stick to the same opening every time. Learn “all” the variations with the first 4-5 moves. That helps A LOT to gain an advantage against lower-rated chess players.
      2) Once you start to get a grip, learn another opening. take it slooooooooow. 🙂

  9. Youtube videos will only have you come 40-50 % of your potential. I agree that Youtube works best for chess entertainment.

    If you want to educate yourself, you realy need to pick up some chess books. Great article btw. I think I have read that puzzle book, but I’m not sure. It was at the library so I couldnt “draw” in it, which was a mistake 😛

    1. Hi Ujah. I agree – drawing in the puzzle chess books is a great way to learn. 😛

      Mine is almost filled up with drawings of my own puzzles. But it’s a nice and fun activity that makes you being able to take your puzzle chess book to the beach.

      I watch chess Youtube videos out of curiosity, but mainly due to entertainment purposes.

  10. I’ve figured out that practice is just about 50 % of the progress. At some point, you meet the wall. And that’s when you need to read about chess theory and what not.

    In the beginning I thought it would help to read some books from grandmasters. Turned out that this wasn’t of any help at all. Now I am reading books from instructive people that actually know how to TEACH people chess. Grandmasters don’t know how to TEACH. they just know how to play brilliant chess,.that’s a huge difference

  11. Mark20 on Chess

    People might say that going from ~500 ELO to ~1300 ELO isn’t a great achievement. But I think it is!

    Congratulations!

    And of all the books you mentioned in the article, I believe the strongest one is the puzzle book. I am a 2000 player myself, but I find that book to be extremely educational and great.

    In regards to the chess Youtube videos you mention:

    Chessbrah is by far the most popular one among people that play at a “semi-low level” 😀 And the reason for that is because their content is very noob friendly. If you ever wanna play, hit me up haha!

    1. Hi Mark! 🙂

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree that puzzles (chess puzzles online & chess book) is the best way to get better at chess.

      In regards to Youtube, I love Chessbrah when I’m in the mood for being entertained. And I can watch Eric Rosen for hours if I’m eager to learn a new opening or something.

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