Classic Books

  • IM Silman
  • | 31 mag 2009
  • | 15129 visualizzazioni
  • | 29 commenti

Rabbi Evan Gary asks:

Could you recommend a good old classic book (the more classical the more interesting) giving theoretical (perhaps even some philosophical, esoteric) information about Chess?
Thank you very much.



Dear Rabbi Gary:

One of the great things about chess is its history and the wealth of wonderful material floating around online and/or in used bookstores. There are more books on chess than all other games and sports combined! Though much of this comes from the opening book conveyor belt, quite a few are thoughtful pieces of work about chess legends, chess history, and other areas that explore the game’s emotion, philosophy, and heart.

Here are a few that I feel will keep the reader spellbound (all are out of print and can be found online or in many used bookstores for very low prices). They discuss why players became addicted to the game, how different time periods influenced their game and their way of life, and the adventures that the chess greats regularly experienced:

PACHMAN’S DECISIVE GAMES (Pitman, 1975), later published by Dover as DECISIVE GAMES IN CHESS HISTORY by Pachman

This book is simply delightful. It covers 50 classic chess events (tournaments and matches from Baden-Baden 1870 to Fischer’s match with Spassky in 1970), gives a crosstable and exciting build-up, and then offers one or more of the decisive games that contributes to the final result. It’s written in a way that not only teaches you a lot about chess history, but also creates an edge-of-your-seat rush as you long to know who won and why – in many ways it makes you feel like you’re there live, living out every thrilling moment as it was happening.

CHESS FOR FUN AND CHESS FOR BLOOD by Edward Lasker (1942, but endless editions afterward make it easy to find)

A very personal little book by a chess legend (Edward Lasker – don’t confuse him with World Champion Emanuel Lasker!) that highlights his philosophy of chess, and also follows some of his adventures. This includes his amazing game vs. Emanuel Lasker in New York 1924 which he appeared to be winning. The press was ready to publish the story of this epic upset but the World Champion found a miracle drawing maneuver that had never been seen before! Poor Edward had to rush into the pressroom and get them to quash the story.

One of my favorite moments in the book appears early when he has several prominent people discuss why they love chess. Thus he presents these as, “From a Mathematician”, “From a Scientist”, and after more highbrowed individuals are introduced and have their say, we get, “From a Woman.” This (and the shocking things she says) really illustrates the time period that the book was written in!

CHESS FOR FUN AND CHESS FOR BLOOD appears in most used bookstores and is very inexpensive. Great value for the money! I’ve read it over a dozen times since I first learned to play chess, and I’m sure I’ll read it quite a few times more.

The next recommendation is by Fred Reinfeld. When I was starting out, Reinfeld was a bit of a laughing stock – his books were considered to be garbage that only the unwary chess hopeful would purchase. The truth is that Fred Reinfeld was way ahead of his time. He was the first to crank out an enormous amount of chess books, and in retrospect, many of them were really excellent. We’ll discuss my favorite Reinfeld book:


THE GREAT CHESS MASTERS AND THEIR GAME is a complete history lesson, but passionately written and offering insights that had never before appeared in other sources. The information given on these giants (Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Capablanca, Alehine, Euwe) is often mind blowing, and once you begin reading this 302-page monster you’ll have trouble putting it down.


This was originally a paper published in 1956 under the title of PSYCHOANALYTIC OBSERVATIONS ON CHESS AND CHESS MASTERS. In 1967 it appeared again, this time with a new title: PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CHESS PLAYER. Fine was one of the very finest players in the world, but quit chess so he could pursue a career in psychoanalysis. A pure Freudian, this book gives you all the things you’d expect from someone that hails from such a limited view of reality (everything is based on sex, sexual repression, the need to have sex with your mother, and the need to do who knows what with your father). I got the original edition for two dollars at a used bookstore, and it promises many “eyes wide open” moments, as well as endless laughs over how pompous and deluded poor Fine really was.

THE BATTLE OF CHESS IDEAS by Anthony Saidy (1972)

Tony considers this to be his masterpiece, and it certainly shows his enormous love for chess. Here we see the legendary International Master tackle the search for meaning in chess, the romantic era of the game, ideas in and about chess, “search for synthesis”, and detailed looks at Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Keres, Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Larsen, Spassky, Fischer, and Karpov.

This is harder to find than the other books, but will be a welcome addition to any serious collection.


  • 5 anni fa


    Very good recommendations.

  • 7 anni fa


          Mr. Silman I have both of your books explaining you 8 imbalances[I include space and iniative] I coaching freely on our site chess. com and am a life member.Could you please help me ge more examples of all of them. Anything I gather,I will be more than glad to give you a copy. My I thankyou ahead of time for whatever you can/will do for us. I plan to buy your next book,too.

  • 7 anni fa


    How could  Reuben Fine after creating that vast authorative comendium "Modern Cness Openings" retire to such a boring subject as psychoanalysis? He must have been "bushed".

  • 7 anni fa


    I admire IM Silman, I'd had a chance reading his books but after reading them, in my view, various questions are still left unanswered. I have been longing to know and identify by heart the different variations in chess, what to use most effectively against such an opponent's opening and/or variations. I know there are secrets surrounding this unique game that masters like IM Silman and others would not reveal. If only masters can divulge those secrets that  teach mastering of hundreds of chess variations then we would have glorious time playing and winning most of our games.

  • 7 anni fa



  • 7 anni fa


    Someone earlier recommended Lasker's Manual of Chess.  This is a solid classic and I highly recommend it.

    Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals is quite good, too.

    I own a copy of Ed Lasker's Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood, Dover edition.

  • 7 anni fa


    Does anyone know if you can get these books in modern algebraic notation?

  • 7 anni fa


    This may not be a classic, but I cherish it all the same. It's called "Chess Made Easy" by Lee Hanauer and it is part of one of those hodge-podge lines of self-help/"how-to" publications, yet it is a great little book.

  • 7 anni fa


    my love,my addiction,my religion,to my death.i think all who acknowledge the greatness of the game are genius'.

  • 7 anni fa


    I think Rabbi Evan Gary will love this speach I read from the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson OBM:

    "Only the lowly pawns can reach the highest levels In the game of chess, there are two categories of pieces:
    the officers (king, queen, knight, bishop, rook) and the soldiers (pawns).

    The officers can jump with great strides and move in all directions,
    covering much ground quickly,
    while the soldiers can only move forward one square at a time.

    When a soldier achieves his goal and reaches the other side of the board,
    he can become elevated to any rank, even that of queen.
    However, he cannot become a king, for there is only one king in the game.
    We find a parallel between the game of chess and one’s relationship to G-d.
    In the higher spiritual realms, there exist both angels and souls.

    Angels are comparable to the “officers” in chess:
    they can leap from place to place, yet they can never advance beyond their original rank.

    By contrast, the souls, like the “simple soldiers”, are slow-paced and deliberate. Although they are only able to advance one small step at a time, when they complete their mission in this world they may attain a very high level.
    In the end, however, there is only one king G-d, the King of Kings in all His Holiness."

    Hope everyone enjoys!

  • 7 anni fa


    Modern Ideas In Chess by Richard Reti. Classic. Defies all verbal descriptions.

  • 7 anni fa


    I wonderful poem from Borges, it is called Ajedrez (chess in spanish)...sorry I do not have the translation in english...


    En su grave rincón, los jugadores
    rigen las lentas piezas. El tablero
    los demora hasta el alba en su severo
    ámbito en que se odian dos colores.

    Adentro irradian mágicos rigores
    las formas: torre homérica, ligero
    caballo, armada reina, rey postrero,
    oblicuo alfil y peones agresores.

    Cuando los jugadores se hayan ido,
    cuando el tiempo los haya consumido,
    ciertamente no habrá cesado el rito.

    En el Oriente se encendió esta guerra
    cuyo anfiteatro es hoy toda la tierra.
    Como el otro, este juego es infinito.


    Tenue rey, sesgo alfil, encarnizada
    reina, torre directa y peón ladino
    sobre lo negro y blanco del camino
    buscan y libran su batalla armada.

    No saben que la mano señalada
    del jugador gobierna su destino,
    no saben que un rigor adamantino
    sujeta su albedrío y su jornada.

    También el jugador es prisionero
    (la sentencia es de Omar) de otro tablero
    de negras noches y blancos días.

    Dios mueve al jugador, y éste, la pieza.
    ¿Qué Dios detrás de Dios la trama empieza
    de polvo y tiempo y sueño y agonías?

  • 7 anni fa


    Laskers manual of chess

    Capablancas best game

  • 7 anni fa


    Dear Mr. Silman,


    First of all, thank you for the recommendations. But I have to say you missed some very good ones: YOURS!!! Right, they are not "old classic books"(that's a matter of time), but you can find a lot of theoretical information about chess.

    I assume you did it out of modesty and because he asked for a good old classic book. But I must admit that I am fascinated by your useful books. They all are fun and full of chess wisdom. As an amateur, I would recommend each and every single book you have written. As one of your backcover comentators once wrote: "IM J Silman has a rare talent of seeing chess not only from his perspective, but also from the point of view of a club player".



  • 7 anni fa


    capablanca's books written around 1900 are also really good, i recommend reading capablancas's books first before reading 'my system' by nimzowitsch because the concepts in 'my system' are a little more complex and it helps to have already built the foundation of understandings that capablanca offers.

  • 7 anni fa


    Another great classic type book is "The Best in Chess" by Horowitz, has lots of games, amusing stories, etc, just like coffee table material

  • 7 anni fa


    i recommend my system by nimzowitsch. a great book and i guarantee youll learn something

  • 7 anni fa


    I am finding out that has more then enough information to improve my chess. By joining a group, playing, and studying the materials at, I have imporved my chess playing and style with mimimal time investment.

  • 7 anni fa


    i have Saidy's classic and highly recommend it!  Great for giving you the 'long view' of the development of chess strategy, as well as fascinating glimpses of some earlier players.

  • 7 anni fa


    The Ideas Behind Chess Openings by Rueben Fine. My fravourite oldy, written 1940s but republished many, many times since. 

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