I always had a lot of chess books but I must confess that I was not very keen in seriously studying them. When my level stabilized around 2150 elo points I more or less gave up chess as a competitive sport. I got stressed when I lost and as I played to have fun it made no sense for me to continue playing.
I continued playing the club league each year, so like 10 games each year and for some reason or another (I guess mainly because I studied the opening a bit) I peaked at 2225.
Unfortunately for my free time, I decided to play a tournament and lost 50 elo points. As I am a very proud person, I could not leave things as they were and decided I would study seriously some chess to come back and do my best. The next year, I returned and dropped another 50 elo points (I had gained a lot on the club league in between, though).
So then I came with the definite list of books I would study to not only show that I can play good chess, but that I would actually achieve my child's dream to become an IM (I only really care about reaching 2400, even if I do not get the title). The point was that I was lacking 200 elo points so studying 20 books (now the list contains 33 books without counting openings) would rise my level by that much if only each of those books would give me only 10 elo points. At that time it seemed a good idea.
So without further ado I present you the list (which I have been tweaking since then, four years ago). with some comments on the books:
- Weteshnik - Chess tactics from scratch 2nd edition. Already reviewed.
- Flear - Tactimania. Already reviewed.
- Gormally - Mating against the castled king. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - Attacking manual 1. Already reviewed. I must confess that I have grown to like this book a lot. I find myself recommending it over other attacking books (like Gormally that I liked better according to the review).
- Aagaard - Attacking manual 2. I am readying this right now (I am at page 60 or something like this) and I'm finding it quite interesting. It is more similar to Gormally's book (or a normal book on attacking chess) as opposed to the previous attacking manual. I think it is really worth it.
- Shaw - Quality Chess Puzzle Book. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Calculation. I have not reviewed this book but I have read half of it. I like it a lot. I find it quite challenging (more than Shaw's puzzle book) and this has stopped me from finishing it. I studied it with a 2350 guy and we took 10 minutes for each exercise and the last of the chapter are simply too difficult for me and really difficult for him.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Attack and defense. Already reviewed.
- Nunn - Chess puzzle book. Already reviewed.
- Grabinsky & Volokitin - Perfect your chess. This book is a really difficult puzzle book. It has a lot of exercises aimed at IM level. I have only seen the first exercises at the beginning and did not find them very hard, but many people have told me this books is really difficult so I'm saving it for the last push to 2400.
- Dvoretsky - Recognizing your opponent resources. This one is another puzzle book. It has a lot of exercises (like 400 maybe) and there are some extra ones in the solutions. I went through the first 130 of the first chapter (which has 180 I think). I just stopped because I was having a success rate lower than 40% and it made no sense, things would get much harder later and failing every time does not improve your chess. I keep this for just before Volokitin's one and after finishing the GM Preparation series.
- Gelfand - Dynamic decision making in chess. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - Practical chess defense. Another very hard book. It is an old book and is only on paperback, but I got it anyway. Some day I will study it, right now I keep my distance as I do not want to abandon chess altogether out of frustration.
- Gaprindashvili - Imagination in chess. This one was recommended by Gelfand and I did not know it. I have not buy it yet but I added it to the list. Other people have told me that they have worked with the book and have not find it impossible (as I see it, the book can be perfect for Gelfand and to no use for us mortals, but it does not seem to be the case).
- Afek - Invisible chess moves. Another late addition because of Gelfand's advice. I have nothing to say as I do not have the book.
- Hort & Hansa - The best move. The last addition to the list thanks to Gelfand's recommendation. I do not have the book either, so nothing to say.
- Flores - Chess structures. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Positional play. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Thinking inside the box. Already reviewed.
- Gelfand - Positional decision making in chess. Already reviewed.
- (?) Dvoretsky & Yusupov - Positional play. I have this book as a maybe as I'm not a fan of Dvoretsky's classical books, but as the positional play section was kind of lacking I put this as a maybe.
- Dvoretky - Manoeuvring, the art of piece play. Already reviewed.
- Karolyi - Karpov's Strategic wins (2 books). I like Karpov style and I thought a good book on his games would be a sensible choice. I do not know if I would like this book or not. It seems that it packs a lot of games in very few space so the quality of the analysis or the explanations would not be great, but I have not dive in, so I simply do not know.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Strategic play. This one was supposedly the book you ended up with in the GM Preparation series and I always had a lot of respect for it, so I never tried it, keeping it for last. However a friend of mine (which I introduced to GM Preparation, positional play) tells me the level is more or less the same. In any case I'm sure the book is great and I will go at it with great pleasure once I decide to study it.
- de la Villa - 100 endgames you must know. Already reviewed.
- Van Perlo - Endgame tactics. This book is very famous. It is kind of a puzzle book but not every diagram is a puzzle. I do not like the randomness of it. You see a position and think about it for 5 minutes and you do not see anything. Then, you read the comments and it turns out the position will be a puzzle after White plays a blunder. You feel really stupid. This and the awful edition of the book (it is really really thick, with bad quality paper and where half a page is taken by diagrams and the other half by solutions (vertically separated), but in the diagram section it may very well be that there is only one diagram, or two, resulting in a lot of wasted space). The book is good, the comments funny and it makes endings engaging, but the atrocious edition and the randomness of the task to solve puts me away from it. I have read like 10% of the book.
- Shereshevsky - Endgame strategy. This is another famous book. I went for it as it was famous and read like 50 pages (which is a lot if you think it has 200 pages) but I became disinterested as I found it too simple for my taste. I was reading Marin's book too and compared both analysis in a game they both shared and Shereshevsky's book was just at a tenth of Marin's depth. However now maybe I view it differently. I came to understand that when you are playing it is not so important that this position is won, drawn or lost, but what makes a difference is that you play it reasonably well, as you won't have time to think much anyway. So Shereshevsky's simplistic approach may be well founded for the practical player. On the other hand, I have not touched the book in 3 years so it may be possible that when I return to it I remember why I did not like it in the first place.
- Marin - Learn from the legends - Already reviewed.
- Dvoretsky endgame manual. Already reviewed.
- Aagaard - GM Preparation Endgame play. I have gone reasonably far in this book (like 50% of it) to know that is a good book, but it is hell. I left it when I was in the difficult rook endgames chapter. There was another chapter after it on more difficult rook endgames! I am not at that level yet. I will be (I hope). Of course, the same advice applies to all puzzle books sorted by difficulty (the GM Preparation series is sorted by difficulty inside each chapter, as is Shaw's and Dvoretsky's puzzle books). Everyone can enjoy the book if they just study the puzzles at their level and ignore the ones too difficult.
- Karolyi - Endgame virtuoso. This has a similar reasoning as the book on Karpov's middlegame play. I do not own this book yet so I hope it is good but I have no way of knowing.
- (?) Lund - Sharp endgames. I read the excerpt from the web and it seems a really good book which forces you to study. Right now this book is a maybe, but I think I'm going to buy it.