How To Read Chess Books Effectively (My Experience)

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I feel like a lot of beginners struggle when reading chess books.

They get overwhelmed with trying to cram in so much material that they end with information that doesn’t stick.

You don’t want to be in that shoe.

Here’s some advice from an expert (that’s me) who has read more than 50 chess books in my 8 years of experience of playing and studying chess.

Reading One Book Slowly Vs Many Books Quickly

When it comes to reading books, I prefer the “one book slowly” approach. 

That’s because investing time in a single book can lead to more profound learning experiences, improving memory and pattern recognition. 

There are different methods I use to read books. 

In the past, when I was diligently working my way up the chess ranks, I would set aside time for an in-depth analysis of one book. 

I would simultaneously keep a puzzle book handy, solving puzzles whenever I found a spare moment. 

That didn’t mean I was reading haphazardly, I had a structured plan where a primary book was accompanied by side literature.

In today’s digital age, this approach could translate to working on tactics on a training app, while also investing time in reading an actual physical book. 

I acknowledge that we’re in a transitory phase where the move is toward electronic formats that encourage active engagement. 

My experience with software like Chessable demonstrates how users are required to play out moves making the learning process more hands-on. 

Unfortunately, this transition has also led to a gradual decline in the popularity of certain types of books, particularly those focusing on openings. 

But for lovers of traditional chess sets and the smell and feel of a physical book, there is irreplaceable value in sitting down and dedicating time to a physical book.

Should You Reread Chess Books?

When it comes to reading books, I believe that if you find a book to be too difficult or too easy, it might be a good idea to drop it. 

Not every book is written to make you a better reader. While some are purely entertaining, others are meticulously crafted to propel you to the next level.

I also believe that full-length game analyses are most beneficial for learners. 

For example, “Understanding Chess Move by Move” by John Nunn is a great resource because it provides an analysis of almost every move.

I believe that it’s fairly rare to need to read a book twice. 

Usually, reading it once is sufficient to embed most of the content in my memory. 

However, revisiting a book that was particularly difficult, or that presented topics that strongly resonated with me, could be beneficial.

Making Chess Learning Personal

When it comes to learning from chess books, I believe that personalization is key. 

I recommend looking into how great players manage their games and drawing parallels with your own gameplay. 

Reflect on what they do differently and what you can incorporate into your skillset. This can help you improve your game and take it to the next level.

When it comes to chess content, I believe that we are spoiled for choice. 

The vast array of quality material available often leaves learners grappling with the choice of what to read and how to learn. 

My advice is to engage with the book as if it were personalized for you and find overlaps between the champion’s games and your own. 

This approach makes sure that the ‘educational’ content you’re studying translates into ‘applicable’ insights and improvements in your own games.

Here are some key takeaways:

– Not all chess books are instructive: Game collections, such as those offered by Judith Polgar or Capablanca, can be a great resource to learn from.

– Books are not just paper anymore: With the advancements in technology, you can now engage with “books” in various formats from mobile apps to Chessable courses.

– Make it personal: Relate the players’ strategy to your own gameplay. Try to understand what they’re doing differently to win and incorporate it into your own games.

There you have it. I hope this was helpful.

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