Chess is über-popular. How do I know? I tried to come up with a handful of resources about it for young players and spent two hours just clicking links without even reading content.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it will hopefully give novices and more committed players some ideas of places to go to improve their chess games or simply learn more about this game of games.
Read About It:
Instructional Books for Beginners:
1. Checkmate! My First Chess Book by Garry Kasparov
We might as well start off with a bang and recommend the book by one of the most famous names in chess. You might think his writing would be over a kid’s head, but it’s actually quite readable.
2. Learn Chess and Understanding Chess Move by Move by John Nunn
Solid and roundly recommended, Nunn’s books are easy to find and a solid place to begin.
3. Chess: Once a Pawn a Time by Science Wiz
This is not really a book, although it comes with two books. Well, yes it is. It’s a very cool set with an introduction to chess told in story form, and it also has a chess set included. This is popular, approachable, and excellent for kids.
If you have a kiddo with a desire to learn how to be the best early, this article on the 11 Highest Win Rate Chess Openings from the Board Game Guide will give them ideas on a few openings to learn to start with.
For More Advanced Players:
1. How to Reassess Your Chess by Jeremy Silman
Apparently, everybody but me knew already that he is an amazing writer about chess. Read his others as well.
2. Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson
Gambit Publishing prints this and lots of other chess classics.
3. My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer
According all people who know, the original edition of this book is the one to find.
4. Fire on Board: Shirov’s Best Games by Alexei Shirov
A must-have for the advanced player, this book is part retrospective biography, part tactical mastery.
5. Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vukovic
Another advanced book, this is not the first one someone should read, but if you are looking to deepen and expand true skill, this is a solid addition to your library.
6. Rocking the Ramparts: A Guide to Attacking Chess by Larry Christiansen
I’d buy this one just for the title, but it actually is a superb tactical book. As a side note, this author plays twice a week on the Internet Chess Club (see below). He also gives exhibitions on the site. I’ll be honest: I just love the title.
This article (not a book) from the Board Game Guide is a great one for more advanced players. It discusses the 25 Best Opening Chess Traps and Tricks. Sometimes our bright kiddos love feeling like they’re in on secret, so that’s a great article for those kids.
Books about Chess in General:
1. Game of Kings: A Year Among the Oddballs and Geniuses Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team by Michael Weinreb
I haven’t read this one, but the reviews are excellent. It’s the story of a year in the life of Brooklyn’s EdwardR.MurrowHigh School chess team.
2. The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk
I read this and loved it, and I don’t even know how to play chess. It is written for adults, but with regard to chess, what does that really mean? The book is about the history of chess, with the history of a single game woven in and serving as a framework. It is imminently readable, and by the end you think you know something about chess. Which you really don’t, as you will discover when you try to play your son.
If you develop an interest in amazing games of chess, Best All-Time Games is dedicated to annotating the greatest games ever played.
3. King’s Gambit: A Son, A Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game by Paul Hoffman
Like the two listed above, this book is about life with lots of chess as framework, backdrop, and story. Well worth a read for teens or mature tweens.
4. Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady
This biography of Bobby Fischer explores his post-breakdown life in rich, riveting detail from an excellent writer and strong source. This would be a wonderful book to read in companion and juxtaposition with watching Searching for Bobby Fischer.
If you would like to read reviews of books about chess by a real live chess player, the British site Chess.co has many reviews.
Searching for Bobby Fischer (PG) – Don’t let the title fool you: this movie has nothing whatsoever to do with Bobby Fischer. The dramaticization of the chess skill of Josh Waitzkin, a young national champion, this movie also explores the balance between skill and humanity, showing clearly that gifted kids can have both. As powerful for its treatment of familial relationships as for its chess, this movie is a must see family film.
Knights of the South Bronx (PG) – A made-for-tv movie starring Ted Danson, this feel-good story explores what happens when a white businessman decides to teach a bunch of kids at an inner-city school to play chess.
Dean’s ChessAcademy by Dean Ippolito – A DVD course (2 discs) on chess playing that assumes no prior experience. If you’re in New Jersey, he has a brick-and-mortar chess academy.
My Brilliant Brain is about how Grand Master Polgar’s dad turned all his kids into chess whizzes. Susan Polgar has written a number of highly-rated books as well, so if you get interested after watching this, check them out.
Kasparov and the Machine – You can watch Kasparov take on Deep Blue for free online.
Software & One piece of hardware:
Popular software includes:
Think Like a King is the official software of the U.S. Chess Federation and is highly regarded.
Fritz Chess and Chessmaster – both are series with many manifestations and varying levels of quality. Read reviews carefully to make sure you are getting a good fit.
Majestic Chess – reasonably priced and has positive reviews for the most part
Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster (get it? Chess – ter?) – This is a story that teaches chess along the way. Perhaps more popular than it deserves, the storyline of a kid being left king for a day is just irresistible!
No Stress Chess is an actual game with pieces, but its attraction lies in the design and ease with which novices can play. If you want to test the chess waters, this is the game. Once you don’t need the extra cards that explain and make it easy (!), you can use it as just a regular set. It’s only about $15, so there’s very little skin in the game if you don’t like it.
Places to Buy Chess Stuff:
Wholesalechess.com and Chesshouse.com are both comprehensive sites with boards and much, much more.
The web abounds with chess playing sites. Here are just a few.
Chesslab – It’s free, so that’s a good start
Chess World – has free and premium memberships
ChessClub – The premium site in more ways than one. Over 100,000 games a day are played on this site, and its members list reads like a who’s who of chess. It costs money, but students can get a special rate that makes it reasonable, especially for the committed player. If you have child who is serious about chess, this is a great gift. You can get a one-month free trial, so there’s a chance to see if it’s worth it.
I could fill a book just with this section, so please forgive me if your fave site is missing in action.
Kenilworth Chess Club – If you only use one site, this is what you’ll need. It’s got a comprehensive list of resources and is well maintained. Clean, well-designed, and thorough – what more could you want?
Chesskid.com – This site’s other name is “chessKIDS Academy,” and its purpose is to be an online classroom of sorts for kids who want to learn, parents who want to help them, or beginning groups looking for ideas and resources.
Chess & Bridge – A British chess news site about all things chess, it updates daily, but has a weekly digest that is downloadable. ChessNews has more, well, chess news.
“Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe of Chess” is what I’d call Time Krabbe’s Chess site that has links to the strange, the unusual, and the background-y bits that bright kids love to learn that put them “in the know.”
Chess Tactics – It’s an online book! It’s a quiz! It’s SuperChess! This site is not for the beginner – it is for the budding tactician. It’s subtitle – “Predator at the Chessboard” – says it all!
Rockford Chess has a plethora of solid, kid-friendly, printable resources. I was impressed. The handouts are well-designed graphically, divided into three levels (novice, beginner, and advanced), and include flashcards and links to two complete, free books on chess.
ChessGoals This site offers completely free study plans for aspiring (and experienced) players. They’re completely free. I was particularly impressed that a player could stay with the same resource for their entire chess journey, rather than outgrowing it and having to find a new one. The site is has a super clean user interface, and is kid-friendly.
World Chess Federation (pronounced “fee-day”). This is the grand master of chess organizations, with a highly professional, information-rich website.
United States Chess Federation publishes a magazine called “Chess Life,” and they have a kid version of it, too. The magazine is included with membership ($26 a year and less, depending on age). If you’re only interested in the magazine, it may be available at your library. You can get a free 30-day trial of their on-line Chess Magnet School.
So, who among you is a chessy person or has one in your life? I’m interested (and a little intimidated because I regularly forget the rules of checkers).