The 5 Best Books About Chess Openings of 2019

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Our Top Picks

Best for Beginners: Back to Basics at Amazon

"This book covers the main lines and critical variations of every opening system under the sun."

Best for Counters: The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White at Amazon

"If you want a solid opening repertoire that will always get you to a decent position (or better), then this is the book for you."

Best for Surprises: Secrets of Opening Surprises (Jeroen Bosch) at Amazon

"Bust out one of these very dangerous (if not always entirely sound) SOS lines can lead to an easy win in an important game."

Best In-Depth: Chess Opening Essentials at Amazon

"This series is similar to the Back to Basics book recommended above, but it's much more in-depth (and comes in a set of four volumes)."

Best for Sicilian Opening: Dismantling the Sicilian (Jesus de la Villa) at Amazon

"It offers thousands of positions to study in individual variations and covers every single line that one might encounter after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3."

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    Best for Beginners: Back to Basics: Openings (Carsten Hansen)

    If you’ve never really studied the opening before, Back to Basics: Openings is the perfect place to start. This book covers the main lines and critical variations of every opening system under the sun but never overwhelms the player with too much knowledge. It’s a great way to quickly learn just the basics about any opening system – and for players rated under 1500 or so, that’s about all that needs to be learned.

  • 02 of 05

    Best for Counters: The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White (Larry Kaufman)

    The Kaufman Repertoire

     Courtesy of Amazon

    Larry Kaufman’s repertoire book is a great addition to the library of any serious chess player. Half of the book is devoted to a White repertoire (he recommends 1. d4, though there are a couple lines that transpose to 1. e4 lines, so e4 players can get at least something out of the book), while the reverse half focuses on Black responses to various White systems. All lines are both computers checked and referenced with grandmaster play, making them both sound and practical. If you want a solid opening repertoire that will always get you to a decent position (or better), then this is the book for you.

  • 03 of 05

    Best for Surprises: Secrets of Opening Surprises (Jeroen Bosch)

    Looking for sidelines that will surprise your opponents and lead to some spectacular wins? Secrets of Opening Surprises has long been one of my favorite columns in New In Chess, and the collections of articles they occasionally publish as books in the SOS series are a great way to quickly find a line or two you can incorporate into your repertoire. I especially like these lines for players who play with the same opponents over and over again in a club setting, as many opponents will assume you’ll always play the same lines – and bust out one of these very dangerous (if not always entirely sound) SOS lines can lead to an easy win in an important game.

  • 04 of 05

    Best In-Depth: Chess Opening Essentials (Stefan Djuric, Dimitry Komarov, Claudio Pantaleoni)

    This series is similar to the Back to Basics book recommended above, but it's much more in-depth (and comes in a set of four volumes). If you want a reference that both covers all of the important variations in every relevant opening system while also giving you information on the plans and strategies associated with each opening (along with the requisite example games), the Chess Opening Essentials books are just what you need.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Best for Sicilian Opening: Dismantling the Sicilian (Jesus de la Villa)

    The only book on this list about a specific opening, I've included Dismantling the Sicilian both because it is incredibly complete - it offers thousands of positions to study in individual variations and covers every single line that one might encounter after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 - and because it has a place in my heart. As an e4 player, I used this book to bulk up my preparation against the Sicilian, which is the thorn in the side of most who play e4. It produced rather rapid results - not long after studying the lines within, I won my first tournament game against a master in a Scheveningen Sicilian. To be fair, the win didn't come in the opening, but the lines I learned from this book helped me confidently get to a solid middlegame position - and what else can you really ask for in a well-played opening?