7 Best chess opening books in 2024


If you’ve been considering elevating your chess skills but have been putting off or neglecting the study of openings, now might be the perfect time to prioritize it. In this article, I’ve meticulously curated a list of the best chess opening books, eliminating the need for you to spend excessive time pondering where to begin. The selections cover a range of styles and approaches; some are focused on helping you develop a repertoire for a specific opening, while others serve as valuable reference works. The recommendations provided here can be explored in any order, tailored to the individual needs of the reader.

Written by
Deniz Tasdelen, National Master
National Master with over 20 years of experience. He has participated in many prestigious tournaments, including the European and World Youth Chess Championships.
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Deniz’s Choice

Questions of Modern Chess Theory

If I had to nominate one masterpiece as the best book for chess openings from the list below, it would be the Soviet classic “Questions of Modern Chess Theory” by Isaac Lipnitsky, which has been greatly respected by former World Champions like Mikhail Botvinnik, Bobby Fischer, and Anatoly Karpov. An opening repertoire is unique to each player, but “Questions of Modern Chess Theory” offers universal insights that can benefit every chess enthusiast, providing a profound understanding of the early stages of the game. The wisdom found in this classic is not only thought-provoking but also timeless.

1. Grandmaster Gambits: 1 e4 by Ricard Palliser and Simon Williams

Grandmaster Gambits 1 e4 by Ricard Palliser and Simon Williams

For those who feel in tactical positions at home and enjoy sharp games full of sacrifices, Grandmaster Gambits: 1.e4 by Ricard Palliser and Simon Williams provides you with an energetic repertoire with white to catch your opponents off-guard. In chess, the majority of the time, gambits are objectively unsound. However, the authors have picked up the ones that hold the highest practical chances while still being easy-to-play from the white’s side. For each of black’s major replies against 1.e4, such as 1…e5, the Sicilian Defense, French Defense or Caro-Kann, a gambit variation is presented. The content in this work gets progressively deeper. The first part outlines key ideas to give foundational familiarity with the possible structure arising from various openings. In later chapters, advanced variations offer a serious opportunity to take the opening preparation to the next level.

I would suggest utilizing Grandmaster Gambits: 1.e4 primarily to broaden your repertoire and incorporate surprise weapons into your arsenal, rather than adopting the presented repertoire as your main one.


Author(-s) Richard Palliser and Simon Williams
Deniz’s Rating 4/5
Price $18.19
Publisher Everyman Chess
Reader’s Age All ages groups above 10
Distinction from other books Specializes in Gambits and Aggressive Lines leading to quick victory in 1.e4

Pros and Cons

Incorporating the gambit into your repertoire alongside your mainline allows you the flexibility to catch your opponent off guard when necessary. Highly detailed analysis with a long-sequence of moves can be overwhelming.

2. “Chess Openings for Black, Explained” by Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn

Chess Openings for Black, Explained by Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn

The brilliant collaboration between the three Grandmasters Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindizichashvili and Eugene Perelshteyn, all of which are not only experts in playing but also teaching, resulted in an all-rounded masterwork for black’s openings. Since each chapter discusses openings mainly from a black’s perspective, this work can be perfectly seen as complementary to Vincent Moret’s My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White. This project does not only contain a lot of profound insights, which are presented in a list or sometimes in a chart format, but also generously shares some of the theoretical novelties that are usually only revealed to the top players.

Each chapter closes with a series of instructive puzzles to be solved by the readers, which helps to digest the knowledge and put it swiftly into practice. The main lines and variations are given in bold text font, allowing you to keep a clear mental map of the opening tree in mind while reading. In conclusion, Chess Openings for Black, Explained excels from a pedagogical standpoint, offering a comprehensive approach to theoretical study from various angles.


Author(-s) Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindizichashvili and Eugene Perelshteyn
Deniz’s Rating 4.5/5
Price >$30.28
Publisher Chess Information & Research Institute; Revised and Updated edition
Reader’s Age All ages above 10
Distinction from other books Reveals Theoretical Novelties

Pros and Cons

Equips the reader with a concrete knowledge from black’s perspective In terms of price, it might not be best fit for everyone’s budget.

3. “My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White” by Vincent Moret

My First Chess Opening Repertoire for White by Vincent Moret

As the subtitle suggests, “My First Chess Opening Repertoire” aims to guide readers, mainly at the beginner level, to build an energetic repertoire for white while encouraging them to not shy away from aggressive variations. The Author’s main idea behind embracing such an attacking approach is to help players develop a feeling for the sharp, open positions, which improves one’s tactical vision at the same time. Thus, Vincent Moret’s choice for such a repertoire focuses primarily on openings with 1.e4 and the most critical responses to them. Black’s main replies, which are covered in dedicated chapters, include mainstream variations such as Guioco Piano (the most common line in the Italian Game), Sicilian Defense and the Grand Prix Attack, King’s Indian Attack against the French, as well as how to play against hypermodern openings like the Pirc or the Modern (King’s Fianchetto).

One big plus of “My First Chess Opening Repertoire” is that it does not overwhelm the readers with exhausting lines and a massive tree of possible variations. Instead, most of the emphasis is put on explaining the logic behind each move occurring in example games. These reasonings under each move are not only highly comprehensive and digestible, but they also sometimes contain historical knowledge to better follow the trends in particular lines. The typical plans are summarized and listed in an easy-to-read format for readers. The hand-picked exercises in each chapter are perfect for readers to test out the freshly absorbed information.

While the work is intended for a mainly young audience, who are just starting out their journey in chess, rather than masters or candidate masters, the presented content is, due to its format, perfectly suited for trainers to use it as teaching material in their educational sessions or courses.


Author(-s) Vincent Moret
Deniz’s Rating 4.75/5
Price $13.79
Publisher ‎New In Chess
Reader’s Age All age groups, mostly young
Distinction from other books Provides a ready-to-use repertoire

Pros and Cons

Reasonings behind each move is clearly and concisely explained and illustrated in diagrams Does not aim to build a full repertoire with sidelines, but rather focuses on general ideas outlined in the example games.
The price is relatively not that high, therefore might be more appealing to mass audience

4. “Questions of Modern Chess Theory” by Isaac Lipnitsky

Questions of Modern Chess Theory

The allure of “Questions of Modern Chess Theory” as a hidden gem lies in its historical context. Originally published in 1956, its status as a valuable resource remained somewhat obscured, primarily due to a lack of accessibility in the English language for an extended period. There is speculation, perhaps legendary, that this book played a pivotal role in motivating Bobby Fischer, the former World Chess Champion, to learn Russian so that he could delve into its contents. While the veracity of this claim may be uncertain, reports suggest Fischer was often spotted carrying the book at tournaments.

Lipnitsky’s “Questions of Modern Chess Theory ” deviates from the conventional opening books that meticulously guide players through specific moves. Instead, this Soviet classic adopts a philosophical stance, aiming to instill a profound understanding of the opening stage and chess as a whole. Lipnitsky explores overarching principles, tackling challenges such as center control and strategic considerations in the opening phase. The underlying philosophy is that the opening establishes the battleground for the middlegame, emphasizing the importance of positioning the pieces optimally. Readers delving into Lipnitsky’s work will gain insights into approaching and studying openings more broadly.

Quality Chess, the publisher, deserves commendation for its noteworthy contributions in making this work accessible to a broader audience. The layout and composition of the text are additional aspects that merit praise.


Author(-s) Isaac Lipnitsky
Deniz’s Rating 4.95/5 
Price $19.90
Publisher Quality Chess 
Reader’s Age All ages above 12
Distinction from other books Addresses the general problems of opening play rather than aiming to build an opening repertoire with certain suggestions of variations

Pros and Cons

Regardless of the opening you choose to play, this book offers valuable insights as it focuses more on general principles rather than specific moves. As an older book, some of the suggested lines in the analysis may not align with current best practices. However, the general principles presented in the book remain relevant.

5. “Fundamental Chess Openings” by Paul van der Sterren

Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren

Paul van der Sterren’s work, Fundamental Chess Openings, does an excellent job of covering a wide range of openings systematically, such as the ones that fall under the category of 1.d4, Flank Openings, 1.e4. At the same time, it aims to elucidate the historical context, the origin and the evolution of the prominent chess openings, instead of long sequences of computeresque analysis. Fundamental Chess Openings also tries to avoid copying latest trends followed by the top players, which might not be suited at all for the majority of players. Paul van der Sterren rather takes a unique and a profound approach by demonstrating the intricate connections and shared foundations of ideas and insights across various openings.

For any work that functions as a practical compilation of theory of chess openings, the main challenge is to decide how much is too much. The author handles this general issue competently by finding a good balance between the practical values of variations and the essential lines to be included. As scientific as the book’s format might seem, the introductory information and the move trees are easy to follow.


Author(-s) Paul Van der Sterren
Deniz’s Rating 4/5
Price $15.99
Publisher Gambit Publications, Illustrated edition
Reader’s Age 8 and up
Distinction from other books Systematic grouping the theory

Pros and Cons

Ideal to build out a move by move repertoire including sidelines Does not contain example games.

6. “The King’s Indian Attack” – Move by Move by Neild McDonald

“The King’s Indian Attack” - Move by Move by Neild McDonald

For those who want to keep things simple and want to avoid memorizing sharp theory and rather prefer a flexible setup-to-go, King’s Indian Attack, or KIA in short, can be recommended for white. The main advantage of King’s Indian Attack is that it can be employed against many of black’s defenses, and it is rather about the system, like white fianchettoes the bishop on the kingside, than move by move theory. Neil McDonald, who has established himself as one of the top chess authors, shares the ins-and-outs of the KIA scheme in “King’s Indian Attack – Move by Move”.

“King’s Indian Attack” stands out due to its unique approach, employing a question-answer method that fosters interactive learning and encourages readers to engage in critical thinking. This method enhances information absorption by actively involving the reader in the learning process. The example games meticulously explain the underlying ideas behind each move, ensuring a thorough understanding and leaving no questions unanswered in the reader’s mind.

If the King’s Indian Attack (KIA) doesn’t align with your preference for white, you have the option to explore other alternatives featured in Everyman Chess Publisher’s ‘Move by Move’ series. This series is known for its quality content and instructional approach.


Author(-s) Neil McDonald
Deniz’s Rating 4/5
Price $20.85
Publisher Everyman Chess
Reader’s Age Above 10
Distinction from other books Question and Answer format used in the game examples makes the material engaging and thought-provoking.

Pros and Cons

Provides a complete guide to a system opening for white and possible schemes are demonstrated in a clear and comprehensible way. Relatively high price, which might not be best fit for everyone’s budget.

7. “Modern Chess Openings” by Nick de Firmian

Modern Chess Openings by Nick de Firmian

The contents of Modern Chess Openings were initially created a century ago. However, for opening theory in chess, this is more than enough time to be outdated. Nick de Firmian has successfully modernized the compilation, turning it into an up-to-date resource for all chess aficionados. Readers are offered with a diverse selection move tree, encompassing primary variations that represent the optimal moves for both players, as well as exploring the intricacies of sidelines.

However, the Modern Chess Openings require some effort from the readers to get the best out of it. The highly systematic table format and the way variations are structured might seem a little enigmatic at the first glance. After getting used to it, readers are bound to discover valuable information in it. As such, Nick de Firmians work presents itself as a useful reference guide.


Author(-s) Nick de Firmian
Deniz’s Rating 4/5
Price $18.23
Publisher Random House Puzzles & Games
Reader’s Age 12 and above
Distinction from other books Table format to group variations

Pros and Cons

The main ideas of each opening is explained clearly The lack of diagrams makes it little hard to navigate through the variations

Final thoughts and tips

Mastering opening variations can become overwhelming as the myriad of moves to consider grows exponentially. To navigate this complexity, it’s advisable to tackle one or two new moves at a time. Following this, engage in a few training games to put the learned lines to the test. Should you encounter unfamiliar moves during your games, revisit the relevant guide or database to reinforce your understanding. The recommended books above not only aid in constructing your repertoire but also facilitate the retention of newly learned moves by providing the reasoning behind each move. This structured approach will enhance your opening knowledge in a manageable and effective manner.

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