On Chess: Are chess books dying? | St. Louis Public Radio

On Chess: Are chess books dying?

May 18, 2017

I must confess. I have a very difficult time answering the classic question: “What’s your favorite chess book?” Heck, I don’t know if I can even name the last chess book that I’ve read to completion. As an international master and chess coach, the inability to answer such a simple question could raise some eyebrows.

Perhaps 20 to 30 years ago, books were the dominant resource for learning chess. Today, this is no longer the case. Having begun my chess pursuit in the 21st century, the vast majority of my chess knowledge has been consumed through a computer. Between instructional videos, online lessons with grandmaster coaches, and the tens of thousands of games I have played online, I have been able to continually learn and develop as a player. A boom of young and improving players are taking a similar approach.

The influence of technology on education extends well beyond chess. Schools across the world are integrating technology into their curriculums to make learning experiences more interesting, interactive, and efficient. The chess community is taking advantage of the same opportunities. With just a Wi-Fi connection, learning chess is now easier and more accessible than ever.

Let’s look at a website like ChessKid.com. The kid-friendly, online platform gives young players access to a complete training curriculum, video lessons and more than 50,000 chess puzzles. Also, users can compete against anyone from around the world. The advantages to a site like ChessKid over books are endless. Active engagement, interactivity, animation, progress tracking, and easy communication with other chess enthusiasts are all features that books can’t provide.

Comparable platforms like Chessity, Chess.com, Lichess.org, The Internet Chess Club and many others offer users a vast amount of educational resources. Why buy a puzzle book, when you can solve more than 30,000 tactics on Chess Tempo? Why buy a chess opening book when you can interactively learn hundreds of openings researched by grandmasters on Chessable? You can even find a host of chess lessons on YouTube, like the channel hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center here in St. Louis that has more than 100,00 subscribers.

Now is an exciting time for chess. We are witnessing the brink of technology’s influence on chess education. New websites and applications are emerging at a fast rate and are providing greater value and power for the learning chess player. Today, I can walk around with a 7-million game database and an engine as strong as IBM’s Deep Blue in my back pocket. A couple decades ago, this would be unimaginable.

With the sheer amount of information across the web, it’s difficult to see how books can compete. Will chess books go extinct? Probably not anytime soon. To be fair, books are still a valuable resource — especially the classics. They offer guidance and specializations in certain areas that could be difficult to locate online. Just go ahead and check out any book by Mark Dvoretsky.

However, the popularity of physical chess books is certainly declining. If I were to read a chess book, I would much rather have it in a digital format where I could interactively play through the moves. As a chess player it is important to leverage the available resources and technologies to facilitate engaging learning and further improvement. 

Eric Rosen is an international master and a member of the Webster University Chess Team. In 2011, he won the National K-12 Championships with a perfect 7/7 score. In addition to being an active tournament player, Rosen coaches students from all over the world via the internet.