Recommended Books

Books on chess composition published by commercial publishers are rare. Most problems books are published by small specialist publishers and are not to be found in mainstream bookshops. Many are out of print, and consequently acquiring problem books, especially older ones, can take some work. Some, however, can be downloaded from the web, and the website of Czech composer Václav Kotěšovec is a goldmine for older material.

Personal collections of British composers

  • The Chessboard Adventures of Norman Macleod, edited by John Rice. Editions FEE-NIX 1997; 308 pages.
    A collection of the work of Norman Macleod (1927-91), the most versatile British composer of his time. It includes a biography, tributes and obituaries, and a selection of lectures and articles by the late composing GM.
  • Chess problem spectrum by John Rice Editions FEE-NIX 2003 38 pages.
    A collection by Britain’s leading all-round contemporary composer, who holds the title of GM for composition. It covers his first 50 years of composition.
  • Selected chess problems of Colin Sydenham. Lulu Press 2014, 229 problems, ISBN 9781326450618.
    Colin Sydenham is one of the finest British composers of the last 40 years, active in a number of genres.
  • Mostly Three-Movers: Collected chess problems 1939-93 by R. C. O. Matthews Editions FEE-NIX 1995; 184 pages.
    Robin Matthews (1927-2010) was one of the world’s leading composers of three-movers. This volume contains all of his published problems up to 1993.
  • B. P. Barnes His collected problems by Barry Barnes. 522 diagrams. Privately published 2017.
    The author’s complete output.
  • Complete Mansfield. The collected chess problems of Grandmaster Comins Mansfield MBE in three volumes Vol 1 1911-1930, Vol 2 1931-1962, Vol 3 1963-1984.Annotated by Barry Barnes. Waterthorpe 1996, 1997, 1999. 731 problems in total.
    Comins Mansfield (1896-1984) is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever composers of two-move problems. This three-volume collection was assembled from his personal records.


  • Black to play by C.J.Feather 1994, revised version, downloadable from the Julia’s Fairies website .
    As essential work for fans of the helpmate. The only general introduction in English, it is written in a questioning and sometimes subversive style, challenging the solver/reader to look deeper into the workings of the hundreds of examples shown.
  • Das Matt des weissen Konigs by Friedrich Chlubna, Vienna 1995. ISBN 3 9500310 3 0; 160 pages, in German.
    An instructive introduction to selfmates which illustrates the wide variety of ideas characteristic of the genre. Also includes chapters on the selfmate maximummer and the reflexmate.
  • Endgame magic by John Beasley & Timothy Whitworth. Dover 2017 ISBN 0-486-81934-4; Second Edition. 192 pages.
    An excellent introduction to studies by two experts in the genre.
  • Endgame challenge by John Nunn, Gambit 2002. ISBN 1 901983 83 8; 256 pages.
    A collection of the author’s choice of the best 250 studies ever composed, fully analysed.
  • The art of the endgame by Jan Timman New in Chess 2011. ISBN 978 90 5691 369 4.
    An entertaining personal collection by the famous Dutch player, who has been a very active study composer in recent years.


  • The Encyclopaedia of Chess Problems: Themes and Terms (Chess Informant 2012, 520 pages, hardback) by Milan Velimirović and Kari Valtonen.
    The most comprehensive guide in English to problem terminology. Fully illustrated with example problems.
  • Schach fur Nussknacker by Friedrich Chlubna, Vienna 1994.
    ‘Chess for nutcrackers’ is a general guide to chess problems, written not for problem experts but for over-the-board players, to demonstrate the beauties of ‘chess without a partner’.
  • Adventures in Composition by Comins Mansfield. Overbrook Series 1944.
    A classic volume by Britain’s first composing Grandmaster, which sets out to teach the reader how to compose two-movers. Downloadable from Václav Kotěšovec’s website.
  • Solving in style by John Nunn, Gambit 2016. 320 diagrams.
    Kindle edition of a book originally published in 1985. A thorough guide to the techniques of solving chess problems by a three-times solving World Champion.
  • Secrets of Spectacular Chess by Jonathan Levitt and David Friedgood 2nd edition.
    A highly original and thought-provoking work in which the authors expound their theory of chess aesthetics. They discuss the elements of chess beauty and offer a wide range of examples of spectacular chess from games and various types of composition
  • Chess Problems: Tasks and records by Jeremy Morse 3rd edition 2016. 478 pages, 969 diagrams. ISBN 978 1785891 434.
    The chess problem equivalent of the Guinness Book of Records! Task problems are positions which feature maximum effects, and Sir Jeremy Morse was the world’s leading expert on the subject. A thorough survey of two-move tasks, with supplementary chapters on other genres.
  • Miniature chess problems by Colin Russ. St.Martin’s Press, New York 1981. ISBN 0 312 53370 5; 262 pages.
    Miniature compositions (using 7 or fewer pieces) are a great favourite with both solvers and composers, and this volume containing 400 directmates of all lengths is one of the most entertaining collections.
  • Pick of the best chess problems, compiled by Barry Barnes. Revised edition, Elliot Right Way books 1991. ISBN 0 7160 2002 5; 158 pages.
    White to play and mate in two, compiled by Barry Barnes. Elliot Right Way Books 1991. ISBN 0 7160 2001 7; 156 pages.
    Two collections of Meredith two-movers (using from 8 to 12 pieces) containing 200 and 150 problems respectively, fully explained in light-hearted style by the compiler.


  • The chess problem by H. G. M. Weenink Christmas series 1926. 318 pages, 374 diagrams.
    Another classic, which remains essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the chess problem. Downloadable from Václav Kotěšovec’s website.
  • Versunkene Schatze: Problemkunst von 1891-1913, by Friedrich Chlubna. Vienna 1998. ISBN 3 9500310 6 5; 160 pages, in German.
    The ‘Sunken treasures’ are 350 chess problems from the period 1891 to 1913 which deserve to survive. The period before 1914 is poorly documented in modern chess problem literature, so this book fills a gap!
  • A Cleric’s Idea, which made History. The new German chess problem, origin, basic principles and concepts. By Herbert Grasemann Editions FEE-NIX 2014. 200 pages.
    A reprint of Grasemann’s 1981 book, with additional material by Hans Peter Rehm and Stephan Eisert. A comprehensive history and explanation of the values of the New German School of composition.

Developed and maintained by Brian Stephenson.