As I read more books with middle school chess players, I get more and more curious about the game. Most recently, I read Chrystal Giles’s Not an Easy Win and the chess element was so intriguing. Unlike my little brother, I’m not a massive chess player but it’s something I’d definitely love to learn in my lifetime. For this list of middle grade books about chess, I’ve compiled a small group of fiction and non-fiction titles centered around the game.
Fiction Chess Books for Middle Schoolers
Here are some middle grade books about chess (fiction):
Published: March 26, 2019
Clea can’t control her thoughts. She knows she has to do her homework . . . but she gets distracted. She knows she can’t just say whatever thought comes into her head . . . but sometimes she can’t help herself. She know she needs to focus . . . but how can she do that when the people around her are always chewing gum loudly or making other annoying noises?
It’s starting to be a problem-not just in school, but when Clea’s playing chess or just hanging out with her best friend. Other kids are starting to notice. When Clea fails one too many tests, her parents take her to be tested, and she finds out that she has ADHD, which means her attention is all over the place instead of where it needs to be.
Clea knows life can’t continue the way it’s been going. She’s just not sure how you can fix a problem that’s all in your head. But that’s what she’s going to have to do, to find a way to focus.
Not an Easy Win
Published: February 28, 2023
Lawrence is ready for a win. . . .
Nothing’s gone right for Lawrence since he had to move from Charlotte to Larenville, North Carolina, to live with his granny. When Lawrence ends up in one too many fights at his new school, he gets expelled. The fight wasn’t his fault, but since his pop’s been gone, it feels like no one listens to what Lawrence has to say.
Instead of going to school, Lawrence starts spending his days at the rec center, helping out a neighbor who runs a chess program. Some of the kids in the program will be picked to compete in the Charlotte Classic chess tournament. Could this be Lawrence’s chance to go home?
Lawrence doesn’t know anything about chess, but something about the center—and the kids there—feels right. Lawrence thought the game was over . . . but does he have more moves left than he thought?
The Verdigris Pawn
Published: July 13, 2021
A boy who underestimates his power . . .
A girl with a gift long thought lost . . .
A Land ready for revolution . . .
The heir to the Land should be strong. Fierce. Ruthless. At least, that’s what Beau’s father has been telling him his whole life, since Beau is the exact opposite of what the heir should be. With little control over his future, Beau is kept locked away, just another pawn in his father’s quest for ultimate power.
That is, until Beau meets a girl who shows him the secrets his father has kept hidden. For the first time, Beau begins to question everything he’s ever been told and sets off in search of a rebel who might hold the key to setting things right.
Teaming up with a fiery runaway boy, their mission quickly turns into something far greater as sinister forces long lurking in the shadows prepare to make their final move—no matter what the cost. But it just might be Beau who wields the power he seeks . . . if he can go from pawn to player before the Land tears itself apart.
City Spies: Forbidden City
Published: February 1, 2022
After taking down a mole within their organization, the City Spies are ready for their next mission—once again using their unique skills and ability to infiltrate places adults can’t. The sinister Umbra has their sights set on recruiting a North Korean nuclear physicist by any means necessary, and the City Spies plan to keep an eye on his son by sending Paris to the chess prodigy’s tournaments in Moscow and Beijing.
Meanwhile, Sydney’s embedded as a junior reporter for a teen lifestyle site as she follows the daughter of a British billionaire on tour with the biggest act on her father’s music label to uncover what links both the band and the billionaire have to a recent threat from an old Soviet missile base.
From a daring break-in at one of London’s most exclusive homes to a dangerous undercover mission to a desperate search and rescue operation on the streets of Beijing, the City Spies have their work cut out for them on their most dangerous mission yet.
Published: November 8, 2007
Three moves is all it takes to change the outcome of the game.
In Marcus’s world, battles are fought every day on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister’s death and his father’s absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.
One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the chess board. Guarded and distrusting, Marcus must endure more hard lessons before he can accept CM’s help to regain control of his life.
Published: September 6, 2022
Clementine is different from other mice: she can calculate the speed of light and she dreams in Latin. The scientists say she’s a genius and put her through test after test. Clementine is proud of being a good lab mouse, but she’s lonely. Her only snatches of friendship occur during her late-night visits with a chimpanzee named Rosie. When a compassionate lab technician frees Clementine, the mouse discovers an outside world full of wonders: Brussels sprouts, games of speed chess, television fame, and a chance for a real home. But for Clementine, it’s not enough to be free when she knows that Rosie and the other mice are not. This tender, lively adventure story, narrated in letters from a mouse to a chimpanzee, shows us that goodness is something we have to define for ourselves—and that courage and wisdom aren’t proportionate to size.
Non Fiction Chess Books for Tweens
Here are some middle grade books about chess (non-fiction):
My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles
Published: April 14, 2020
At eight years old, Tani Adewumi, a refugee, won the 2019 New York State Chess Championship after playing the game for only a year–and while homeless.
Tani and his family fled Boko Haram’s reign of terror in Nigeria to come to the United States, where they lived in a New York City homeless shelter while waiting to be granted religious asylum. Tani began attending a public elementary school and decided he wanted to join the chess program, but it required a fee. Tani’s mother reached out to the coach, who offered Tani a scholarship–and a year later the young immigrant became a chess champion.
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess (Chess for Kids)
Published: October 1, 1998
This is a chess book for everyone, from eight to eighty, beginner to master. In a clear, easy-to-follow format it explains how the best way to beat a stronger opponent (be it a friend, clubmate – or Dad!) is by cleverly forcing checkmate. Delightful and instructive positions from real games are used to show the 50 Deadly Checkmates that chess masters use to win their games.
For the beginner, simply learning the checkmating ideas and enjoying the examples will help develop the tactical skills needed to carry out attacks, combinations and sacrifices.
For the advanced player, many of these checkmating ideas will come as a revelation, having never been categorized before. Experts agree that pattern-recognition is vital to success in chess, and this book provides a wealth of valuable patterns.
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess makes improving easy and fun, and is full of helpful explanations and practical advice on how to approach chess games with confidence – and success.
Grandmaster Murray Chandler finished second in the World Cadet Championship in 1976, ahead of Garry Kasparov, whom he defeated in their individual game. He remains to this day one of the few players in the world with a 100% score against Kasparov. He was a key member of the England team that won the silver medals in Chess Olympiads three times during the 1980s, and went on to captain the team in 1994. He is a former proprietor and Editor-in-Chief of the British Chess Magazine and the author of several bestselling chess books.
The Batsford Book of Chess for Children New Edition: Beginner’s chess for kids
Published: August 9, 2022
Aimed at children aged 7 and up, this character-based book is a complete guide to chess for those starting out in the game. In straightforward, animated language, Jess and Jamie – two rough-and-tumble kids who are obsessed with chess – explain everything you need to know, from first sitting down at the board to sneaky tricks to help you beat your opponents.
The book explains who the pieces are and how they move (and that we’re talking about pawns, not prawns), how to reach checkmate (or, in Jess’s words, ‘how to kill the king’), and the concept of the opening, middlegame and endgame. It also introduces the idea of chess etiquette – and explains why sometimes no one wins and a game ends in stalemate.
Friendlier and funnier than the average children’s chess book, The Batsford Book of Chess for Children is an essential addition to any child’s bookshelf.
Chess is experiencing a new wave of popularity in schools, and it’s educational too. Organisations like Chess in Schools are promoting it as the perfect way to develop analytical thinking skills, increase resilience, foster the competitive instinct – and provide a lot of fun along the way.
Chess for Kids
Published: January 10, 2001
Master one of the world’s most fascinating games — chess!
Learn how to play chess through this fun, illustrated chess guide! A board game like no other, chess challenges young minds to think strategically about moves by applying the principles of chess to their club games, tournaments and championships.
Take your skills even further by gaining a deeper appreciation for the aim of the game and tactics. The chess book for kids age 9 and older includes:
• Chessboard graphics that show how to apply the principles you learn in real-life game situations
• A breakdown of the value, importance and role of each piece
• A history section provides background on the game and its origins, reflecting the latest changes in the game and how it’s played
International chess master and tutor Michael Basman show you everything you need to know to improve your tactics and win more games. Go from beginner chess player to chess champion by following the expert advice in Chess for Kids. Soon you’ll know the difference between chess pieces (your bishop from your knight!) and how to use them strategically, when to use the castling move and how to counter the Queen’s Gambit.
Dive into the history of chess and learn from the greatest players and games. Before explaining techniques, the book builds your fundamental knowledge of chess and boosts your understanding of its value, power and importance. Chessboard graphics illustrate different scenarios so you can visualize different chess moves and their potential outcomes and learn the best move to make in any given situation.
Chess for Kids: How to Play and Win
Published: October 28, 2010
This is the perfect introduction to chess for children from the age of seven upwards. The book contains 30 short lessons, starting with learning about the board and the pieces, then the moves of each piece in turn, then the vital concepts of check, checkmate and stalemate, and finally basic strategy and thinking skills. Quizzes and puzzles reinforce what the children learn.
The book uses the characters of the 7-year-old twins Sam and Alice who are always arguing and fighting. They decide to join the army where they are told about an impending invasion of aliens from the planet Caïssa. The outcome of the invasion will be decided by a game of living chess. During their lessons they learn about the battlefield and the different types of soldier and get to play the part of each in turn.
There they are: 11 awesome middle grade books about chess! Which of these have you read and loved? What did I miss?
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