Are chess audiobooks worth a try? (Sound learning)

If you are a fan of audiobooks then you might have wondered if there are any on chess-related topics, I just discovered this kind of medium and I am already fascinated.

Learning chess by listening, that’s something that I wouldn’t even imagine to be possible when I was just starting to learn.

So how was it? Are chess audiobooks worth a try? Here is what I know:

Chess audiobooks are an excellent medium when it comes to information that surrounds chess stories, history, novels, psychological tricks, general things, chess rules, and how chess applies to life, although concepts that require a demonstration board are harder to understand.

I think this is an important discussion if we are ever to consider learning with chess, we want to explore everything that can be used. So I made this article if you are interested in this!

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Which kind of chess audiobook do learners need to avoid?

Some chess audiobooks contain notations that demonstrate a particular idea, a lot of people are not satisfied with this information in audiobook form since the ideas are harder to follow.

This is the first obstacle that comes to my mind when I have thought of this article, which is learning a visual game by audio.

Chess is naturally a visual game where positions can mostly be seen with the eyes, something that an audiobook cannot provide (images).

However learning with sound is actually possible due to chess notations that indicate a particular position, although I do believe that this is not enough to make a chess audiobook worth a try.

There are audiobooks out there that contain chess notations (to explain a particular concept) which are really not applicable in audiobooks, you should avoid materials like these.

Most people who want to learn chess are beginners (obviously) and are not well-versed with following notations.

This means that you have to learn chess notations first (which you should eventually) and layout a board while listening to the idea which makes this somewhat feasible.

However why go through all of this trouble if you can just go for a video course or an ebook? An audiobook just makes things harder.

A lot of people have actually regretted buying an audiobook like this since they didn’t learn much during the duration of the discussion (which is something you don’t want).

Audiobooks with chess notations require a competitive player

The question becomes if a learner is actually quite adept in understanding chess notations, is listening to an audiobook a good option? 

If you are an experienced competitor (with mastery of chess notations) then sure, you can find value in purchasing audiobooks, but why make it a pain when you can go for a book, ebook, or video courses instead?

Video courses and ebooks are much more fast-paced in expressing practical ideas than an audiobook, only particular topics really work in audiobook form (which I will discuss later).

However if you just hate reading then an audiobook may still be a good choice (if you can follow the chess notations), just make sure that you are a quick learner and are comfortable with learning through audio.

Visual ideas are harder to learn in audiobook form

Chess is just a visual in nature, if you are looking to learn openings or a really practical concept then a video course is more conclusive (learning with sound is difficult in chess).

Imagine learning an opening through an audiobook, you will mostly get a bunch of chess notations throughout the discussion that is given (usually) in a very quick manner. This is something that beginners can’t follow and I don’t recommend.

So if the topics of the audiobook you are looking to get are something that needs a demonstration board, then I suggest you shouldn’t get it, however there are chess topics that are doing well in an audiobook form.

Which topics about chess are really good in audiobook form?

Topics about chess that work well in an audiobook form are about chess history, chess matches or legacy, general role of the pieces, psychological tricks about chess, chess rules, chess novels, and how chess relates to life.

One chess audiobook that is worth trying is those that involve any form of chess history, that is a topic where you don’t really have to look at a board to understand the story.

If you are going to buy an ebook about chess history it wouldn’t really be much different in an audiobook form, there isn’t that much demonstration needed.

It basically is the same as buying a regular textbook and putting it in an audiobook form, it takes away the visual nature of chess.

And trust me there are a lot of gold stories that revolve around chess history (a lot of people are interested in it), so it is not an unpopular topic that not a lot of people would care about, it is actually what some people are looking for.

Something like how computers dominate chess (discussing how chess engines have become better than humans) is a good read that a lot of chess enthusiasts will be interested in buying.

Watching videos about chess is an alternative to audiobooks. See this comparison that I have made between chess videos and chess books for more information.

Chess topics on legacy are good in audiobook form

There are audiobooks out there that are talking about the intricacies of a particular tournament or legacy, something where the actual games do not matter, I think this is one of the best topics you could pick for an audiobook.

One of the most popular examples is how Bobby Fischer conquered the world during his climb to become a world champion, this is a topic that would do well in an audiobook. 

It is a subject where the story will not be discussed in a move-by-move manner, the author can just gloss over the actual matches and provide some general descriptions.

And in fact, a lot of successful chess audiobooks go by that idea (without chess notations) and were able to tell a really good story.

If you think about it, legacy topics are not much different from discussing chess history, although it only revolves around a specific tournament, match, or a player’s career where some of the games might be mentioned.

General rules of the pieces are good in audiobooks

I have seen some audiobooks where the author is talking about particular roles of the pieces rather than board applications, this is a good example of learning with audiobooks without having a demonstration board.

Things like the objectives of the knight and where it should be in the opening, middlegame, and endgame, as well as some tips that don’t involve a demonstration board. 

These may be tips of when and when not to trade pieces, the pros and cons of castling, etc. something that doesn’t necessarily need a positional example. 

Beginner concepts work great in this since it’s better to introduce general ideas to someone just starting rather than the exact movement of the pieces (in order for them to not be confused). I have seen a lot of people be satisfied with this so it might work for you.

Psychological chess audiobooks are great

If you have explored some of the chess topics that you can get a course for, one of the subjects you will encounter is the psychological parts of chess (this is important if you are competing in tournaments).

Psychological tricks from experienced titled players can also be a good audiobook since a demonstration board is not necessary.

It can be in a discussion form where the learners can just listen without having to absorb chess notations all over the place. Anything that is about the tips/tricks part should apply without a problem to audiobooks.

When something is taken from experience it is more of a story than the actual intricacies of the game, therefore something that can be discussed without needing a positional example. 

Psychological tips/tricks fall in this category since it’s talking about the mindset more than practical positions involved in the game.

Rules about chess are great in audiobook form

Another topic that is applicable to this is chess rules, perhaps it is a basic one or some unnoticeable tournament rules that you don’t really need a visual representation for the concepts.

It could be really basic rules that apply to the general game of chess (touch-move rule, checkmate, check, etc.) where it can be thoroughly explained in detail without having an actual board.

Or it could be some ninja tournament rules for players who are starting to participate in tournaments.

I have engaged in tournament play before, so I know that there are a lot of rules that are not explained completely which could fit in an entire audiobook. 

I would even argue that in this topic particularly (rules) audiobooks are much better than textbooks since you can absorb the information faster without going back and forth throughout the text.

Chess novels will work in an audiobook

Chess novels fictional or not can be in a form of an audiobook that is actually worth purchasing, especially if it is something popular that a lot of people may like.

Novels such as the queen’s gambit by Walter Tevis are an excellent example of this, something that will work through audio.

Related: Is the Film Queen’s Gambit a True Story? An Analysis!

As long as it is written in a way where chess notations are not the primal focus (chess novels do not focus on chess notations for the most part) then it will apply without a problem.

It is not much different than listening to an audiobook of other novels, the theme will revolve around the story, not around actual games.

This will make it enjoyable to listen to (without being too confusing) since the listeners will be captivated by the storytelling without many over-the-board instructions.

Chess audiobooks that are not directly related to chess

There are some audiobooks where the topic includes chess, but are not directly about chess such as the “usefulness of chess to the world”, this is also a great topic since you don’t need anything visual to enjoy the narrative.

I found out a lot of these materials fall into the philosophical category, where the discussion will be mostly in text form. When something is in text form it can easily be narrated through audio without having the listeners confused.

The only reason why some chess audiobooks do not work is because of the limitation of audio to board applications (topics that need demonstration) if the topic is philosophical then there will be no positional examples.

Do you now know if chess audiobooks are worth a try?

The world has really far advanced the era where textbooks are the only source of information, now we have to consider new resources that can be an option.

Listening through audio has only been available with modern technology that we have now, oral recitation can only be possible with physical contact then.

Right now you can listen to somebody discuss a topic that you like through an audiobook, it is here and here to stay in the future.

This source of information might be more applicable in the topic that I have discussed above, and something that you might consider.

Just be wary that you shouldn’t buy one that involves a lot of chess notations. I hope you’re satisfied, sleep well and play chess.