Videos About Chess Vs. Chess Books: Which is Better?

When I was a kid I didn’t really have much interest in chess. However, I am a pretty observant kid, I have seen many chess books being read by our neighbors and geeking about it.

When I watch them play against my brother (who already likes chess since way back) they would perform like monsters.

Their play is definitely stronger than average, they have the magic of chess books. This was when the internet was still young though, nowadays there is another medium that is gaining popularity.

I am talking about chess videos, they are now becoming more popular over the past few years.

I think I want to discuss which is better between the two. I have obviously watched a couple of videos about chess, but I have also touched a chess book since then.

This article will provide an interesting insight about this topic. With all of that in mind, let’s begin.

What are the benefits of watching a chess video?

There are definitely many benefits in watching a chess video. Chess is a very visual game, so many things are happening on the board at the same time.

With so many pieces it is significantly harder to keep track of all the moves, people need a reference point. If you read a chess book, it is much harder to follow the lesson since you only get diagrams plus the moves in the position.

With a chess video you will have the opportunity to see everything from a bird’s eye view, you don’t have to use your imagination.

There are many chess players that can recreate positions from the top of their head, yes, but I bet most people cannot do that.

Visualizing many positions takes years of training, something that a lot of people do not have. When you watch a video about chess, it is much easier to understand since you don’t have to visualize.

You literally just have to look at the video in order to understand what is going on, you don’t have to use your brain.

This way you are able to focus your attention on actually understanding the lessons instead of just trying to recreate the moves.

This is probably the biggest advantage of watching a chess video over reading a chess book, your attention is much more focused. Some will be so distracted from not being able to recreate the position that they will actually skip over the lessons.

With a chess video (or even a youtube video) you will be able to focus on the most important thing, which is learning of course.

With all of these benefits in mind, I still think that reading a chess book is better overall. 

Why should you read a chess book instead?

Being able to visualize a position is important, yes, but reading a chess book offers far more benefits. It is definitely easier to learn from a video than from a chess book, but I would say that the difference is not that much.

Most chess books will be confusing at first, this is normal. But over time you will naturally be able to recreate the positions on top of your head, you will understand the lessons this way.

There are many tips that are available for those who have trouble reading a chess book for the first time. The most popular one is just having a chessboard nearby where you can recreate the position.

This way you were able to recreate the position in the book with ease. First you read off the moves, then you play it on your chess board for you to follow manually. But why do this you ask?

Well, it is a part of your training.

Visualization is very important in chess, it is a leading facet to developing your intuition. Just think about why you are trying to read the chess book in the first place, it is to improve right?

Some consider the difficulty to be a downside, but to me it is just a feature that can be harnessed if viewed the right way.

Watching chess videos is easier, but in terms of impact, reading chess books is better. It is like the difference between getting spoon-fed vs. getting out there and trying to put food on the table on your own.

You will struggle with visualization at first but you will become better over time, there’s definitely more value in reading a chess book. 

Which medium is more economically viable?

This is another thing to consider, which between the two mediums are more viable economically?

Basically in which medium will you get the most value for your money? The undisputed answer is of course, the chess book. Some people do not know this, but a book of texts is much more compact than an hour of video presentation.

This article for example can be extended for an hour if given as a video presentation, if you speak normally of course.

This is pretty bad since the length of this article is definitely nothing compared to a chess book, a real book is much more dense and informative.

If you take a very long video presentation and convert its speech into text format, I can assure you that a chess book will still have more words. In order to write a whole chess book, the author needs to put as much information as they can on each page.

Tell me about a book that only has 100 words in its pages? Extremely rare right?

So where am I going with this?

My point is that since chess books contain more information than chess videos, you will get more value for every money you invest in it.

In fact, having three chess books might be the only thing you need in your entire lifetime. Since they are more informative, you will get more value overall.

Another factor is the prizes, chess courses are definitely getting more expensive than chess books. I have seen a course that cost 700 dollars which is crazy, tell me where can I see a price tag like that on a chess book.

An alternative is watching youtube videos for free, you can learn a lot from watching Gotham Chess for example. The only problem is you would be getting generalized advice rather than specific ones, which is probably not for serious players.

However this is still a good option if you are not that serious about chess, depending on what works for you. If you are not seeing an improvement, enrolling in an actual chess course might be necessary. 

Will reading chess books make you stronger?

People who have acquired their skills from reading chess books come out stronger in my experience.

Reading a chess book is difficult, but the difficulty is actually what makes it a good thing. In order to get good at chess you need to be able to feel the board, and even look ahead in the future to make the right decisions.

Chess players don’t really look ahead that much, however you still need to be able to see some 4-5 moves ahead in order to play well.

People who have finished reading chess books don’t have trouble with this, this is literally what they have trained for. These kinds of chess players also have a better intuition overall.

They take every lesson they can get fmto heart and they rarely forget it, they can apply the lessons on real games as well.

I am not saying that you cannot be strong from watching chess videos, I am just saying that chess books are better in this aspect.

It is like a spartan being raised in the woods vs. a reserve being trained in a local barrack. One gets to see the harshness of life while the other gets basic training.

This can of course backfire if the person just doesn’t have what it takes to read a chess book, in that case switching over might be necessary. 

Which medium is recommended for beginners?

Hey, let’s be honest, not everyone can read a chess book. Chess is already confusing as it is, putting in another obstacle might apply information overload to an individual.

I would say that if you can read a chess book then you should, it is better. However, from my experience looking at these new chess players, I think that they don’t have what it takes to read a book.

What I mean is they usually want it easy, they do not want to suffer. I think that if you force them to read a chess book,  they will actually quit playing eventually. Most people are not serious about chess.

They have a day job and personal responsibilities, they don’t have the willingness to suffer during their free time. They might find chess interesting but they don’t want to commit too much, which is understandable.

In our modern age anything that comes difficult does not reach popularity, chess videos are popular for a reason.

This is why I actually advise watching chess videos as a beginner, it will make your life easier. You don’t have to recreate the positions on the chessboard or anything like that, you just listen and learn.

This way you will not be bored of chess and would be willing to continue, you will still learn a lot anyway.

I just suggest that you really listen to the lessons, since videos are less informative you don’t want to lose any.

You should also choose a good video to listen to, something that has some effort put into it. With the right video, I think you can be just fine. 

Will chess videos take over chess books in the near future?

Throughout reading this article you might think that I am just here to trash talk chess videos. This is obviously not true, obviously chess videos have their place when you are trying to learn.

In fact I think that eventually, chess videos will become the most popular medium of learning, much more than chess books.

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be people who will prefer reading chess books over watching chess videos.

But as I have said before, the difficult path will never become the most popular, people want the easy path. Chess videos are easier to consume since you don’t have to visualize, this means that this is probably the future of learning chess.

I suspect that new players will favor watching chess videos more and more, some youtube videos about chess are already reaching millions of views. I think that it will not completely replace chess books, but it will definitely become more popular.

Chess books will still have a market for really serious players, but it will probably be small.

Chess videos will take over chess books in the sense that it will become more popular, but not enough to completely wipe chess books out of the market.


Overall, reading a chess book is better than watching chess videos. The information contained within a chess book is much more compact, you will learn more by reading a chess book.

Another thing that you can learn from reading chess books is visualization. Since there are no chess boards, in order for you to understand the position you have to recreate them yourself, this training will make you significantly better.

As good as chess books sound though, I don’t think that they are the future, what makes it good is also what makes it unpopular.

Chess books definitely created stronger players, however it is just harder and “boring” for most people. Watching chess videos is much more convenient, the positions are easier to understand.

I think that chess videos will be the future of chess just because of this. People want it easy, so that is what they will prefer.

I don’t think that it will completely wipe chess books off the market, but chess videos will definitely become more popular. That is all for this article, thank you for reading.