What is a Book Move in Chess? 

what is a book move in chess

Chess beginners find it hard in many ways. Sometimes it’s the code like chess notations; sometimes, it’s confusing chess terms.

When I first began playing chess online (that’s how I started), I was literally bamboozled with the names of opening strategies and the term “book move.”

Everybody uses the term “book move” in the world of chess. It might take a while to learn what is a book move in chess, but if you’re wondering what the heck is that, I can help you.

What is a Book Move in Chess?

A book move is a standard/popular move in opening theory. In simpler words, a book move is an opening move from a book (of chess theories). These moves belong to opening strategies such as the London System, Sicilian defense, and King’s Indian defense written in some chess books.

For example, as demonstrated in the below image, NF3 is a book move.

It’s a move in the King’s pawn opening.


Sometimes, when a player plays book moves, they’re called “book” (in short). When they begin to play their moves in a game, they’re said to play “out of book.”

Which opening strategy has the fewest book moves?

The opening strategies with the fewest book moves are the French defense (1.e4 e6) and the Sicillian defense (1.e4 c5).

1. French Defense

2. Sicilian Defense


Read: How to Beat Sicilian Defense?

Which opening strategy has the highest number of book moves?

The Ruy López Opening: Marshall, Main line, Spassky Variation has the highest number of book moves, 36 moves.

The moves are:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Be3 Bg4 16.Qd3 Rae8 17.Nd2 Re6 18.a4 Qh5

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Origin of “Book Moves”

The term book moves go back to the time when opening theories were learned from only a few chess books. In recent times, even though chess moves of opening strategies are available in video formats, blogs, databases, and e-books, chess players continue to use the term.

1. When was the First Book Move Invented?

Chess books like Kitab-ash-Shatranj, Kitab mansubat ash-shatranj, and Libre dels jochs partits dels schacs en nombre de 100 by Francesch Vicent are the oldest books to describe chess openings. However, the two former books didn’t follow the modern chess rules, and the latter is a lost book.

The chess book that followed modern rules and provided systematic information on chess openings is the Göttingen manuscript by an unknown author. It was the first chess book to explain 12 chess openings, along with the moves. These moves are the first set of book moves.

The first book move was invented in 1471 when the Göttingen manuscript was written.
 Göttingen Model Book.
Double page of the Göttingen Model Book. Fol. 7v-8r. (Source: gutenbergdigital.de)

2. Which is the Oldest Book Move?

Göttingen manuscript included the following chess openings:

  1. Damiano Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6)
  2. Philidor Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6), example favoring White
  3. Giuoco Piano (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5)
  4. Petrov Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6)
  5. Bishop’s Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4)
  6. Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 Classical Defence)
  7. Ponziani Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3)
  8. Philidor Defence, example favoring Black
  9. Queen’s Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4)
  10. 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Bf5 (a form of the London System)
  11. Bird’s Opening (1.f4)
  12. English Opening (1.c4)
The oldest book moves are 1. e4 e5, the King’s Pawn opening.

It’s the first move in the earliest opening strategies, such as Philidor defense, Ruy Lopez, Ponziani Opening, and the most chess openings mentioned in Göttingen’s manuscript.

The second most old book moves are 1. d4 d5.

Did you know Queen Nefertiti in 1300 BC played chess?
Unbelievable but it’s true that Chess goes back so far in history.

Why is it Important to Play Book Moves in Chess?

what is book move in chess

We need to play book moves for the same reason we play opening strategies. The book moves are the standard pathways of playing chess. I think there’re primarily two reasons to advocate book moves:

1. Learning book moves helps to a strategic position in a chess game

As you already know, chess is a game about strategies. It was invented by copying the military positions in a war. So, if you can’t strategize well, you will reach nowhere in a game.

Therefore, it’s super important to learn book moves so that you can plan your future moves and attacks by creating a mind map based on the book moves.

For instance, if you play 1. e4 in a game, you must back it up by playing 2. Bd3 or 2. Nc3.

2. Learning book moves gives clarity to the game

Undoubtedly, a chess game is the most confusing activity for a beginner. You may begin with 1. d4 e5 (Englund Gambit), and by mistake, if you play 2. Nf3, your king (white) is under check in the very next move–2…Bb4+.

Learning book moves in a chess book is the healthiest practice for every chess beginner. It will help you understand the lines and variations each move can open for you. Also, you should also learn how famous chess players used particular book moves to win.

learning piano

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What is the last book move in chess?

The last book move in any chess game is the move a player plays from an opening chess strategy or variation before jumping with their own moves. Make sure you don’t play the last book move before you have a plan to successfully reach the endgame or at least play the middlegame.

Are book moves the best moves?

Book moves are not the best moves if you’re Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen, or a computer. For the rest of us, book moves are as essential as classical music to music.

I always suggest getting familiar with the book moves first before trying out your own moves in the tournaments. In case you’re playing on online websites as a guest and rating doesn’t matter yet, then you can go ahead without knowing any book moves.

What are the best book moves in chess?

The best book moves in chess are the moves in the strategies like Sicilian defense, King’s Indian defense, Queen’s Gambit, Ruy Lopez, etc.


Dear readers, consider book moves as the ABCs of chess playing. Your performance will improve based on how fast you get aware of the book moves.

I recommend learning 1. e4 e5 and the variations that lead to different opening strategies. Trust me, King’s Pawn openings are the primary lesson of chess openings. It can lead to the Italian game, Philidor defense, Petrov defense, Ruy Lopez, etc.

See you in the next blog; till then, keep chessing!


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