A search for "chess" yields 7840 hits, but the vast majority list "no preview available," "snippet view" (meaning they are searchable but with limited access to the original text), or "limited preview." Only those books very much out of copyright are available in full text. These include Philidor's Chess Analyzed and The Elements of Chess, Staunton's Chess Player's Companion and Chess Praxis, Steinit'z Modern Chess Instructor, Bird's Chess History and Reminiscinces, Walker's Chess and Chess Players, and Edge's The Exploits and Trimphs...of Paul Morphy. As this brief list suggests, there are many joys for the chess historian or antiquary who now has easy access to texts he could previously have seen only by visiting the Special Collections of some inaccessible library. Those interested in free access to the latest opening theory will have to buy some books. But those interested in history and knowledge will find some occasional free treats, such as:
- James and Timbrell Pierce's book on The Pierce Gambit (1888) which analyzes their line in the Vienna opening 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.Nf3 g5 5.d4 g4 6.Bc4! etc.
- Franklin Knowles Young's The Major Tactics of Chess: A Treatise on Evolutions, which tries to analyze tactical themes using mathematical formulas.
- Elijah Williams's The Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club which contains 100 games, many at odds.
- You can also browse the nearly 700 pages of the American Chess Magazine (1898 - PDF), which is like a window into chess of 110 years ago, complete with annotated games, reports, short stories, feature articles, problems, and other materials that have otherwise inaccessible. The out-of-copyright player portraits alone are a boon to internet chess publishers. You can also find a year each of The Chess Journal and British Chess Journal.
Among the books with limited preview, there are also some nice things. Dover Books editions will sometimes have quite extensive previews. These include:
- Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by David Bronstein, which offers the full annotations of a number of games (all available at Chessgames.com for easy reference).
- Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev offers a number of examples (in English Descriptive).
- Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces by Hans Kmoch, which includes his complete notes to Rotlewi-Rubinstein, Lodz 1907.
In the end, anyone who trolls through Google Books in search of chess will know that the concept's promise is much greater than what it currently delivers. I'll have to check back next year to see if they have managed to make any more progress toward that goal.