Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Immortal Game

I'd like to highly recommend the book I'm finishing right now: The Immortal Game - a History of Chess, by David Shenk.

No, you don't need to love chess to admire this book. You don't even have to know how to play it. The author traces the long (over 1500 years) history of chess and analyzes its impacts on the way we think, plan, strategize and abstract the real world.

His main question is: how could 32 carved pieces, on a 64 square board have so much impact on human intelligence? While tackling this question, Shenk covers other issues, such as:
  • Does chess really help in planning and executing real war strategies?
  • Why are so many chess grandmasters driven to mental illness?
  • Why was chess used as a propaganda tool by dictatorial regimes?
  • Does the child "chess prodigy" really exist, or is it just hard work mixed with myth?
Throughout the book, the readers will follow one particular intriguing game of chess. A practice game, held in a cafe in London between 2 European grandmasters in 1861. No one attributed any importance to this unofficial bout, but it later entered the annals of chess as the last great classical chess game - the "Immortal Game".

Along the way, the book managed to rekindle my interest in chess, history, religion and the human psyche. Give it a try and you won't regret it. A link can be found on the left - as always.

No comments: