From Publishers Weekly
Hoffman's masterful, exhaustive tale of chess, its soaring triumphs and crushing discontents is filled with enough international intrigue and warped, shady characters to pass for the latest James Bond sequel. Along with the stereotypical lunatic Russian grandmasters (the normally even-keeled Russian asked that his chair be X-rayed and dismantled to make sure [Bobby] Fischer hadn't implanted a harmful radiation emitter inside it), chess-crazed Bulgarians, Canadians, Libyans and the occasional American plow through the contemporary chess world in search of victory. In clear, thoughtful prose, Hoffman (The Man Who Loved Only Numbers
) describes the players—([Short] doesn't glare at his adversary, slam down the rooks, twist the knights into the board, rock back and forth, tap his feet or pace the tournament hall snorting like a feral animal) and the game ( On the seventeenth move, Vaganian made an impressive rook sacrifice to break up the advanced pawns in front of Joel's king and launch an attack). Hoffman's only misstep is to set the whole enterprise up as his own father-and-son conflict, a sticky memoir structure that detracts from the built-in appeal of the larger story. Otherwise, Hoffman has achieved something singular; a winning, book about the royal game that will satisfy the general reader, kibitzer and grandmaster alike. (Sept.)
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"If you enjoy playing chess, this will be the most fascinating, best-written book that you have ever read. If you have no interest in chess, then get ready to enjoy a fascinating, fast-moving story with unforgettable characters many of whom just happen to be chess players." -- Jared Diamond