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The Immortal Game: A History of Chess Paperback – October 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those curious about chess and wishing to learn more about the game (but not too much more) will welcome this accessible, nontechnical introduction. Shenk (The Forgetting) succinctly surveys the game's history from its origins in fifth- or sixth-century Persia up to the present, touching along the way on such subjects as his own amateurish pursuit of the game, erratic geniuses like Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer, chess in schools today, computer chess and his great-great-grandfather Samuel Rosenthal, who was an eminent player in late 19th-century Europe. To heighten the drama, Shenk intersperses the text with the moves of the so-called "immortal game," a brilliant example of "romantic" chess played between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in London in 1851. Appendixes include transcripts of five other great games, along with Benjamin Franklin's brief essay "The Morals of Chess." Readers will come away from this entertaining book with a strong sense of why chess has remained so popular over the ages and why its study still has much to tell us about the workings of the human mind. 50 b&w illus. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

David Shenk is the author of four previous books, including The Forgetting, an acclaimed study of Alzheimer's, and Data Smog, about information overload in the Internet age. The greatest asset of The Immortal Game is its accessibility. Through an educated layperson's knowledge of chess, Shenk focuses on his subject's more intriguing points and leaves arcane rehashes of famous games for more technical texts. (An appendix obliges those who revel in such details.) At its most engaging, the book meditates on the ways that chess can enrich lives. Given its brevity, Shenk's overview sometimes sacrifices depth to coverage, though such an approach barely decreases the pleasure even an interested "wood-pusher"—chess slang for a weak player—might take away from this passionate and well-researched history.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400034086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400034086
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including THE FORGETTING ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), DATA SMOG ("indispensable" - New York Times), and THE IMMORTAL GAME ("superb" - Wall Street Journal). He is a correspondent for, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US, has been called "engrossing" by Booklist (starred review) and "empowering...myth-busting" by Kirkus.

Shenk's work inspired the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary "The Forgetting," and was featured in the Oscar-nominated feature "Away From Her." He has advised the President's Council on Bioethics, and is a popular speaker. His original term "data smog" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

443 of 455 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Snyder on October 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"The Immortal Game" gives a different and intriguing insight not only into the history of chess, but points out how chess has had an impact in the lives of even non-chess players today (i.e. terminology and analogies taken from chess). It is obvious that the author (David Shenk - an established author outside of the filed of chess) has done his homework, and shows great appreciation for the 1400 year old game. His sources are documented in his sources and notes segment as well as the use of footnotes throughout the text.

Is this a dry and boring history of chess? Absolutely not! You will find numerous interesting stories about some of the top chess players in the world, but also there is a heavy focus on famous people who play chess (who didn't gain their fame from chess). The author is quick to point out when something is a "story" or "legend" and that often a certain amount may contact some fact.

Do you need to know how to play chess to enjoy and learn from this book? No! In fact as you go through the book, basic rules are pointed out. Though not intended to be a book that teaches chess, for an absolute beginner, you will be gently introduced to the basics. There are a nice number of diagrams, pictures, maps and complete games (with light analysis to make the book of interest to the casual chess player). Great detail with diagrams for every move of the "immortal game" is given in segments throughout the book - an interesting way of going through the game - you can skip over the in between pages if you want to follow the game from start to finish with a diagram for each move (the pages with the game stand out and are easy to find).
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167 of 174 people found the following review helpful By Patrick D. Goonan on October 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book because it was an excellent story written in the spirit of great fiction. It was well-organized and wove together many different threads from a variety of areas including psychology, history and culture.

The Immortal Game gives a history of chess and also presents interesting highlights of world history along the way with many insights into man's psychological constitution, proclivities, etc. It is also a cultural commentary and uses the game of chess as a metaphor. I think it's a quite clever concept for a book.

The parallels between chess as war and various military campaigns and personalities is used a lot to bring in a world history perspective. I like the way he used this theme throughout the book and he relates it back to psychological and sociological evolution in interesting ways. He also highlights the influence of the game on various world leaders throughout history.

This book is primarily geared toward novice players. This makes the book an easy read for everyone, but perhaps serious chess players would appreciate more in-depth chess specifics. There are other reviews below that place more emphasis on this dimension of the book's contents.

This thought provoking book also makes reference to some good research material on neuroplasticity, strengthening cognition, etc. The author relates some of this research to chess and speculates that chess improves memory and cognition. This is good speculation in my opinion and quite likely true. He also talks about computers and chess and references a few of the famous matches between humans and computers.

In short, this is good writing. I recommend this book highly. It is great food for thought and engages the mind in many imaginative, entertaining and informative ways.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Timothy G. Forney on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this book.It is a nice introduction to chess history and the game itself.It goes move by move with diagrams ,through the Immortal Game, played by Adolf Anderssen. It teaches you algebraic chess notation,which is the language of chess.It also teaches you the ideas behind each move.This book takes you on a journey of the game of chess, through time and many cultures .It tells of the dark side of chess ,its obsession and its madness. It also tells of the light side of chess ,its creativity, and its positive influence on human beings. He writes about its influence on children and the elderly.I could not put this book down and read it in 2 days.I found one minor notation error.This would make a great gift for a friend who may want to learn chess.I highly recommend buying this book.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By T. M. Leonard on November 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a chess player and traveler (To move or not to move, is the question!) this book gives you a solid historical perspective on the development of the great game. Curiosity drove me quickly through the book discovering new fascinating facts from geography to social and political systems. The metaphors are all there and David did his homework. It's presented in an easy mix of famous games, basic instruction and chess insight. Check it out.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Richard Matheson on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
You do not have to be a chess player to enjoy this book. In my case, however, I am a chess player and enjoyed it immensly. I read this book cover to cover in about six hours...I have never read another book so fast in my life. The story was enthralling, the writing was captivating, and the points made about Chess and its impact on our world's culture and history were quite well made.
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