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Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Paperback – April 26, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
It was interesting to read chess history for the specific nations of Europe, England, Scandanavia, Spain, Italy, Russia, and the lands bordering upon the Mediterraniean Sea. Marilyn Yalom presents the archaelogical record related to the chess sets or pieces recoverd from the many nations, and adds to it, historical accounts of the chess play from around the world known at that time, through poetry and other literature and representation of chess in art work. It is an account of chess used for romance and courtship, in addition to other social discourse. It is refreshing for the ability of its author to elaborate the defining moment when chess expanded from it's slow-moving and primitive structure, to the dynamic game we know today.
There is a chess history which costs well over $70.00, besides which, chess history can lend itself to mere repetition. I appreciate this affordable and scholarly work for its distinct approach. Marilyn Yalom draws a clear distinction between chess play of the Medieval period, the players of the chess "Golden Age" (1800's ), and the highly competitive and organized event we play now. Marilyn Yalom introduces some fascinating questions regarding certain historical anomalies.Read more ›
Essentially this book is historical example after example of women in Medieval Europe who held and exercised well the reins of power. Yalom then shows a few pictures; cites a few poems and manuscripts; and eventually says that because these women were powerful that chess playing society decided to make the queen more powerful.
Yalom ignores the most compelling reason for the development of the chess queen's power: the rise of the middle class. There was no queen when the Arabs played chess; instead there was a vizier--a weak piece at best. Chess was also an extremely slow game, often taking days to play. It was played by the upper classes. It is quite natural that Western players would eventually replace the vizier with the Queen. Moreover, it is worth noting that as we see a rise in the middle class--many wanting to mirror the nobility in manners and tastes--that they, too, would play chess. But they needed a faster game, and during this time we see rapid changes in chess rules, and a steady increase in the Queen's power (bishop, too). The development was mainly for speed.
It is also of interest that Yalom so strongly claims that it was the rise of powerful women that caused the chess Queen to develop as it did, but then she ignores that line of thinking with other pieces. For example, the Bishop also gained in power during this time, but in society at large we see during this time the erosion of church power in secular affairs. If Yalom's thesis hold's true for the chess Queen, then applied to the Bishop we should see that piece losing power.Read more ›
To be honest, I've still got some misdoubts about this ... but I guess a book can't be bad if I find myself scribbling notes to myself every few pages.
I've been a chess player for nearly as long as I've known how to read, and I admit I have wondered from time to time why in a game with early Muslim roots that was popularized in Europe during the Middle Ages -- neither culture known for its egalitarian qualities -- would be so dominated by a single powerful female piece, the way the queen dominates chess.
Author and Stanford University gender scholar Marilyn Yalom's thoughts on the same subject were no doubt the starting point for this book, which is filled with information that any chess player or anyone curious about gender roles will find interesting. For example, the queen piece evolved from the vizier (a bearded male piece that was like an anemic bishop, able to move only one diagonal space in any direction), who stood next to the king in one form or another for five centuries before the queen definitively appeared. Even then, the evolution was not universal: several games using the hapless vizier are still played in the Middle East, and the game most folks now know as chess is in some cultures still called "queen's chess," treating it as a derivative of some lost standard version of the game. The first chess queen appears in the 10th or 11th century, and it seems to have taken her around 300 years to accumulate the power she has today.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A better title would have been "Chess, Queens and Women in the Middle Ages." The author never comes close to putting forth the thesis of the book meanders for pages about... Read morePublished 26 days ago by The Man in the Hathaway Shirt
The kindle version is missing all photographs so any pictorial representations of the discussed pieces and history are missing. The book is not the same without the illustrations.Published 8 months ago by Kindle Customer
Very well written and well researched. When I was first assigned the book for my class, I was a little nervous that it would be repetitive and I would get tired of reading about... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating, well written and extensively researched. Hopefully interesting enough to engage non chess players. I can't judge that.Published 15 months ago by Sydney O. Lavigne
Like all feminists, Ms. Yalom is full of penis envy. If men do it, then it must be good and women must do it too. Read morePublished on December 7, 2013 by Miles Ignotus
For all the pluses and minuses of the book (and there are many) whether you like the book or not, in the end, comes down to your views on history in general and the various roles... Read morePublished on February 11, 2013 by Ehud Yaniv
I really enjoyed this book, it gave a great historical context for the game of chess and its spread throughout history in Europe in addition to the development of Queen's chess. Read morePublished on November 28, 2011 by knightnation15