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Grandmaster: A Novel Hardcover – February 25, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Freshman Daniel Pratzer has managed "to fly under the radar of the cool-and-cruel crowd." To break out of mediocrity, he joins the school's prestigious chess team. Daniel is a novice; in fact, the two team captains call him "Patzer-face" (a "patzer" meaning someone whose chess abilities are minimal). Daniel is shocked when he is asked to join the team at an important, weekend-long father-son tournament, and then he learns the truth. They want him for his father, a former prodigy who became a grandmaster at 16 but gave up the game due to stress. Daniel didn't even know his father could play. At his son's urging, Mr. Pratzer agrees to compete, and Daniel is surprised to see such a killer instinct in this meek, pot-bellied accountant. As the tournament begins to take a toll on his father's health and well-being, he begins to think that maybe skeletons are better left in the closet. Like a well-played chess game, drama unfolds deliberately as things progressively get worse, building up to an exciting, climactic endgame. Daniel is a likable, dorky kid, the underrated everyman with whom readers can empathize and cheer on. The characters reflect on what it means to be a winner, successful, or popular and to lose one's self to pressures from peers, parents, or competition. This book is smart, real, and full of feeling.—June Shimonishi, Torrance Public Library, CA
Chess is a mind sport, one that is all-consuming, both mentally and emotionally. Daniel Pratzer is about to find out what that means, but not in a way he expects. A freshman and a newbie to chess—or patzer in chess lingo—Daniel is approached by the senior chess club cocaptains of his exclusive high school. A father-son weekend tournament is coming up, and Daniel and his father are more required than requested to be there. First prize is $10,000, but Daniel’s father doesn’t play chess. At least, that’s what Daniel thinks. In truth, his father is a Grandmaster who walked away from the game before his life became unbearable. Now 30 years later, he breaks his own vow so he can spend time with his son. Mr. Pratzer soon finds himself competing against an old rival who knows every demon that can destroy him, and Daniel learns that family is more important than acceptance or glory. Fast-paced, inspired writing makes this perfect for fans of John Feinstein’s The Sports Beat series. Grades 7-10. --Jeanne Fredriksen
Top customer reviews
Grade B- 226 pages Golden Sower nominee
Daniel Pratzer is a high school freshman. Daniel is a low ranking member of his school’s chess club. Two senior members reveal a secret to Daniel: his father is a Grandmaster. This news is shocking to Daniel because his dad seems indifferent about chess. The two senior boys invite David and his dad to a weekend chess tournament in New York. David’s dad is nervous about old feelings and habits resurfacing, but Daniel longs to see his dad play the game. The father/son relationship is a strong aspect of the novel. This is a quick read and well deserving of a Golden Sower nomination.
“…I was watching my father do what he was best at, after a lifetime of hiding his talent. Maybe every kid deserves to see his father be a hero just once, for a few minutes,” (p.143).
At first, Daniel feels betrayed that there was so much he didn't know about his own father. But, when his father agrees to do the tournament weekend with him, they both embark on an adventure that reveals hidden secrets while deepening the relationship between the two of them.
Morris Pratzer encounters old enemies and very trying situations at the tournament while Daniel meets a girl who is also playing in the tournament. Liu is a smart-talking New Yorker. The two start as rivals and soon become friends.
One of the most interesting parts of the story for me was the dynamics between the father-son teams. The other fathers are a cardiac surgeon and a hedge fund manager. Morris is an accountant. The other sons are overachievers of one sort or another - swimming champion and class valedictorian. Daniel is really pretty average. He gets average grades and has average athletic ability. What he does have is a strong love for his father and strong sense of who he is. He has the security of knowing that he is loved and accepted for himself.
I loved the chess details that sprinkled the story and really felt the intensity of the tournament. Readers interested in chess or great stories about fathers and sons will not be disappointed with this fascinating story.