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The Immortal Game: A History of Chess Paperback – October 2, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
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). Interesting is also a look into the impact of artificial intelligence on chess and how chess is being used as a tool to teach children in school (improving match and reading ability).
If you are looking for a history book on the mechanics of the development of the game in great detail then "The History of Chess" by Murray is the classic work (from early chess to around the 18th century). If you are looking for a book with the major focus on the history and politics of top level chess players (with moderate number of well annotated games) over the last several centuries, the "The Chess Kings" by Olson, Volume One has been released. If you are non-chess player or a chess player looking for a little bit of everything on "Chess History" in a very well-rounded way that is scholarly yet not boring then "The Immortal Game" should be your first choice.
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. Even if you are not a chess player, you are likely to enjoy it and perhaps develop an interest in learning the game yourself.
Chess popularity didn't endure all these years for no good reason. It captivates the imagination in ways no other game ever has. There are many reasons for this which this book explores thoroughly.
I notice some people haven't been marking this review as helpful, but they haven't been leaving me a comment. If you dont' find this review helpful, maybe you can give me some suggestions on what you feel is missing, so I can update it to be more useful. My intention in writing this review was to be very concise, augment other reviews and convey the spirit of the book to the average reader.