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Queen's Gambit Hardcover – June, 1983

4.4 out of 5 stars 202 customer reviews

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Hardcover, June, 1983
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Editorial Reviews


Gripping reading ... Nabokov's The Defense and Zweig's The Royal Game are the classics. Now joining them is The Queen's Gambit FINANCIAL TIMES The Queen's Gambit is sheer entertainment. It is a book I reread every few years - for the pure pleasure and skill of it -- Michael Ondaatje Mesmerizing NEWSWEEK Don't pick this up if you want a night's sleep SCOTSMAN More exciting than any thriller I've seen lately; more than that, beautifully written -- Martin Cruz Smith What Walter Tevis did for pool in The Hustler, he does for chess in The Queen's Gambit PLAYBOY A psychological thriller NEW YORK TIMES --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she's competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as she hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting. Engaging and fast-paced, The Queen's Gambit speeds to a conclusion as elegant and satisfying as a mate in four. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Ultramarine Pub Co (June 1983)
  • ISBN-10: 0317580396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0317580396
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,272,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was the spring of 1983. On a long plane trip, I started THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT by Walter Tevis, a just-published novel I'd bought on impulse. And I was gobsmacked. Tevis --- author of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and THE HUSTLER (and, later, THE COLOR OF MONEY) --- had written a book that, very simply, could not be put down. The woman who would become my first wife tried to talk to me; I shushed her. A meal came; I pushed it aside. All I could do was read, straight to the end --- weeping, cheering, punching the air.
Amazingly, this novel soon went out of print. And stayed out of print for two decades. Now, at last, it's available again.
What's the fuss about? An eight-year-old orphan named Beth Harmon. Who turns out to be the Mozart of chess. Which brings her joy (she wins! people notice her!) and misery (she's alone and unloved and incapable of asking for help). So she gets addicted to pills. She drinks. She loses. And then, as 17-year-old Beth starts pulling herself together, she must face the biggest challenge of all --- a match with the world champion, a Russian of scary brilliance.
You think: This is thrilling? You think: chess? You think: Must be an "arty" novel, full of interior scenes. Wrong. All wrong.
I tell you: THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT is "Rocky" for smart people.
I tell you: You will care about Beth Harmon more than any fictional character you've encountered in years and years.
I tell you: You will grasp the wrench of loneliness --- and the power of love --- as if this book were happening to you.
Do you need to know anything about chess? Nope. Nothing. Tevis was a storyteller whose genius was to tell great stories; there's nothing between you and the people.
My bet: If you read five pages, you won't put it down. You too will weep. And cheer. And at the end, raise your fist like a fool for a little girl who never existed and a game only wimps play.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up a used copy of "The Queen's Gambit" not because I was fascinated by the subject matter, but because Walter Tevis was a writing professor at Ohio University, my alma mater. (I never had him for a class, though I did interview him for a university publication.) I had never read anything by Tevis--not even his bestsellers, "The Hustler" and "The Man Who Fell to Earth"--but "The Queen's Gambit" makes me want to rush out and find every Tevis book I can. In "The Queen's Gambit," Tevis creates a singular, and singularly moving, lead character--Beth Harmon, an orphaned, alcoholic, drug-addicted teenage girl who also happens to be one of the greatest chess prodigies the world has ever seen. Left alone in the world at the age of eight, hooked on tranquilizers by the monsters who run her orphanage, Beth is buffeted on all sides by enemies and fools. She finds her only lasting solace in the black and white figures on the chessboard, living and reliving those strategies as if her life depends on it (which, in the end, it does). Beth is so real, and so heartrending, that she and her story will linger with you long after you've finished the book. The book contains a great deal of chess terminology and strategy--two things of which I am profoundly ignorant and profoundly uninterested. Yet Tevis made me feel the excitement Beth feels in playing the game, and involved me totally in her life-and-death struggle to master it. Even if you don't like chess, you will like "The Queen's Gambit." My guess is that if you love the game, you will adore "The Queen's Gambit."
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Format: Paperback
Even though the notion expressed on the title of this review has been disproven throughout the years, chess is still a game where males vastly outnumber female players. This was even more pronounced at the time this book was written. But at that same time, an educational experiment by Laszlo Polgar had started, with the idea that kids can achieve exceptional achievements if they were properly trained by a specialist, from an early age. Thus, his three girls became chess players and in 1983, when Tevis wrote this novel, Susan, the eldest, was already a forced to be reckoned with. It was not until years later that the youngest of the three sisters, Judith, really proved that women can compete with men in this sport at the highest level.

I am fairly sure that the Polgar experiment is what Tevis used as the basic premise for writing this book, but then he complemented the idea with a really complex main character, which has to overcome the difficulties set to her by the cards she was dealt in life. This is a really uplifting and emotional story, and Tevis shows his skills as a writer by drawing us into the world of chess with great descriptions of the personalities that populate the royal game. And to tell you the truth, chess is just the vehicle chosen in this case, but the story could have been written with other competitive sports without losing any of its flair, since what is more important is the struggle Elizabeth Harmon undergoes during her childhood, teenage years and young adulthood.

Some people may think I have lost my mind, but I believe that those that do not play or understand chess will have a better time reading this book than serious chess players. There are two reasons for this assertion.
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