Word Freak for Chess?
February 27, 2013 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a good chess book with as much history, context, stories, and culture as strategy?

I'm looking for a book on chess similar to Stefan Fatsis's Scrabble book, Word Freak, in which the author explains the basics of the game and competitive play, eventually becoming a strong player himself.

I haven't played chess since I was a teenager but became interested after reading some anecdotes in this tactics thread.

Strategy books like these seem a good second step, and I also have Searching for Bobby Fischer in my Netflix queue, but – for now – can you recommend books that explain the history and context of chess along with some basic strategy?
posted by suprenant to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I see that Searching for Bobby Fischer was first a book. This is the sort of thing I'm looking for.
posted by suprenant at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Reliable Past is an anthology of New In Chess articles about Soviet greats (as well as unknowns), by Gennady Sosonko (he has published a couple of other similar books). There's no actual chess content though.

I haven't read it but this book looks interesting.

If you're looking for material about improving your play, with an eye on competing in tournaments, you could do worse than to read Dan Heisman.

"Searching For Bobby Fischer" was a pretty good book. I'd say it's primarily about the experience of parenting a prodigy, more so than it is about chess as such, but there is a lot of interesting chess-related stuff in it.
posted by thelonius at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: King's Gambit: A Son, A Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game
I enjoyed this though I have no great interest in chess as a game
posted by canoehead at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another recent look at the culture of the game.
posted by thelonius at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: Counterplay (the book linked to by the word "Another" above) is a great book about chess culture. It's required reading for anyone who has a loved one obsessed with chess. It's not really an introduction to the game itself.

I bet you would love the movie Brooklyn Castle, now available for streaming.

Gennady Sosonko's books are great but they are probably best suited for someone who already is somewhat familiar with chess history.

I haven't read it but The Immortal Game seems to be just what you are looking for and has been well received.
posted by dfan at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: The Chess Artist by J.C. Hallman is good. He goes to the Russian province of Kalmykia to meat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of Kalmykia and president of FIDE, the internation chess organization at the time. Counterpoint is provided by the story of his companion, Glen Umstead, a 2500ish rated semi-disgruntled black journeyman chess tournament regular. Lots of great general chess history, anecdotes, personal profiles, etc. Well written and very enjoyable.

Also good is another book by Fred Waitzkin of 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' fame called Mortal Games, in which he follows Garry Kasparov around for a few years or so. Treasure trove of anecdotes and insight into Kasparov and his relationships with chess and with politics. Fascinating and well written.

And finally, Endgame by Frank Brady chronicling Bobby Fischer's life, career, scandal, and downfall. Engaging and well written.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2013

I have a passing interest in chess and really enjoyed The Immortal Game mentioned above and came here to suggest it. There wasn't a 'ton' of strategy but enough to whet my appetite and get me interested.
posted by Tevin at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and for actual chess study try Attacking Chess by Josh Waitzkin. And pretty much anything by anyone named Waitzkin.

Chessmaster, the chess computer game (and powerful study tool), in I think their 9th or 10th version has a whole suite of lessons by Josh Waitzkin where he goes over things on a board and talks you through chess positions. He is a GREAT teacher and I really got a lot out of that, so I recommend that if you can find it. I got mine at a Half-Price Books here in Texas. They seem to get stocks of out of date computer games to sell on the cheap, I paid $10 or something. I'm sure the internet knows where to find it.
posted by TheRedArmy at 3:38 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Fireside Book of Chess
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Birth of the Chess Queen.
posted by miles1972 at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2013

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