Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chess & Tevis' The Queen's Gambit

From yesterday's New York Times article "Shrewd Marketing Moves for Top-Ranked Chess Player:"
After 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen dispatched him in 36 deadly moves over three speedy hours in their first match at the 2013 Candidates’ Tournament here, the Russian grandmaster Peter Svidler spent a moment musing on why, to be blunt about it, Carlsen receives so much more attention than he does. He is not jealous, he said, of Carlsen’s high profile, No. 1 ranking and lucrative sponsorship deals (“Should I be?”). Svidler is 36, and ranked 14th, but has no companies clamoring to shower him with cash. “He’s exceptionally good, and so he gets extra opportunities,” Svidler said. “Somehow, I’m less marketable than Magnus. I’m somewhat less young, and somewhat more Soviet.” Chess has its superstars, but on a wider stage, there is no one like Carlsen, of Norway, who won the tournament and remains the first world No. 1 from a Western country since Bobby Fischer. Carlsen sits at the center of a campaign carefully constructed by him and his handlers to use his intelligence, looks and nimble news-media-charming skills to increase his profile outside the sport, as if he were a tennis or golf star.
For a novel that focuses on chess, try The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis:
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.
If you prefer classic authors, you might like The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov:
Nabokov's third novel, The Luzhin Defense, is a chilling story of obsession and madness. As a young boy, Luzhin was unattractive, distracted, withdrawn, sullen--an enigma to his parents and an object of ridicule to his classmates. He takes up chess as a refuge from the anxiety of his everyday life. His talent is prodigious and he rises to the rank of grandmaster--but at a cost: in Luzhin' s obsessive mind, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality. His own world falls apart during a crucial championship match, when the intricate defense he has devised withers under his opponent's unexpected and unpredictabke lines of assault.

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