|The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain
by David Shenk
Open your mind.
Many of you are looking at this title and thinking, “Boring, dull, I’m no geek.” But I want you to open your mind. But be careful when you do. You have no idea what might crawl in.
I’m not a chess person. I played a bit when I was younger. I used to play it on my Palm Pilot before it was thrown across a concrete parking garage- accidentally. And a piece of me wouldn’t mind playing. But I don’t have the patience to learn all those moves. And my brain doesn’t look at future moves in a way that the game seems to require. (Uh oh, am I saying too much about myself?)
This book is not what it appears, and according to the book, the same is true of chess. Shenk gives us a fascinating history of the game of chess and it’s pollitical connections. I really mean fascinating. And while he’s giving us history he intersperses the story with another story. He describes a 19th century chess game (1851) that happened in a pub in London, a groundbreaking game it turns out to be.
Shenk’s writing is engaging. He explains the rules of the game, takes you through each move of this historic game and a couple of others, like the Fisher v Spassky game. To chess fans this book is possibly old hat. To the rest of us it makes the game accessible, interesting and gives us some keys to living out life.
What? Chess as transformational tool? Possibly. I mean to say that anything can have to power to transform our lives. If we pay attention to anything we have the possibility of being “awake.” Shenk offers that to us. He may not actually say that, but that’s what I drew from the book. He does posit that serious chess players can actually their brains altered by the act of playing chess. Chess is a virus?
Take a look at this book a second time. In the world of micro-histories, this book stands on its own. Curiosity is all it takes to read it. Open your mind and let the words pour in.