Nearly everyone has played chess at some point in their lives. Its rules and pieces have served as a metaphor for society, influencing military strategy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and literature and the arts. It has been condemned as the devil's game by popes, rabbis, and imams, and lauded as a guide to proper living by other popes, rabbis, and imams. Marcel Duchamp was so absorbed in the game that he ignored his wife on their honeymoon. Caliph Muhammad al-Amin lost his throne (and his head) trying to checkmate a courtier. Ben Franklin used the game as a cover for secret diplomacy.
In his wide-ranging and ever-fascinating examination of chess, David Shenk gleefully unearths the hidden history of a game that seems so simple yet contains infinity. From its invention somewhere in India around 500 A.D., to its enthusiastic adoption by the Persians and its spread by Islamic warriors, to its remarkable use as a moral guide in the Middle Ages and its political utility in the Enlightenment, to its crucial importance in the birth of cognitive science and its key role in the aesthetic of modernism in 20th century art, to its 21st century importance in the development of artificial intelligence and use as a teaching tool in inner-city America, chess has been a remarkably omnipresent factor in the development of civilization.
©2006 David Shenk; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Those curious about chess and wishing to learn more about the game (but not too much more) will welcome this accessible, nontechnical introduction." (Publishers Weekly)
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