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The Immortal Game | [David Shenk]

The Immortal Game

Why has one game, alone among the thousands of games invented and played throughout human history, not only survived but thrived within every culture it has touched? What is it about its 32 figurative pieces, moving about its 64 black and white squares according to very simple rules, that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years? Why has it driven some of its greatest players into paranoia and madness, and yet is hailed as a remarkably powerful intellectual tool?
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Publisher's Summary

Why has one game, alone among the thousands of games invented and played throughout human history, not only survived but thrived within every culture it has touched? What is it about its 32 figurative pieces, moving about its 64 black and white squares according to very simple rules, that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years? Why has it driven some of its greatest players into paranoia and madness, and yet is hailed as a remarkably powerful intellectual tool?

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 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (65 )
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  •  
    Bob warrenville, IL, United States 02-15-13
    Bob warrenville, IL, United States 02-15-13 Member Since 2010

    audiobooks!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "a must-read for all chess lovers"

    if you love chess, you will love this book. the book's layout weaves together chapters addressing the moves in the casual (e.g., non-tournament) 1851 match between adolf anderssen and lionel kieseritzky (later dubbed "the immortal game") with chapters about the history of chess.

    the immortal game's annotations are all over the internet, but to hear the match described in audiobook form brought it to life in a way that dry annotations cannot.

    how can you not enjoy a match where someone gives up a bishop *both* rooks AND the queen to earn checkmate against an opponent who has only lost three measly pawns??

    ok, ok...you will probably want to have a passing interest in chess before trying this book, but if you do have such an interest, listen in to one of the greatest chess stories out there.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John CLAREMONT, CA, United States 06-26-12
    John CLAREMONT, CA, United States 06-26-12 Member Since 2012

    gorgonized

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Patzer's Review"
    Where does The Immortal Game rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Near the top.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The grandmasters who went nuts. Does chess make them nuts or do they have a predisposition?


    Which character – as performed by John H. Mayer – was your favorite?

    The Persian King who ignored his immanent doom to enjoy one last chess game with his favorite eunuch.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, but I liked it a lot.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jt Ipswich, MA, USA 02-26-07
    Jt Ipswich, MA, USA 02-26-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful surprise"

    This book was indeed a delightful surprise. Not the dry recitation of moves or tactics, but rather a fun overview of the history and impact of the game on the world. There are some specific recitations of a specific historic game or two, but after evey few moves, the narrative continues. Ben Franklin, Freud, Queen Isabella, and many more are all connected by this tale.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Olathe, KS, United States 10-21-11
    James Olathe, KS, United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book for Chess Nerds"

    Being a Chess nerd myself, I can say that this book is great! If you only read 2 books about chess make them this book first and then Kasperov's "How Life Imitates Chess".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ivy Brooklyn, NY, United States 08-30-11
    Ivy Brooklyn, NY, United States 08-30-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Buy in print"

    A key element of this book is the chess boards that start each section and are scattered about. If you play, but a version where you can see the board. The Kindle version is great.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-27-09
    09-27-09 Listener Since 2007
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    "Could not be better"

    If you are interested in the history of chess and the imoortal game itself, there could not be a better book written. Additionally, the narrator is excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David LLandudnoUnited Kingdom 01-28-08
    David LLandudnoUnited Kingdom 01-28-08
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    "Great History of Chess"

    The author presents a great potted history of chess orientated around the Immortal Game - a game which occurred between the wars. I found the book great to listen to and very informative.
    I would recommend it to anyone who has a general interest in chess.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rohit Chicago, IL, USA 12-11-07
    Rohit Chicago, IL, USA 12-11-07
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    "Not just another chess book"

    Great book. This is not an instructional chess book as most other books on the subject. This book is a more about the history of the game and its evolution. A great read for those who enjoy the game and want to know a little bit more about it. The immortal game interludes will facinate any chess player. Hope this helps, enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lech WarszawaPoland 03-14-07
    Lech WarszawaPoland 03-14-07
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    "Entertaining and inspiring"

    A good book on chess. Mostly an outline of history plus plenty of stories. Quite entertaining and inspiring. I did like it indeed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dennis MIRAMAR, FL, United States 01-07-07
    dennis MIRAMAR, FL, United States 01-07-07 Member Since 2005
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    "really surprised"

    i had to talk myself into this one. i was afraid of a dull book of all chess annotation and not much on the human side. i was so wrong. this book actually helps make you a better player while at the same time providing great entertainment. perhaps the best chess book i have read. well written and all the antidotes make for great reading. a terrific book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • Philip
    Piacenza, Italy
    3/31/09
    Overall
    "An enjoyable trip through chess history"

    Be warned, this is a book for anyone interested in chess history and not a book for anyone looking to improve their game play. As an amateur chess player, I really enjoyed it thoroughly and appreciated the authors gradual explanation of chess history and anecdotes, which are clearly aimed at the novice or uninitiated. I also enjoyed the way the book unfolds through the playing of an 'immortal' game of chess. A well written and well produced audio book for anyone interested in the story behind the game.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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