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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 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"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

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Wonderful!

I've always enjoyed the game, yet this just added to my fascination by giving my more backstory.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Good Read

The reader was immersive. He has a thick tone that is fitting for this subject. The enunciation of names and places seem on point.

The book utself is brief but quite accessible. To those new to chess, I suggest doing some very basic preliminary reaearch about the major historical aspects of the game before listening to this one. They will be prepared to visualize the ideas that are going on throughout, and will provide a more fulfilling experience.

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Great for beginners

I'm just getting into chess and loved this audiobook! Highly recommended if you want to learn about chess.

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history of chess

well told story of the history of chess and why this game continues to intrigue people of all ages.

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  • nigel aitken
  • 02-10-16

the immortal game

The immortal game is a very good audio book and splendidly narrated by rick Adamson.

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  • brian
  • 01-15-16

An immortal finale

Listen to the history and play the game out - I am inspired and now desperate to learn more. Thank you.

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