The Immortal Game: A H...
David Shenk
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The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  825 ratings  ·  110 reviews
Chess is the most enduring and universal game in history. Here, bestselling author David Shenk chronicles its intriguing saga, from ancient Persia to medieval Europe to the dens of Benjamin Franklin and Norman Schwarzkopf. Along the way, he examines a single legendary game that took place in London in 1851 between two masters of the time, and relays his own attempts to bec...more
Published September 4th 2007 by Anchor (first published September 5th 2006)
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Benjamin Zapata
A well-researched charming introduction to the beautiful game of chess,a game that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years. David Shenk takes us on a trip millennia back and light-years ahead to find out how 32 carved pieces on a board illuminated our understanding of almost everything,from religion,art,mathematics,literature,to artificial intelligence and beyond.Indeed,as Shenk shows,some neuroscientists believe that playing chess may actually alter the structure of the brain,that it may b...more
I picked this up (from the library) based on a recommendation from Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics blog. I've always had a fascination with chess as a cultural phenomenon, although I've never been more than an occasional, mediocre player.

Anyhow, this is a really fascinating history of chess, told in that post-modern way of jumping back and forth in time, between the ""straight"" historical account, the author's own experience with the game, and a move-by-move account of a famous game -- the so-ca...more
James Williams
This is the second book I've read about the history of chess this year (the first was Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn Yalom). While they are both excellent treatments of the subject, I think I like The Immortal Game better.

It's just more fun. The Immortal Game has a sort of whimsy about it which I find appropriate because chess is, after all, merely a game (despite the intellectual and historical heft it can throw around after 1400 years). Of course, they're very different works, so that co...more
Yes this book gets into the History of Chess but really it is about a specific game played on June 21, 1851 between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky, two world chess champion candidates playing a tune-up match in a pub in London. The author sets the stage and describes the game move-by-move. You don't have to be an expert to appreciate the beauty of this particular game, it was won with brilliant sacrifices and combinations in a wide open style.

Halfway through this book I knew I was going...more
This is a great book that is accessible to all, not just chess nerds. The author structures it around the most famous game of chess maybe ever(the Immortal Game). This is a clever technique and I highly recommend this book.
I've recently become geeked out about chess. Most of the stuff I've read has felt as grueling as a textbook, but Shenk's book is engaging and enthusiastic.
The Immortal Game covers the long and meandering history of chess in an easy to read narrative that parallels a particular game played by two chess masters in the mid 1800s in London.

The book includes detailed discussions on the rules and strategies of chess as well as its significance in relation to human understanding at different points in history. The Immortal Game of the title seems to end anticlimactically, echoing a somewhat stilted conclusion to the otherwise graceful narrative. Additi...more
A successful juggling act. I don't know why I picked up this book had doubts on whether I'd read it.

The title and opening were significant enough hooks to keep me reading until the narratives started to unfold. The time spent on earlier civilizations, gave me a vested interest.

I am not a chess player. From early in my youth I purposefully disdained from chess playing. I had access to books and willing adversaries. But it was not an easy thing. From the first game it became apparent that being go...more
Yikes. If it hadn't been for the glowing reviews, I probably wouldn't taken the chance on this. Chess certainly can be overexposed, but this promised good writing with fresh incites that revitalized our perspective on the game.

Me? At best is was an ok magazine article.

Not that the subject isn't worthy. I just found the writing thin, without the author bringing much to the table then his own family history's link with chess and his recent attempts to retake up the game. All the relevant material...more
Graham Lee
Enjoyable, but much too brief. I feel like every chapter could've been deeper and longer and it would still be an engaging book.
not the best history, but a good primer for beginners like me. It has a very interdisciplinary approach, which I liked, and the play-by-play of "the immortal game" (a chess game between two blokes in mid-19th century London) is nail-biting. Go figure.
Will Once
This book is an interesting viewpoint on the game of chess. That's "interesting" as in unusual, thought-provoking, unexpected.

The author is clearly not a chess player, so the perspective he offers is not your normal Grandmaster ghost-authored fare. He tells a sort of history of chess interspersed with the moves of the Immortal Game (Anderssen-Kieseritzky, London 1851).

There is a lot to like here. David Shenk is a good writer with a clear and engaging style. The book is sort of well researched wi...more
Aaron Arnold
At this point in my life, I'm comfortable with the idea that I'll be a patzer forever. I like chess a lot, but the idea of sitting down with a book of openings and studying it seriously, like it was for a test, somehow makes the game seem too much like work, even though it's impossible to become even a mediocre player without giving chess some real thought. This attitude probably says something about how I view games as a whole, and in fact maybe even about my view on life in general, and Shenk,...more
The Immortal Game is a fascinating and quick read. It begins with the earliest known origins of the game whose rules have hardly altered for 5 centuries and continues to baffle and intrigue us, giving its players insight into everything from (as the title indicates) war, science, the human brain, and teaches the player about herself. Why Chess? Why this game? Chess takes place at the meridian of absolute freedom and unlimited possibilities and total structure:

"It all starts out simply: in the fi...more
The Immortal Game by David Shenk
A book review by: Yvette Fannell @chesspoet

‘Understanding is the essential weapon,’ proclaims the ancient Persian poem “Chatrang-namak,” one of the oldest books mentioning the game. ‘Victory is obtained by the intellect...’

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 explores the impact chess has on the world o...more
Cheshire Public Library
People have been doing it for more than 1300 years. James Bond did it. So did Kirk and Spock. Ben Franklin was addicted to it. Harry Potter did it the wizard way, but never once did Doyle ever directly say Sherlock Holmes did. I picked up The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, expecting it to be the dorkiest book ever written, a checkered feather in my Nerd cap. I expected it to be boring and confusing, full of that chessy shorthand I can’t seem to follow despite its simplicity, and I never expe...more
This is an intriguing general history of chess from ancient India to Persia, the Muslim empire, Medieval Europe and the modern world. It was interesting of Shenk to imbed the history of Chess, the evolution of its pieces and strategy into what is probably the famous chess game ever, played between two Grandmasters in 1851. I don't know enough about the overall history of chess to know if and where he has made mistakes in historical depictions, but his commentary on Anderssen and Kieseritsky's ga...more
Susan Olesen
People have been doing it for more than 1300 years. James Bond did it. So did Kirk and Spock. Ben Franklin was addicted to it. Harry Potter did it the wizard way, but never once did Doyle ever directly say Sherlock Holmes did. I picked up The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, expecting it to be the dorkiest book ever written, a checker-board feather in my Nerd cap. I expected it to be boring and confusing, full of that chessy shorthand I can’t seem to follow despite its simplicity, and I never...more
A highly well-written... something. Not strictly "A History of Chess" as the title claims (it leaves out many crucial hows and whys of the game's development and standardization), but a thoroughly engrossing survey of the ways chess has interacted and intermingled with various human endeavors throughout history. Military strategy, morality (thank you Ben Franklin), psychology, and AI are the major fields Shenk investigates, while touching on numerous others. I had the feeling that the book could...more
Bookmarks Magazine

David Shenk is the author of four previous books, including The Forgetting, an acclaimed study of Alzheimer's, and Data Smog, about information overload in the Internet age. The greatest asset of The Immortal Game is its accessibility. Through an educated layperson's knowledge of chess, Shenk focuses on his subject's more intriguing points and leaves arcane rehashes of famous games for more technical texts. (An appendix obliges those who revel in such details.) At its most engaging, the book med

Matt Hill
a really cool history of chess, plus a move by move breakdown of "the immortal game" (a match from 1851), plus musings on the metaphoric meanings of the game, some basics on the four eras of game strategy, possible future outcomes of different uses of chess, etc., etc. . . pretty comprehensive, though if you were interested in any specific of these topics, a more specialized book would be better . . still, really fascinating . . . a side note: i searched for anything on tv having to do with ches...more
Christopher Rex
This would get 2 or 3-stars for somebody who knows nothing about chess, but definitely 4 for anybody acquainted w/ the game (whether you are a GM or a hacker, like me). A really cool historical overview of chess interspersed w/ one of the games most famous matches ("The Immortal Game" from the 19thC). The book really flows well in this context and follows the pattern of "Opening-Middle-Endgame" in a clever and creative way. The chapter about AI and Chess is a bit burdensome, but overall very ent...more
Alex Mikulich
This is a completely delightful history of chess, especially for beginners and novices who are just learning the game. Even if you don't play chess, Schenk drew me into a very unexpected and fascinating exploration of chess across global history and culture, including its most recent import for understanding computers and the human mind. Too often books about chess are written by experts who lack any ability to teach the beginner. I related to Schenk's failure and struggles learning chess and hi...more
Apr 25, 2008 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: stefik
really interesting book about the history of chess and its role in culture, the arts, etc. i think there's enough good stuff here (like the chapter on the surprising number of chess masters who've gone insane) that non chess fans could enjoy it. i felt the book tapered off in quality as it went on though, with the last chapter sounding like the ramblings of an old guy. 'these days with all the distractions and ads, chess helps develop...' etc etc. in a book with this much painstaking research i...more
The book got me at its table of contents. I'm reading it to see how this dry & seemingly toffee-nosed subject can be transformed into the exciting world I am enticed to think it is.

I enjoy how David Shenk organized the book. He weaved the account of 1851's Anderssen vs Kieseritzky game in the history + evolution of the chess in a seamless way, resulting in an exciting story about how humans regard chess as the representation of ancient AND modern battles.

Read this book to find out how to mak...more
John Musacha
This is the worst book on chess that I've ever read. The author presents no new information nor does he posit any new interpretations or theories concerning the history of chess. The information contained in this work was merely repeated from other secondary sources on chess. I would recommend this book only for those who are totally unfamiliar with the history of chess, or to small children.
I read this book upon a friend's insistence, and was happy I did. The book details the history of chess quite finely, and does it through the lens of a much-heralded match in the game's storied past. There were two bits of information I found illuminating: 1) The queen increased her power via new moves in response to historical female figures gaining and exertion of power, 2) the "en passant" move, which I had not previously known. While reading the book, I played some chess games online and dow...more
I loved this book! I've read other histories of chess before, but because of the alternating chapters between some aspect of history and an analysis of "the immortal game" this was much more engaging than other books I've read. There is also a personal connection for the author with his chess playing great grandfather that also adds a nice dimension. In addition to covering the usual historical aspects, there were also plenty of little-known facts (at least to me) and interesting sections on che...more
It is not a very objective book, but the writer admits it so you can slog through the purple prose about the game. It is a very interesting history.
This book took two parallel paths - the history of chess and a move-by-move account of the Immortal Game. The history of chess and analysis of chess thought through the years (the beginnings over 1500 years ago, the embrace by royalty and peasants in the Middle Ages, the tactical parallels drawn by generals like Napoleon, the obsessions that drove people like Bobby Fischer over the edge, and the development of chess computers capable of complex and seemingly creative thought), was just OK. But i...more
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David Shenk is the award-winning and national-bestselling author of six books, including The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ ("deeply interesting and important" - New York Times), The Forgetting: Alzheimer's, Portrait of an Epidemic ("remarkable" - Los Angeles Times), Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut ("indispensable" - New York Times), and The Im...more
More about David Shenk...
The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic Skeleton Key Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ

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