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The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

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3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,272 Ratings  ·  153 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
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Published September 4th 2007 by Anchor (first published September 5th 2006)
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Benjamin Zapata
Sep 02, 2011 Benjamin Zapata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
James Williams
Aug 24, 2010 James Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mauricio
Oct 09, 2013 Mauricio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sports-games
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 sacrifice and combination in a wide open style.

Halfway through this book I knew I was going t
...more
Chelsea
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
Ken
Oct 27, 2007 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris
Jun 23, 2008 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul
Apr 24, 2007 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chess
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.
robomatey
Aug 21, 2007 robomatey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lew Watts
Dec 20, 2016 Lew Watts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are more books with the title "The Immortal Game" than seems possible, but this is the one you should choose...that is, if you are into chess, its history, and its beauty. Like many, I went through a chess phase in my late teens, about the time I would read poetry books in public places and wore clear-lensed spectacles to 'impress' my intellect and seriousness on strangers. But even then, despite a shallow understanding of chess, I'd heard and read about the "immortal game" that took place ...more
Rebecca Jones
Apr 07, 2013 Rebecca Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Christian
Feb 08, 2016 Christian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the next six weeks, I'll be teaching chess to elementary students as part of an after-school program. Since I'm not much of a chess player, I decided to take a crash course in the game and familiarize myself with some of its broad concepts. This book is pretty much exactly what I needed.

Shenk tells the stories of chess from its origins (probably in Persia, maybe in India) to the present day (and beyond). His touch is light, which lets him cover a huge amount of information without bogging do
...more
Sean
Jan 25, 2008 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Graham Lee
May 25, 2014 Graham Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, games
Enjoyable, but much too brief. I feel like every chapter could've been deeper and longer and it would still be an engaging book.
Erik Hanberg
Dec 28, 2014 Erik Hanberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quick read about both the history of chess and a single game in London in the 1800s. I enjoyed it a lot.
Ben Langleben
Mar 07, 2017 Ben Langleben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating journey following the development of chess, the rules, its impact on society, and emerging strategies, as recounted by an interested observer of the game who understands the principles but admits to struggling to deploying them in practice (with whom I can identify!).

Very easy to read, a little heavy on examples of chess analogies, a little light on the big epochs of chess (other than the romantics) fascinatingly interspersed with analysis of the 1851 "Immortal Game" between Anders
...more
Mishehu
Oct 22, 2016 Mishehu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating game, fascinating popular history. If you're a serious student of chess history, you probably won't find much new in this book. If you, like me, are a complete dabbler though, and the idea of 32 pieces skittering across a substantial chunk of recorded human history tweaks your interest, and if, perhaps, you also recall the excitement of Cold War chess conflicts, and remember some of the great chess figures of our (or any) age in whom madness and genius so palpably and publicly strugg ...more
Aaron Arnold
Oct 14, 2013 Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry Coleman
Nov 07, 2016 Larry Coleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't so much a history book as it is a collection of different essays about chess throughout history. This is actually a good thing: instead of a long list of dry facts, Shenk does a very nice job of bringing the subject to life. Many times, he ends up discussing the impact of chess on history rather than chess history, and to me this was a good thing.

If you're looking for an academic text on the history of chess, this isn't your book. However, if you're looking to be entertained and educa
...more
Luke Pilling
Oct 11, 2016 Luke Pilling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book on two levels: first, the history of chess and how it has become such a long-lasting game that still fascinates and intruiges to this day 1,400 years after its inception; second, because the author takes us through a specific game that in many ways is the epitome of why chess is so interesting and the players considered to have such incredible mental agility. Very enjoyable, and could be read by expert chess player or novice alike, thanks to the explanations.
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
Susan Olesen
Jul 11, 2013 Susan Olesen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Sullenberger
This was a great book that I waited way too long to listen to because I was afraid it would be dull or hard to follow.  As an audiobook it was difficult to follow the notation he used as he described a match between Adolf Anderson and Lionel Kieseritzky known as The Immortal Game.  I did however take a moment to read the Wikipedia article about it and watch a quick YouTube animation of the game.  The game is an amazing one as Anderson (white) sacrifices a bishop, both rooks, and a queen to estab ...more
Chris Via
Oct 03, 2016 Chris Via rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chess, 2016
It's not often that I take a chance on a book, despite tepid (at best) reviews, but this one was exactly the book I wanted. Perhaps it's because I'm an chess neophyte who tires easily with dry history and leans more towards the artistic bent of life than the merely formulaic, but overall this book is as satisfying a perspective of the game of the chess as I could hope for.

First off, dispense with the sub-titular segment "A History of Chess." Yes, it is a history of chess; it makes no qualms abou
...more
Emily
Dec 30, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
Will Once
Apr 25, 2014 Will Once rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heber
Aug 09, 2011 Heber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Miguel Lozano
Dec 21, 2016 Miguel Lozano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buena historia del ajedrez, pero poco novedosa si ya has leído algún otro libro sobre el tema.
Alex
Dec 26, 2007 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Yvette
Jul 20, 2011 Yvette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chess
The Immortal Game by David Shenk
A book review by: Yvette Fannell @chesspoet

http://blog.chess.com/view/chess-book...

‘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
Nancy Behrendt
Mar 30, 2015 Nancy Behrendt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for all chess lovers and for those who used to play in their youth . . . . My parents played because, well, what else was there to do when you have a new baby and don't have much money.
They taught me young and eventually I figured out how to win. My dad even had a few chess books. At middle school I taught most of the boys in the free period at the end of the school day how to play. I thought I was good. I thought I was the thing. Then I went to a USCF round robin in north Jersey. 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 ...more
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