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Chess Rumble

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  236 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Three moves is all it takes to change the outcome of the game.

In Marcus's world, battles are fought everyday on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister's death and his father's absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.

One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an un
Hardcover, 62 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Lee & Low Books
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Chess Rumble is the story of Marcus, a young kid having trouble controlling his anger in the face of what seems like unending problems. His little twin brothers keep causing trouble for him, his principal has it out for him, his former friend Latrell keeps pushing his buttons trying to rile him up. He's got nowhere for that anger and frustration to go except into fighting. One day instead of sending him to detention (for the thousandth time), the principal sends him to the library to play chess ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
I work for the St. Louis City Family Court as a psychologist (31 years!), and as such have been priveleged to meet kids (mostly African-American) from poor, gang-infested, drug-infested neighborhoods in which life is cheap; most are from single-parent families and have lots of problems in school (Don't get me started on the St. Louis Public School System, it ain't pretty). I also have loved Chess, been playing since I was nine. I've taught a lot of kids to play this game, and have tried to impar ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Kandice rated it liked it
I checked this out of the library expecting a comic. It WAS shelved with the comics and graphic novels after all. That's not what I got. It's illustrated, and there's an ongoing narrative, but I think it's a poem. The naration appeared in verse, anyway, and I found that distracting. Not rhyme, just verse, in columns on the pages.

Anyone could see where this was going. A young man, living in a bad neighborhood, loses a sister and his father in very quick succesion. He becomes a discipline problem,
Nov 14, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing
G. Neri's CHESS RUMBLE is appealing to reluctant readers, especially boys, on a number of levels. Neri nails the voice of a boy growing up in the inner city in a way that's reminiscent of Walter Dean Myers. Neri's main character, Marcus, is a young man dealing with family troubles and fights at school, until he meets a powerful mentor and learns to fight his battles on a chessboard instead.

This novella in verse is full of language that's vivid and accessible, and Jesse Joshua Watson's illustrati
Thomas Johnson
It was a goooooooooood book
Jan 18, 2016 Lindy rated it liked it
The jacket design did not appeal to me, but I opened Chess Rumble and started reading because a) I love verse novel format and b) the book is thin and obviously a quick read and afterwards I would be able to add it to the pile of library stuff to return today.

Eleven-year-old Marcus has a lot to be angry about. His sister died a year ago, then his father deserted his family; his younger twin brothers piss him off every chance they get and his former best buddy is now his worst enemy. In the end,
Aug 03, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it
This is for Robyn. :)

Dialect, voice, characterization! This unique perspective of an inner city kid's hard knocks comes to life in precise print and monochromatic visuals. I wouldn't classify it as a graphic novel, exactly. It reads more like a narrative poem... no, really more like a rap. I don't know--it's an enigma. Check this out: "In my hood, battles is fought every day. Some on the street corner, some in the park. Warriors fall. Kings is made. Street gangs, chess gangs. Don't make no diff
Holly Squires
Mar 24, 2015 Holly Squires rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-13-25
Marcus is dealing with the loss of his sister and abandonment of his father through violent outbursts. HIs anger issues get worse and worse as he starts hitting his brothers and classmates. CM is a chess master that can beat almost anyone he plays. He offers to play against Marcus, and Marcus, not wanting to look like a chicken. accepts. He is immediately beat. CM offers to teach Marcus how to always win at chess.
I really liked the message this book taught. It taught being accountable for your a
Sally Kruger
*Thank you to for this book.

Marcus's world is filled with negatives - his sister died, his father left, the rest of his family struggles every day. In the midst of his messy life, Marcus encounters CM and is introduced to the game of chess. According to CM, Marcus can learn a lot about life by playing the game.

CHESS RUMBLE is author G. Neri's first book. Written in verse with illustrations by artist Jesse Joshua Watson, it presents the life of a troubled young man who finds a
Aug 05, 2012 Jill rated it it was amazing
Eleven-year-old Marcus is an extremely troubled youth. His sister, with whom he was close, died the year before of a heart ailment. His father left. Marcus is big and gets teased and bullied about it – especially by a particularly mean kid named Latrell. He copes with his problems by either getting in fights or withdrawing from everyone.

After yet another fight in school, he is sent to the library to cool off. There he encounters “CM” or “Chess Master.” CM tries to teach Marcus chess, and show h
Elaine Bearden
Aug 25, 2012 Elaine Bearden rated it really liked it
gr maybe mature 4th to 9th grade
Before I opened this book, I was expecting a graphic novel. However, it is a Novel in free verse form with occasional illustrations done by Jesse Joshua Watson. The point of view is a kid - maybe 5-7th grade who is getting into a lot of trouble, after his sister dies and his father leaves the family. He is convinced that everyone around him is out to get him. Lucky for his future, the principal tries something different for "punishment" and sends him to the librar
Ginta Harrigan
Jun 01, 2013 Ginta Harrigan rated it it was amazing
“Chess Rumble” is a verse novel written by G. Neri.


“Chess Rumble” is a realistic fiction book about a boy named Marcus. Marcus has a bad attitude, a very bad attitude. He is angry all the time and gets in constant fights and arguments. One day his principal took him to the library as “punishment.” It is there he meets CM for the first time. CM becomes a person Marcus grows to respect.

G. Neri did a fantastic job writing characters that were real. He never wavered with Marcus, Marcus stayed t
Heather Shaw
Nov 04, 2008 Heather Shaw rated it it was amazing
Chess Rumble opens with the illustration of a boy extending his hand towards the viewer. In perspective, the fist looks life-size if the reader is eight to twelve—the ages recommended by the publisher—and invites engagement. “Peace!” as is often said in this reviewer’s home.

It is certainly not the same fist that’s found a few pages later, when protagonist Marcus is smacking his nemesis Latrell for teasing him in public. Marcus, of course, ends up in the principal’s office. Little threat there, h
Jul 24, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 4th grade and up
Everyone should read this book! I can't remember how I heard of it, but I was doing a chess-related online search and I ended up with this book written down, plus I loved finding The Hip Hop Chess Federation (

This is an illustrated verse novel about Marcus, an African-American preteen who lives in the inner city and is having more and more troubles controlling his anger since his sister died and his dad left. He finds it laughable that mentor CM thinks che
G. Neri always does an amazing job putting an authentic voice of the streets to paper. Marcus fronts as a tough guy and bully in the wake of his sister's death and his father's leaving the family, but there's a spark of humanity in there waiting to be re-lit, in this case by the Chess Man who shows Marcus how chess strategies can be applied to one's life for the better. Relevant and real.
Michele Velthuizen
Nov 04, 2010 Michele Velthuizen rated it it was amazing
Interest level: 7th +
Reading level: easy
Genre: Realistic fiction, Trial by Fire, Chess, Poetry

Marcus is trouble. His father left when his sister died, his mother is still in mourning, his sisters annoy him, and a bully at school is driving him crazy. So he fights back, using his fists, and this doesn't go down well with the school principal. If he can't keep his anger under control he will be expelled from school. Then he meets CM, a chess master who challenges him to a game. Although Marcus' fa
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This brief novel in verse is about Marcus, a troubled inner-city boy who begins to deal with his anger issues and stay out of trouble after learning how to play chess. What I like about this story is how CM, the chess master, encourages Marcus to channel his energy into the game rather than getting into trouble. Once Marcus has calmed down he can begin to deal with the reasons for his anger--his sister's death and his father's absence. I like the fact that Marcus then gets his friend Latrell to ...more
Jul 22, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
3.5 stars

A novel in verse about a boy struggling to make the right decisions. Sometimes predictable, but it does discuss the importance of thinking ahead to the consequences of the choices we make, which is an important lesson for teens to learn.
Jun 10, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it
a teen book festival author - I really liked the story this verse novel sends to kids. it's better to fight with your mind and think three moves ahead than fight with your fists. great author.
Nov 02, 2009 Nancy rated it it was amazing
I have to attach this book to Zeta Elliott's BIRD because they are both realistic tales about young Black boys that are needing to reach out to something besides the gangs in the street. Our media strongly places little Black boys in one situation and that is faced down with nowhere to go. But this book, like BIRD, turn that young male child looking up, getting up and moving on. I wish that some of our media specialists, our urban librarians, suburban librarians, rural librarians and our educato ...more
Aug 26, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
I'm kind of in love with this as a book rec for my jr. high reluctant readers - about to order multiple copies.
Stephanie Colon
Jun 15, 2015 Stephanie Colon rated it really liked it
Took me a bit to read it and almost left it behind when Valentina gave it to me, but we'll worth the read. Good message and great storytelling.
Diana Begeman
Jan 05, 2014 Diana Begeman rated it it was amazing
I teach in a very low socioeconomic school and this book was wonderful. I look for books to do as read alouds that I can connect to different subject areas, particularly math. My fifth grade students made the connection to math with this book easily. I was so much fun listening to them relate chess to math and help each other understand chess, math, and the behavioral and life affirming messages in this book.
Not quite a picture book yet not quite long enough to be considered a novel in verse, Chess Rumble is a unique story that will appeal to reluctant and voracious readers alike.
great book
Gorgeous illustrations!!
Phil Mitchell
Nov 01, 2009 Phil Mitchell rated it it was amazing
This poetic short story is great. It tells the story of a boy who is a bit troubled. He grows up in the hood and lives the life of a kid who knows better but makes poor choices until he is introduced to the game of chess. I really enjoyed the theme of anything is possible, if you put your mind to it. There are so many other themes embedded too but that one sticks out the most. Its a feel good ending leaving you happy.
Bryan Colin
Dec 21, 2010 Bryan Colin rated it really liked it
This book is amazing because it talks about this kids life named Mark in poem form. This book sometimes makes me think about my life, like what would happen if my sister died. This book really brings sadness to you. I think this book is great because it has some good parts and some bad ones. This book ads on metaphors that make the book be more sad. I would recommend this book to people that like poems of sadness.
Jun 03, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
My son's teacher read aloud ghetto cowboy to his end of year 4th grade class. So when we went to library recently chess rumble by the same author caught our eye. Not our typical bedtime read aloud but we couldn't stop and since it looked like a poem though a novel in disguise, we kept pressing on. Thumbs up from the 4th grade reluctant boy reader and his mama.
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G. NERI is the Coretta Scott King honor winning author of YUMMY: THE LAST DAYS OF A SOUTHSIDE SHORTY. He is also the recipient of the International Reading Association's Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his debut book CHESS RUMBLE. His latest novel GHETTO COWBOY won an ALA Odyssey Honor and the Horace Mann Upstanders Award. His work has been honored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and t ...more
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