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The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team
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The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  554 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
An award-winning sportswriter takes you inside a year with the nation’s top high school chess team.

With strict admission standards and a progressive curriculum, Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School has long been one of New York’s public-education success stories, serving a diverse neighborhood of immigrants and minorities and ranking among the nation’s best high schoo

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Gotham
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Feb 09, 2008 Tung rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting characters with uniquely different personalities? Check. Niche activity? Check. Niche activity’s history filled with crazy characters and memorable events? Check. Gripping drama and excitement? Ah, this is where Weinreb and this book fail to live up to the blueprint set by the best nonfiction books (Friday Night Lights, Seabiscuit, The Greatest Game Ever Played, et al.). Weinreb spends more than a year tracking the chess team from Edward R. Murrow High, a Brooklyn school whose teams ...more
Feb 13, 2009 Anna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Okay, I admit it. I gave this book 5-stars for purely subjective reasons. If I hadn't been on my high school chess team, didn't care about chess, or didn't find books about high school education interesting, I probably would have rated it 3-stars.

Man, I loved this book. While my high school chess team was nothing like Murrow's, the dynamics were the same: a few students wildly devoted/obsessed with chess, some interested only in pick-up games, and others that showed up only once or twice a year.
Irina Paley
Jun 07, 2011 Irina Paley rated it liked it
This book will be fascinating to two groups of people: those interested in scholastic chess and those interested in Murrow High School. Seeing how I fall into both categories, I rather enjoyed this book. It was well written and nicely researched. However, I don't think it transcends the boundaries of its subject matter, unlike, for example, Louis Sachar's "The Cardturner," which is lovely even if you know nothing about bridge. The Kings of New York was fun for me, but I honestly can't think of a ...more
Apr 17, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it
Probably my favorite non-fiction book about a group of inner city high school chess geniuses.

It's a group consisting of one, but still - #1 is #1, even if on a technicality (as this book shows).

The author follows a high school chess team from the Bronx for nearly two years, cataloging their tournaments, giving brief biographies of the players, and a look at their home and school life. The book also serves as a bit of a critique of the NYC school system. I felt that the author did a good job in p
Jan 26, 2011 Steven rated it liked it
This book was competently written but little more, falling neatly into the obsessives-and-their-niche-games genre that ballooned a few years ago.

Some of the more intersesting tensions within the book have to do with the esteem related to chess as it is represented as the ultimate mental contest, yet accomplishments are so cheaply rewarded and come with an ample dose of apathy. This gives rise to the notion that people do it for a love of the game, yet they quickly go after any money that is off
Jessie Cran
May 01, 2016 Jessie Cran rated it really liked it
Seeing this at a sell-off shop, I noticed it featured two things I adore: chess and Brooklyn, so I had to get it.

Weinreb manages to capture the love of the game-- and explain it to people who may not understand-- very well, in addition to giving a fantastic overview of why Murrow was such an amazing and ahead-of-its-time high school. Essentially, he's captured a year of life within the chess team, but on a wider scale, managed to expand upon that: it's a year in the lives of a group of teenage
Curtis Butturff
Feb 15, 2010 Curtis Butturff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: games
An interesting look at tournament chess and the role it has played in some New York City middle schools.

I think chess is somewhat less prevalent than it used to be and certainly less so in the midwest and western United States nevertheless it's an interesting story. Most chess prodigies begin as kids to the extent where you are considered 'old' by the time you are old enough to vote.

This is not a historical work but it does allude to prominent figures in the history of Chess and to times when it
May 12, 2012 Ensiform rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, gaming
The author, a sports writer, examines the winning chess team at Edward R. Murrow school, a progressive institution in Brooklyn. Led by Eliot Weiss, a math teacher who built the chess team out of love for the game, the mostly underprivileged “oddballs” and slackers play in tournaments in various cities, overcome their fears, and try to maintain their grade point averages in a school that allows them to get away with a lot.

This is the type of book that I’m interested in, but it didn’t grab me like
Apr 09, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't know anything about chess, but I know quite a bit about public schools in Brooklyn, which is why I picked this one up- everybody who teaches in Brooklyn knows Edward R. Murrow High School.

This was an enjoyable read but I found myself getting distracted from the thin narrative thread involving Murrow's team of national chess champions. Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the game itself- to me, someone who only barely understands the rules of chess, the games described in thi
Mark Schlatter
3.5 to 4 stars for me. I thought the beginning of the book was too diffuse, and I didn't feel like I got distinct impressions of the individual kids in the first few chapters. (The grainy photos did not help.) But the book builds, and the ending was very powerful. Two notes in particular:

1) It's a compelling look at kids for whom nothing but chess motivates. These aren't geniuses who decide to focus on chess, these are chess smart kids who focus on almost nothing else. I was especially moved by
Jan 10, 2014 Colette rated it really liked it
I picked this book out on a whim, primarily because my son loves chess. I ended up entralled with the story of these five high school kids. Weinreb, an excellent sports writer, knows how to not just tell a story, but how to build suspense as well. I know little about the nuances of chess, however, we live in St Louis and Nakamura has taught a class or two my son had the privilege to attend. I have also been to Washington Square Park and witnessed those blitz games as well. No way would we play o ...more
Sep 30, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: reality-rules
I can't believe I actually finished a book about chess. I wasn't really interested in this one, read the first chapter, and wanted to know more. Here's the thing: the author makes me likes these kids. I kept referring back to the photograph in the beginning of the chess team with George Bush and figuring out which was which kid. They are so dorky, but their back stories are fascinating. This Murrow school in NYC had one cool teacher who built this team into something spectacular. What I love mos ...more
Jul 18, 2007 Erica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: summer2007
It took me forever to finish this book, mostly because I started it when I was finishing my thesis.

This book is about the chess team at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. Famous alumni include Marisa Tomei, one of the Beastie Boys, Basquiat, and I think Darren Aronofsky (who directed Requiem for a Dream).

How did I hear about this book? Eliot Weiss, the coach of Murrow's chess team, was also one of my professors last semester so he pitched us on it.

Overall, I liked the book. Weinreb does a
Rich Sanidad
Sep 30, 2011 Rich Sanidad rated it it was ok
An interesting read (it helps if you have a passing interest in chess, obviously), but I was never sure what the focus of the book was supposed to be. Was it Eliot Weiss, the team's faculty advisor and coach? Edward Murrow HS, the high school the team attended? The boys that were members of the team during this snapshot in time? Chess and its influence on the young? I'm glad he touched on so many themes, but he did it in such a way that had your thoughts sprawling and unsettled. I assumed the bo ...more
Jan 21, 2009 Yofish rated it liked it
Recommended to Yofish by: Sports guy
Shelves: read-nonfiction
A year in the lives of the HS-champion chess team (from a HS in NYC). Not enough chess for me (and what there was was oddly off---maybe typos in the diagrams, maybe just poor use of the diagrams, one of the diagrams was just there without any explanation. One said 'he moved a rook' without mentioning where he moved it to). Lots about the players, and the coaches, and how this team happened to be there and then. But a few too many characters (I got lost a little), and without an index. Surprising ...more
Jul 17, 2007 Matt rated it really liked it
The description is fantastic, and the characters are so well-drawn and the world so well envisioned that I was not only rooting for the Brooklyn kids, but wanting to play chess again. The one problem was that virtually every time he tried to include actual chess moves in his narrative (which admittedly wasn't very often), he got them wrong. Even simple mistakes like "5.5 plus 4.5 plus 4.5 plus 4.5 equals 20" made it through. Oh well, can't be perfect. This was a pleasurable read, in the hands of ...more
Ben Exner
Jun 18, 2007 Ben Exner rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interest in education
The Kings of New York is the surprisingly interesting of a group of poor, largely immigrant teenagers at Edward R. Murrow H.S. in Brooklyn who became the best scholastic chess team in the country. Call it Friday Night Lights with nerds, but Michael Weinreb's account of the strange and sometimes sad lives of these prodigies provides hope and despair at the same time. It's a very interesting look at the role of alternative education methods, particularly in public schools, and a great David & ...more
Apr 16, 2015 Mary rated it liked it
This book had an intriguing concept. I'm in awe of those who can play chess and do it well. I have never been able to remember which pieces have the proper moves.

The story was an interesting read during the chapters where it discussed the students' background and home life. Once it started in on their competitions and their moves, it did not appeal to me anymore, although I continued on and finished the book.

Definitely a book that would appeal to someone who enjoys chess and, perhaps, played in
Jan 29, 2008 Ryan rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
The kids in the book didn't care about the major tournaments written about. So why should I? The author never really addressed this. I had high hopes for this book and I walked away disappointed because the kids never became endearing. Whether that's their fault or the author's I don't know.

I wonder if while writing he wished he choose a different team to follow. They were all just so apathetic and I was lulled into apathy myself.

I'd be interested to hear about what other people thought.
Aug 17, 2012 Eliot rated it really liked it
I thought this book did a great job of introducing the reader to the hyper competitive world of high school chess (a world I knew nothing about). The kids are hilarious although some definitely have bigger and more memorable personalities. I really enjoyed the portions that highlighted the dichotomy between the private school kids and our protagonists. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys chess or even books about sports because when it's said and done, this book is just a story about a sports. ...more
Jul 07, 2010 Casey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the world of youth chess in America. As a former team (T-10th at US Nationals 2000) and personal player (almost made 1600 in my playing days), I felt that this was a very in-depth and fairly well written documentary of the harsh underbelly of youth chess. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to explore this world. If your kid wants to take up competitve chess, I would highly recommend reading this book. It won't and shouldn't talk you out of supporting them, just know ...more
Christopher Rex
Mar 22, 2009 Christopher Rex rated it liked it
If you like books like "Friday Night Lights" and/or "The Last Shot", this is the "chess" version of the same motif. Follow around the Edward R. Murrow HS Chess Team for a year and find out what makes young chess-minds tick. Interesting examination of Murrow HS and its unique approach to education as well as look into Top Level Youth Chess as well. Fast-paced and easy to read, which makes it enjoyable.
May 21, 2014 Lynn rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book, offering a look into the golden age of the Murrow Chess Team. The book also offered an insiders view of the world of high school chess and tournaments. I was particularly interested since my son is a chess player and we have housed one of the players followed in the book.

After finishing the book, I wondered 'where are they now' would be great to see a follow up!

I thought it was well written and I was very glad I read it-thanks Josh!
Nov 06, 2011 Tom rated it really liked it
I was not convinced about this book until the last couple of chapters. Every chapter has its own focus, and serves almost as its own separate anecdote and the only thing tying them all together is chess. Then, at the end, everything gets pulled back together at Supernationals. I used to play chess, but haven't in years, but reading this book makes me want to go play again, as well as read more about some of the characters in the chess world, like Bobby Fischer.
Jun 10, 2007 Frank rated it liked it
This is a hell of a story, alright, a highschool in Brooklyn producing the best young chess minds of the nation. While I learned a lot about the chess world, I didn't get to know the kids very well. Maybe there are too many characters - some, introduced in the beginning, disappear for almost the whole length of the book. Still, a nice look into the esoteric world of chess - a game to us, an obsession to the players.
Jan 28, 2016 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports-books
(3.5) Second book I've read by Weinreb and, like his online work, I mostly enjoyed it. He shows a deep respect for the young people he is reporting on, instead of treating them like children. And I learned a lot more about competitive chess than I ever knew. Went on a bit too long near the end; the whole thing could've probably just been a longform New Yorker piece rather than a book. Nevertheless, it's a well-written read that was worth the investment of time.
Nov 21, 2008 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a cute book from my perspective as a high school teacher. I loved the profiles of the students, who were surprisingly varied individuals, connected by their personal relationships to a game. I never "got" chess, but it's clear that it's more than a game to these kids. It's an identity.

Also, from an education perspective, the details about Murrow High School in Brooklyn were fascinating.
Timothy Mahan
Jul 05, 2012 Timothy Mahan rated it liked it
Actually really interesting though the drama of a traditional sports movie/book are somewhat missing. Hearing the stories of the kids and how they approach chess is fascinating, as is the story of their high school. I enjoyed the strategies and the history of modern chess even more than the story of the chess team.
Brian Sison
Mar 16, 2008 Brian Sison rated it really liked it
Very good book. But I wouldn't classify it as a "Chess Book". It's more of a biography, or I guess, a group biography. It focused on the players, parents, teachers, coaches, and sponors of the HS tournament environment. It didn't delve into the actual game hardly at all. I still found it quite enjoyable, but probably only for a small niche audience.
Oct 20, 2007 Pat rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Excellent book about the kids who make up a great chess club in a New York public school. Interesting group of kids - definitely the geeks, oddballs and geniuses - well-written and the author makes you care aobu the kids.
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Michael Weinreb is the author of Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB and How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete. His previous book, The Kings of New York (paperback title: Game of Kings), won the Quill Award as the Best Sports Book of 2007, was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, and The Christian Science Monitor, and was a New York Times Book Review E ...more
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