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

The Kings of New York by Michael Weinreb
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Jan 26, 2011

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Read in January, 2011

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 offered and scorn tournaments that don't have any cash prizes.

Still though, to be any good at chess, you have to invest an inordinate amount of time. This anxiety (or what most people would call "drive") to become better is exacerbated by the fact that each player is objectively scored and given a numerical ranking. So you have this mixture of the self-confidence that is useful in chess and that humility of knowing how many players in the world are better than you. It's a constant pull of proving that you care more about it than anyone else and are willing to sacrifice more and more of your life.

It's a quick read, and it helps to already be interested in chess (I'm only guessing, here). The odd thing about reading relative unknowns is that you can now hop on facebook and twitter and stalk the characters in the book. Because you've already made some amount of emotional investment in them there's a temptation to friend them and ...I don't know what happens after that.

Lastly, I personally liked the cameo from Jennifer Shahade and Irina Krush, who I read about in Shahade's book, Chess Bitch. For whatever reason, it was comforting.
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