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Chess Story

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  101,731 ratings  ·  7,366 reviews
Chess Story, also known as The Royal Game, is the Austrian master Stefan Zweig's final achievement, completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological.

Travelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires fin
Paperback, 104 pages
Published December 9th 2005 by NYRB Classics (first published 1943)
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 ·  101,731 ratings  ·  7,366 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books

I detect strong parallels between reading a novel and the game of chess: there is the author sitting on one side, playing white, the reader on the other side, playing black; instead of the chess board and chess pieces there is the novel; the author’s opening chapter is the chess player’s opening, the middle of the novel is, of course, the middle game, and the closing chapter is the end game. If both author and reader expand their literary horizons and deepen their appreciation of life’s mysterie
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Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite; these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.
*EDIT 12/20/21*
Chess, the ‘Royal Game’, ‘regally eschews the tyranny of chance and awards its palms of victory only to the intellect, or rather to a certain type of intellectual gift.’ Stefan Zweig plunges the reader into this cold, calculating world throug
Aug 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001, austria, short
This is how you write a novella. Well written, gripping, intense, insightful, educational and emotional. All of that in 60 pages, what an achievement.

The novel is set on a vessel travelling from New York to Buenos Aires. One of the ship's guests is the world chess champion of the time. He was an unfriendly individual, lacking any social skills or intelligence besides chess. The narrator never met a chess player before and together with another man they convince the champion to play with them for
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We Are Never Alone

With astounding concision in a short story about chess, Zweig outlines a profound psychological theory: that a human being’s greatest resource - the ability to reflect upon himself and his actions - is also his greatest vulnerability.

Experience alone, without the capacity to reflect upon it, provides rigid rules for responding to situations which never quite repeat themselves. Reflective ability creates the ability to cope with entirely novel conditions through the power to re
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
”My pleasure in playing became a desire to play, a mania, a frenzy, which permeated not only my waking hours but gradually my sleep too. Chess was all I could think about, chess moves, chess problems were the only form my thoughts could take; sometimes I awoke with a sweaty brow and understood that I must have unconsciously gone on playing even while I slept, and if I dreamt of people, all they did was move like the bishop or the rook, or hopscotch like the knight.”

 photo Chess Board_zps0leviioh.jpg

We never are formally intr
Vit Babenco
Sep 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Human mind… Its full abilities still remain unknown…
In his profoundly psychological Chess Story Stefan Zweig explores some capabilities of human mind…
All my life I have been passionately interested in monomaniacs of any kind, people carried away by a single idea. The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite; these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the w
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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An interesting short story that it's one of the most famous works by the writer Stefan Zweig that even sadly was published after his suicide.

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When a story is presented in another language, some elements are lost in the translation, and I think that while Chess Story is a pretty good title, its original title was "The Royal Game" that I think it gives to the story an air of refinement, class and elegance.

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Besides my interest to try this author, I was intrig
Ahmad Sharabiani
Schachnovelle = Le jaueur d'echecs = Chess Story = The Royal Game, Stefan Zweig

The Royal Game is a novella by Austrian author Stefan Zweig first published in 1941, just before the author's death by suicide. In some editions, the title is used for a collection that also includes "Amok", "Burning Secret", "Fear", and "Letter From an Unknown Woman".

Driven to mental anguish as the result of total isolation by the National Socialists, Dr B, a monarchist hiding valuable assets of the nobility from t
Stefan Zweig

Before the start of review, let me put across a warning to all probable readers of this novella that this book has two active beings- one is the reader of course but other one is the author himself, he keeps on following you or rather your moves right to end of the book or the game more appropriately. It may sound strange- so it is and Zweig is but only pleasantly, more you will come to know through the course of this review. Chess, the ‘Royal Game’ is not just a book it’s a gam
Jim Fonseca
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Like most of Zweig’s work, this is a novella. For those uninterested in chess, very little of the story has to do with the details of the actual games played.

The story is set on an ocean liner traveling from New York to Buenos Aires.


Our narrator has only a passing interest and limited ability at chess but he becomes intrigued when he learns that the world chess champion is on the ship headed to a grand master matchup. The world champion is a person who is called an ‘i
Mar 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"But how could so rapid a rise to fame fail to turn such an empty head?"

[Portrait of Chess Players, © Marcel Duchamp.]

"...the mysterious attraction of the ‘royal game’, the only game ever devised by mankind that rises magnificently above the tyranny of chance, awarding the palm of victory solely to the mind, or rather to a certain kind of mental gift."

Stefan Zweig`s Chess (also known as The Royal Game), which is acclaimed as his finest masterpiece novella, was written in the year 1941 when the w

This book is about the workings of the mind.

But before I go into that, let me start by saying that to me the name of Stefan Zweig evokes a feeling of nostalgia. Of course, this is foremost due to the title of his famous memoirs, and because we know that he belonged to a world that was disappearing. And probably because he realized this he decided to depart from it.

But for me it creates an additional longing. It makes me yearn for a world in which I did not yet exist, a world that followed Zweig’
Andy Marr
Oct 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
A moving and entirely believable story of one man's struggle with madness. I found it to be slightly repetitive in parts, but it's an excellent story by a true master. ...more
“He would cast a single, seemingly cursory glance at the board before each move, looking past us as indifferently as if we ourselves were lifeless wooden pieces.”

This novella is my introduction to Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. He’s not entirely unknown to me, however, as I’ve seen numerous reviews of his work and have been interested in reading him myself for quite some time. It’s important to understand a bit of his background before reading this story. Zweig was born in Austria and then fled t
Apr 22, 2014 rated it liked it
The chessplayer and the non-chessplayer will read this classic novella in different ways. The non-chessplayer sees it as a tragedy where the noble but unworldly Dr. B is defeated by the oafish but practical Czentovic. Chess is used to symbolize the pure world of the mind, where Dr. B should triumph due to his superior intellectual powers, but discovers that his opponent's ruthlessness and greed are stronger. Czentovic cannot win fairly, but is perfectly happy to cheat.

The chessplayer would like
Stefan Zweig created an extraordinary, exciting, thought provoking novel in a typical, virtuosic self-writing style.
...nothing on earth exerts such pressure on the human soul as a void. (19)


Black. White. Which is it? Which one is our nature? We can be good, we can be cruel. We praise ourselves saying being human entails being good. We have daily proofs that is not necessary the case. If we are meant to be good and we are not, our mind have lost the battle against a deviation. Or against our true nature.
Now that is a depressing thought.

I had this book on my to-read shelf for months. And I wasn't going to re
Steven Godin
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My my, how times do change, they don't make um like this anymore. As for time, what a way to spend an hour. Exceptional!

Stefan Zweig’s final achievement, and what an achievement, completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological. Travelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires find that on board with them is the world champi

I always considered chess the most boring game in the world. Two people sitting opposite each other, and between them chessboard with these funny figures that players move after few minutes cogitation. It seemed as exciting as snail racing.

Apparently I was wrong. Chess Story centres around two extraordinary men, being opposites in every term, personality, background, approaching to life. A chance meeting on an ocean liner gives them possibility to chess duel. It’s a great psychological study,
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing

If you want to experience the wonders of a powerful novella without compromising much on time front but at the same instant ready for a deep emotional involvement which would accelerate your heartbeat, if not at a fatal but abnormal rate then Chess Story is for you. A gripping work of fiction with unique characters and an impeccable narration that would not only make the fascination about the game of chess come alive but also convey the dynamics of human mind during the most testing times which
Elyse Walters
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Chess was all I could think about, chess moves, chess problems were the only form my thoughts could take”.

“Chess Story” is the first book I’ve read by Stefan Zweig—(the only one that he wrote about Nazism).

This is a psychological suspense tale set on board a ship traveling from New York to Buenos Aires.
It’s less than 200 pages ...
captivating, haunting, bleak and mysterious.

Dr. B., an Australian lawyer of Royalist sympathies, was taken prisoner by the Gestapo in march 1938, as the Nazis inva
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014, dost
A chessboard with sixty-four squares hidden in the folds of a checkered pattern bedspread represents much more than a mere pastime in Zweig’s short novella.
The dichotomy of black and white pieces of divided consciousness locked inside a man struggling to keep sanity over mental torture.
Chess moves, chess problems, imaginary games played in frenzied compulsion, both ruin and salvation of someone who has been deprived of the warmth of humanity, become the only means of creating meaning out of th
One gets the sense that Zweig was projecting his inner turmoil, his insanity, into the character of Dr B. This projection was much too real, too disturbing to be fiction. Dr B's mental frailty was brought on by mental torture, total isolation, at the hands of Germany's Gestapo. Zweig's was troubled by the isolation from his country (Austria), his people, his culture. Dr B found his relief in the game of Chess, Zweig found his in writing. Quite a powerful story to be packed into 84 pages. 4.5 sta ...more
Nov 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This novella was really good. In my New York Review of Books edition, on the back cover it is stated: “A New Translation of Zweig’s final masterpiece”. Here-here.

It’s about the game of chess, and chess masters, and so much more. About the Nazis. Chess and Nazis? Yep.

Zweig wrote this in 1941 in Brazil. He was born and lived in Austria but was forced to flee because of the Nazis. After he had edited the final draft, his wife typed up the manuscript and sent it to New York with a letter to his publ
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Wanting to play chess against yourself is a paradox, like jumping over your own shadow."

But what fun is life if words like manic, insanity, paradox and contradiction are not put to test once in a while? Even at the cost of years of discipline and rationality?

Stefen Zweig surely put his own constructs up the wall when he created this ingenious piece of art. Yes, it was pure art; outrightly splendid form of art that overwhelms the realms of conventional thinking and forces the mind to stretch its
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Chess Story or the Royal Game is Stephan Zweig's autobiographical short story detailing how he used chess as a way to escape boredom while imprisoned by the Nazis. A mere 84 pages in length, Chess Story is the last book Zweig wrote before he and his wife committed suicide. In its pages, he details his relationship with the royal game of chess.

We first meet grand champion Czentovic when he is orphaned at age 14 and living in a parsonage. A reclusive teen, he uses chess to get ahead and eventuall
Oct 05, 2022 marked it as to-read
Shelves: classics, non-ya
shameful confession time:

i don't know how to play chess.
With Zweig, I apparently started at the end : “Chess” was sent to his publisher just days before he took his own life. At first glance, it is the story of a handful of passengers on a ship to Buenos Aires who find out that a cold and condescending chess champion is on board, and challenge him to a game in the hopes of beating him. They all fail, of course, until a mysterious man shows up to give them a little advice on how the game is played. Intrigued, the unnamed narrator decides to ask him ho ...more
persephone ☾
i will never stop recommending this book to every person I ever come in contact with
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On Paths Unknown: Stefan Zweig's Chess Story 40 34 Aug 28, 2022 08:34PM  
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Reading 1001: Chess Story by Stefan Zweig 8 27 Jul 31, 2021 04:23PM  
Reading 1001: Chess in books 2 17 Apr 17, 2021 05:20AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Alternative cover 2 181 Apr 09, 2021 08:43AM  

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Stefan Zweig was one of the world's most famous writers during the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the U.S., South America, and Europe. He produced novels, plays, biographies, and journalist pieces. Among his most famous works are Beware of Pity, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. He and his second wife committed suicide in 1942.
Zweig studied in Austria, France

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