Ensiform's Reviews > King's Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game

King's Gambit by Paul Hoffman
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 09, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, gaming

Half memoir, half exploration into the world of grandmasters and the connection between high-level playing and insanity. Hoffman uses his skill at chess as a springboard for an investigation into what drove his father – an ultra-competitive compulsive liar who casts a long shadow over all of his accomplishments. At the same time, wary of how the forces of competition can drive the greatest chess players into losing their compassion, he strives to understand the game rather than conquer it. He profiles chess players, including Kasparov, Nigel Short, Pascal Charbonneau, and several female players, including Jennifer Shahade, and tries to discern how their fierce competitiveness can be tempered – by a rich social life, by a regressed adolescence, or some other means.

It can be a very interesting book, especially when Hoffman writes about some of the extremes of the chess world, such as the Karpov-Kasparov rivalry; or the absurd suspicion with which Lybian security officers viewed him during a tournament there; or the bizarre Freudian spins some psychologists have put on the act of playing chess; or playing chess with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of FIDE and of a Russian republic, a probably corrupt despot who claims to have traveled with aliens. Hoffman’s own family is dysfunctional, though less so than a million others, and his father issues cannot catch the interest of the reader as much as they do Hoffman himself. I would further quibble that the book could use a few chess diagrams, or at least a few more lines explaining for the neophyte what each move entailed.
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read King's Gambit.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.