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Birth of the Chess Queen: A Historyby Marilyn Yalom
Synopses & Reviews
Everyone knows that the queen is the most dominant piece in chess, but few people know that the game existed for five hundred years without her. It wasn't until chess became a popular pastime for European royals during the Middle Ages that the queen was born and was gradually empowered to become the king's fierce warrior and protector.
Birth of the Chess Queen examines the five centuries between the chess queen's timid emergence in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire to her elevation during the reign of Isabel of Castile. Marilyn Yalom, inspired by a handful of surviving medieval chess queens, traces their origin and spread from Spain, Italy, and Germany to France, England, Scandinavia, and Russia. In a lively and engaging historical investigation, Yalom draws parallels between the rise of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe, presenting a layered, fascinating history of medieval courts and internal struggles for power.
Everyone knows that the queen is the most powerful piece in chess, but few people know that the game existed for five hundred years without her. In India, Persia, and the Ara + lands, where the game was first played, a general, or vizier (chief counselor to the king), occupied the square where the queen now stands. Not until the year 1000, two hundred years after Arab conquerors brought chess to southern Europe, did a chess queen appear on the board. Initially she was the weakest piece, moving only one square at a time on the diagonal, yet by 1497, during the reign of Isabella of Castile, the chess queen had become the formidable force she is today.
About the Author
Marilyn Yalom is a senior scholar at the Institute for Women and Gender at Stanford University. She is the author of A History of the Wife; A History of the Breast; Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory; and Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, psychiatrist and writer Irvin Yalom.
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