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The Immortal Game: A History of Chessby David Shenk
Synopses & Reviews
Why has one game, alone among the thousands of games invented and played throughout human history, not only survived but thrived within every culture it has touched? What is it about its thirty-two figurative pieces, moving about its sixty-four black and white squares according to very simple rules, that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years? Why has it driven some of its greatest players into paranoia and madness, and yet is hailed as a remarkably powerful intellectual tool?
Nearly everyone has played chess at some point in their lives. Its rules and pieces have served as a metaphor for society, influencing military strategy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and literature and the arts. It has been condemned as the devil’s game by popes, rabbis, and imams, and lauded as a guide to proper living by other popes, rabbis, and imams. Marcel Duchamp was so absorbed in the game that he ignored his wife on their honeymoon. Caliph Muhammad al-Amin lost his throne (and his head) trying to checkmate a courtier. Ben Franklin used the game as a cover for secret diplomacy.
In his wide-ranging and ever-fascinating examination of chess, David Shenk gleefully unearths the hidden history of a game that seems so simple yet contains infinity. From its invention somewhere in India around 500 A.D., to its enthusiastic adoption by the Persians and its spread by Islamic warriors, to its remarkable use as a moral guide in the Middle Ages and its political utility in the Enlightenment, to its crucial importance in the birth of cognitive science and its key role in the aesthetic of modernism in twentieth-century art, to its twenty-first-century importance in the development of artificial intelligence and use as a teaching tool in inner-city America, chess has been a remarkably omnipresent factor in the development of civilization.
From the Hardcover edition.
A fascinating history of chess explains how the game, its rules, and its pieces have had a profound influence on military strategy, literature, the arts, mathematics, the development of artificial intelligence, and other fields, from its origins in India around A.D. 500 to the present day. Reprint.
Chess is the most enduring and universal game in history. Here, bestselling author David Shenk chronicles its intriguing saga, from ancient Persia to medieval Europe to the dens of Benjamin Franklin and Norman Schwarzkopf. Along the way, he examines a single legendary game that took place in London in 1851 between two masters of the time, and relays his own attempts to become as skilled as his Polish ancestor Samuel Rosenthal, a nineteenth-century champion. With its blend of cultural history and Shenk’s personal interest, The Immortal Game is a compelling guide for novices and aficionados alike.
About the Author
David Shenk is the author of three previous books, including Data Smog, which The New York Times hailed as an “indispensable guide to the big picture of technology’s cultural impact.” A former fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, he has written for Harper’s, Wired, Salon, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker, and is an occasional commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter.
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