The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain

The Immortal Game A History of Chess or How Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War Art Science and the Human Brain A surprising charming and ever fascinating history of the seemingly simple game that has had a profound effect on societies the world over Why has one game alone among the thousands of games invent

  • Title: The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain
  • Author: David Shenk
  • ISBN: 9780385510103
  • Page: 126
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A surprising, charming, and ever fascinating history of the seemingly simple game that has had a profound effect on societies the world over.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 itsA surprising, charming, and ever fascinating history of the seemingly simple game that has had a profound effect on societies the world over.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 educational tool Nearly everyone has played chess at some point in their lives Its rules and pieces have served as a metaphor for society including military strategy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, 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 different popes, rabbis, and imams 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 new aesthetic of modernism in 20th century art, to its 21st century importance to 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 Indeed as Shenk shows, some neuroscientists believe that playing chess may actually alter the structure of the brain, that it may for individuals be what it has been for civilization a virus that makes us smarter.From the Hardcover edition.

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    About “David Shenk

    • David Shenk

      David Shenk is the award winning and national bestselling author of six books, including The Genius in All of Us New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ deeply interesting and important New York Times , The Forgetting Alzheimer s, Portrait of an Epidemic remarkable Los Angeles Times , Data Smog Surviving the Information Glut indispensable New York Times , and The Immortal Game A History of Chess superb Wall Street Journal He is a popular lecturer, a short film director, and a correspondent for TheAtlantic He has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Harper s, Spy, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS Shenk lives in Brooklyn, New York.

    439 thoughts on “The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain

    • OH YEAH, tough competition on Chess the Immortal Game in the reviews arena. I’m really in the big leagues here with Chelsea and her three likes. Or Benjamin Zapata’s three likes and comment. Yeah I really got bring out my A material here. (This book as 159 reviews and 3 likes gets ya top billing. Tough crowd.) And I if were to rebut Chelsea’s criticism that the author dawdles too much on his own experiences, that’s it’s self indulgent, I mean, that’s what these pop books are. It’s [...]


    • The Immortal Game covers the long and meandering history of chess in an easy to read narrative that parallels a particular game played by two chess masters in the mid 1800s in London. The book includes detailed discussions on the rules and strategies of chess as well as its significance in relation to human understanding at different points in history. The Immortal Game of the title seems to end anticlimactically, echoing a somewhat stilted conclusion to the otherwise graceful narrative. Additio [...]


    • A well-researched charming introduction to the beautiful game of chess,a game that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years. David Shenk takes us on a trip millennia back and light-years ahead to find out how 32 carved pieces on a board illuminated our understanding of almost everything,from religion,art,mathematics,literature,to artificial intelligence and beyond.Indeed,as Shenk shows,some neuroscientists believe that playing chess may actually alter the structure of the brain,that it may b [...]


    • This is the second book I've read about the history of chess this year (the first was Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn Yalom). While they are both excellent treatments of the subject, I think I like The Immortal Game better. It's just more fun. The Immortal Game has a sort of whimsy about it which I find appropriate because chess is, after all, merely a game (despite the intellectual and historical heft it can throw around after 1400 years). Of course, they're very different works, so that co [...]


    • Yes this book gets into the History of Chess but really it is about a specific game played on June 21, 1851 between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky, two world chess champion candidates playing a tune-up match in a pub in London. The author sets the stage and describes the game move-by-move. You don't have to be an expert to appreciate the beauty of this particular game, it was won with brilliant sacrifice and combination in a wide open style. Halfway through this book I knew I was going t [...]


    • I picked this up (from the library) based on a recommendation from Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics blog. I've always had a fascination with chess as a cultural phenomenon, although I've never been more than an occasional, mediocre player. Anyhow, this is a really fascinating history of chess, told in that post-modern way of jumping back and forth in time, between the ""straight"" historical account, the author's own experience with the game, and a move-by-move account of a famous game -- the so-ca [...]


    • Yikes. If it hadn't been for the glowing reviews, I probably wouldn't taken the chance on this. Chess certainly can be overexposed, but this promised good writing with fresh incites that revitalized our perspective on the game.Me? At best is was an ok magazine article. Not that the subject isn't worthy. I just found the writing thin, without the author bringing much to the table then his own family history's link with chess and his recent attempts to retake up the game. All the relevant material [...]


    • This is a great book that is accessible to all, not just chess nerds. The author structures it around the most famous game of chess maybe ever(the Immortal Game). This is a clever technique and I highly recommend this book.


    • I've recently become geeked out about chess. Most of the stuff I've read has felt as grueling as a textbook, but Shenk's book is engaging and enthusiastic.


    • On my last trip to the library, I did something I almost never do: I chose a book simply because it sounded interesting. (Because I can only accept so much spontaneity, however, I did verify that it had a decent rating before taking a chance on it.) I wanted to listen to some nonfiction, so why not a history of a chess.Reader, I made the right choice.David Shenk finds that he has a personal connection to the game of chess, as one of his ancestors was a chessmaster. And so he delves into the his [...]


    • There are more books with the title "The Immortal Game" than seems possible, but this is the one you should chooseat is, if you are into chess, its history, and its beauty. Like many, I went through a chess phase in my late teens, about the time I would read poetry books in public places and wore clear-lensed spectacles to 'impress' my intellect and seriousness on strangers. But even then, despite a shallow understanding of chess, I'd heard and read about the "immortal game" that took place 1851 [...]


    • A successful juggling act. I don't know why I picked up this book had doubts on whether I'd read it.The title and opening were significant enough hooks to keep me reading until the narratives started to unfold. The time spent on earlier civilizations, gave me a vested interest.I am not a chess player. From early in my youth I purposefully disdained from chess playing. I had access to books and willing adversaries. But it was not an easy thing. From the first game it became apparent that being go [...]


    • For the next six weeks, I'll be teaching chess to elementary students as part of an after-school program. Since I'm not much of a chess player, I decided to take a crash course in the game and familiarize myself with some of its broad concepts. This book is pretty much exactly what I needed.Shenk tells the stories of chess from its origins (probably in Persia, maybe in India) to the present day (and beyond). His touch is light, which lets him cover a huge amount of information without bogging do [...]


    • not the best history, but a good primer for beginners like me. It has a very interdisciplinary approach, which I liked, and the play-by-play of "the immortal game" (a chess game between two blokes in mid-19th century London) is nail-biting. Go figure.


    • Enjoyable, but much too brief. I feel like every chapter could've been deeper and longer and it would still be an engaging book.


    • A quick read about both the history of chess and a single game in London in the 1800s. I enjoyed it a lot.


    • This is the first book I read about the history of chess, and it was a great experience. I am a fan of chess but I am a novice player, and I am very likely to stay that way as I am not interested in reading chess theory, openings, endgames or strategy. I do find quite entertaining to see other people play beautiful and ingenious moves, and I am (as most people are) always in awe of people playing blitz or blindfold chess. This book not only narrates the vast history of chess, but also many other [...]


    • A fascinating journey following the development of chess, the rules, its impact on society, and emerging strategies, as recounted by an interested observer of the game who understands the principles but admits to struggling to deploying them in practice (with whom I can identify!).Very easy to read, a little heavy on examples of chess analogies, a little light on the big epochs of chess (other than the romantics) fascinatingly interspersed with analysis of the 1851 "Immortal Game" between Anders [...]


    • Not sure when I began reading this book so the dates might be a bit off. In any case, this is a fun little pop-history book about chess — interesting read though it becomes a little watered/dumbed down at times and at others full of hyperbole regarding the influence of chess — it was about a hundred pages longer than it needed have been if all the explanations for obvious things were cut out — the author spends too much time and energy laying out and explaining the simplest metaphors as if [...]


    • Fascinating game, fascinating popular history. If you're a serious student of chess history, you probably won't find much new in this book. If you, like me, are a complete dabbler though, and the idea of 32 pieces skittering across a substantial chunk of recorded human history tweaks your interest, and if, perhaps, you also recall the excitement of Cold War chess conflicts, and remember some of the great chess figures of our (or any) age in whom madness and genius so palpably and publicly strugg [...]


    • At this point in my life, I'm comfortable with the idea that I'll be a patzer forever. I like chess a lot, but the idea of sitting down with a book of openings and studying it seriously, like it was for a test, somehow makes the game seem too much like work, even though it's impossible to become even a mediocre player without giving chess some real thought. This attitude probably says something about how I view games as a whole, and in fact maybe even about my view on life in general, and Shenk, [...]


    • This isn't so much a history book as it is a collection of different essays about chess throughout history. This is actually a good thing: instead of a long list of dry facts, Shenk does a very nice job of bringing the subject to life. Many times, he ends up discussing the impact of chess on history rather than chess history, and to me this was a good thing.If you're looking for an academic text on the history of chess, this isn't your book. However, if you're looking to be entertained and educa [...]


    • Like the author, I'm a bit of a duffer as a player - taking the game back up occasionally, until I realize how poorly I play. Shenk weaves the history of chess with chapters replaying a historic game between two masters. This book makes me want to read even more about chess, and make yet another attempt at playing regularly.


    • The author couples the history of chess with human history in general to show chess has affected great men and great wars, proving its monumental role. Though the narrative is charming and the details are interesting, this is more a fun read rather than an insight dive into the chess world.


    • WonderfulAfter finishing the book, the first thing I wanted to do was to send it to my chess rival (both of us amateurs) and challenge him to a game!




    • Interesting book on two levels: first, the history of chess and how it has become such a long-lasting game that still fascinates and intruiges to this day 1,400 years after its inception; second, because the author takes us through a specific game that in many ways is the epitome of why chess is so interesting and the players considered to have such incredible mental agility. Very enjoyable, and could be read by expert chess player or novice alike, thanks to the explanations.


    • People have been doing it for more than 1300 years. James Bond did it. So did Kirk and Spock. Ben Franklin was addicted to it. Harry Potter did it the wizard way, but never once did Doyle ever directly say Sherlock Holmes did. I picked up The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, expecting it to be the dorkiest book ever written, a checkered feather in my Nerd cap. I expected it to be boring and confusing, full of that chessy shorthand I can’t seem to follow despite its simplicity, and I never ex [...]


    • People have been doing it for more than 1300 years. James Bond did it. So did Kirk and Spock. Ben Franklin was addicted to it. Harry Potter did it the wizard way, but never once did Doyle ever directly say Sherlock Holmes did. I picked up The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, expecting it to be the dorkiest book ever written, a checker-board feather in my Nerd cap. I expected it to be boring and confusing, full of that chessy shorthand I can’t seem to follow despite its simplicity, and I neve [...]


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