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  1. #1
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Chess (and chess-related) novels and other fiction

    Either there is not already a chess novels thread on here or if there is it is missing a lot of the obvious suspects! (Nabokov's The Defense, Tevis' The Queen's Gambit, Canetti's Auto-da-Fe which I still haven't read, Zweig The Royal Game etc - feel free to mention others of interest)

    Anyway the Twitter feed of Nigel Short (who else?) has just drawn my attention to this upcoming release:

    http://shop.chess.co.uk/The-Mating-G...der-161234.htm

    The Mating Game by Jovanka Houska & James Essinger
    A new romance novel from the British Women's Chess Champion

    Meet Ivana (‘call me Vanny’) Jones, a sexy, beautiful, warm-hearted professional chess-player. She has a problem: she’s only attracted to guys who can beat her… so what’s she to do when a chess amateur, the Russian billionaire Boris Bogolyubov, proposes marriage?

    Not only that, but as Vanny tries to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a chess grandmaster, she develops a crush on Norwegian sex-god Sven while also falling for a stunning and adoring Frenchwoman. Meanwhile, Vanny’s hoping a revolutionary new drug treatment will save her best friend Charlotte’s life.

    Set in London, Monaco, Budapest, Helsinki, Odessa, New York… and Leicester, this sparkily written, passionate, emotional and entertaining novel will rock your boat… even if you’ve never shouted ‘Checkmate!’

    About the Authors
    Jovanka Houska is the current British Women’s Chess Champion, an international chess master and one of the world’s leading women chess-players. She has won many international tournaments and is a prolific author of books about chess. She also loves travelling to remote islands, yoga, gardening, and enjoys many of the things Vanny likes.

    James Essinger is a club-strength chess-player and a writer. Ada’s Algorithm, his biography of computer pioneer Ada Lovelace, has been published in the UK and the US and in a Spanish edition, and is to be filmed. He’s never lost at chess to Jovanka, but only because he’s too scared to play her.
    Ummm ... I'm not sure I can resist!

    Note: there is also a chess movies thread at http://www.chesschat.org/showthread....hess-in-movies

  2. #2
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    Another one I came across a while back was "Zugzwang" by Ronan Bennett. It's set at the 1914 St Petersburg tournament (which was probably the first tournament book I read) and the chess characters are real except that Rubinstein isn't there and there is a fictional character who is him; the book's protagonist is the psychologist who treats "Rubinstein".

    The novel is about political intrigue in the city (not in the tournament, up to where I read) and I recall there were some murders - I only got about a quarter through before the Tasmanian library service demanded it back and I didn't have the energy to finish it. I found it somewhat flat and there wasn't much chess in it to that point as the tournament hadn’t started.

    A more serious problem, according to a review I've seen, is that the Zugzwang position described in some detail later (you will guess that zugzwang is used as a parallel between chess and life, hence the title) is not zugzwang, just a lost position. The novel defines zugzwang as simply a position where any move makes the position worse, which I suppose is not strictly false but doesn't really get across the essence of it. Probably this is deliberate rather than through not understanding – creating a real-life zugzwang that matches a chess zugzwang as correctly defined is difficult since in real life you can pass, or for that matter you can make several moves at once.

    In summary, not recommended but don’t let me stop you trying it, if only to pick holes. It evidently does have real chess scenes, as opposed to movies where a character briefly plays chess (with an illegal or improbable position and the board the wrong way round) to communicate that they are an intelligent and analytical sort of person.

    I have also read The Dragon Variation by Anthony Glyn which I recall that I liked; well I finished it but it would have been over thirty years ago and I don’t recall the ending.

    I’m pretty sure there is another thread referencing chess-mentioning novels, I have a memory of commenting on a Swedish(?) novel where a detective plays chess; the author had done a bit of research but was manifestly not a keen player himself.

  3. #3
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    I should also mention David Lovejoy's "Moral Victories: The Story of Savielly Tartakower" as an Australian example.

    In shorter fiction I previously mentioned George R R Martin's excellent "Unsound Variations" novella (which is based on real chess experience as he was quite a strong student player) and also I may have mentioned Roger Zelazny's "Unicorn Variation" (which is not so good from a chess perspective as a few of the games end in stalemate, which is unlikely given the strength of the players).

  4. #4
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    "Åttenderaden" by Arne Danielsen (only in Norwegian) is probably the best ever book in this area. Arne Danielsen has also written some books about Magnus Carlsen - he is friend of the family... - but Åttenderaden is much better.

    The danish book "kandidaten" by Peter Dürrfeld is also very good. It's about (classical) postal chess, so it would probably never be transalated to any other language than Swedish.

    @ Kevin B. If the book from Elias Canetti is - in german - Die Blendung, then read, read, read, read... I don't think you will regret it.

  5. #5
    CC Grandmaster Adamski's Avatar
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    I have read the books mentioned above that are by Bennett, Glyn and Lovejoy. Enjoyed all 3, esp. Lovejoy as Tartakower a GM I have long been interested in with all his pithy sayings and the naming of the Orang outan which I used to play. Bennett's one got better, Ian. Worth a trip to the library to get it out again!
    God exists. Short and to the point.

    Secretary of, and regularly arbiter at, Rooty Hill RSL Chess Club. See www.rootyhillchessclub.org.

    Psephological insight. "Controversial will only lose you votes. Courageous will lose you the election." Sir Humphrey Appleby on Yes Minister.

    Favorite movie line: Girl friend Cathy to Jack Ryan in "Sum of all Fears". "What kind of emergency does an historian have?".

  6. #6
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    At a lower level there is "The Bishop Murder Case" from 1929 by "S.S. van Dine"/William Huntingdon Wright.

    Unfortunately the danish translation of this book was very complicated, as a traditional Bishop [Biskop] and a bishop at a chessboard [Løber] have two very different names.

  7. #7
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    A number of novels and short stories centred on chess are referred to by Fox and James (The Even More Complete Chess Addict) also being written by reasonably good chess players. I leave it to readers to consult the book which is very entertaining. Chess also takes a big part in Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking Glass".

    DJ
    ...I don't want to go among mad people Alice remarked, "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat ,"or you wouldn't have come here."

  8. #8
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    A collection of science-fiction or fantasy chess-themed short stories is:

    Pawn to Infinity (ed. Fred Saberhagen) - Ace Books 1982

    Contains "Unsound Variations" and "Unicorn Variation" mentioned by Kevin Bonham above (although only ONE game in Unicorn Variation ends in stalemate, which doesn't seem to me to be an unlikely ending for a high-level game, if you played out a lot of endgames to the end (K+P v K say).

    Also contains "Von Goom's Gambit". I am practising my von Goom, viewing the board in a mirror, and almost have mastered it sufficiently to use in play. Watch out! It would be safer for you just to resign.

    Does not contain Fritz Leiber's "The 64-square Madhouse" where Bobby Fischer (well, "Willy Angler" in the story) has to deal with an almost unbeatable computer.
    Last edited by triplecheck; 19-11-2016 at 12:02 AM.

  9. #9
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by triplecheck View Post
    Contains "Unsound Variations" and "Unicorn Variation" mentioned by Kevin Bonham above (although only ONE game in Unicorn Variation ends in stalemate, which doesn't seem to me to be an unlikely ending for a high-level game, if you played out a lot of endgames to the end (K+P v K say).
    Yes, one game ends in stalemate and there is another where he "found himself wondering whether he could manage a stalemate."

    I will find a copy of Pawn To Infinity one of these decades.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham View Post
    I will find a copy of Pawn To Infinity one of these decades.
    I know how you feel! I lent out my original copy, and never saw it again. After years of searching, I found a second-hand copy in Australia. Unfortunately, it seems that it is now only available in from the US in hard copy.

  11. #11
    CC Grandmaster road runner's Avatar
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    I have a book called Sinister Gambits which is an anthology of short stories that I love to dust off and re-read once in a while.
    meep meep

  12. #12
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by road runner View Post
    I have a book called Sinister Gambits which is an anthology of short stories that I love to dust off and re-read once in a while.
    That one I have read, though I don't have a copy. State Library here used to have it.

  13. #13
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    Robert Lohrs The Chess Machine is a really good read based on the story of the Turk- would make a great movie.
    also Bobby Fischer goes to war reads a bit like a novel

  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Adamski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guruduff View Post
    Robert Lohrs The Chess Machine is a really good read based on the story of the Turk- would make a great movie.
    also Bobby Fischer goes to war reads a bit like a novel
    I've read Lohrs and enjoyed it. Re-watched Searching For Bobby Fischer movie on tv Sat arvo about prodigy Josh Waitzkin (spelling may be wrong) which is ok and based on a book of the same name.
    God exists. Short and to the point.

    Secretary of, and regularly arbiter at, Rooty Hill RSL Chess Club. See www.rootyhillchessclub.org.

    Psephological insight. "Controversial will only lose you votes. Courageous will lose you the election." Sir Humphrey Appleby on Yes Minister.

    Favorite movie line: Girl friend Cathy to Jack Ryan in "Sum of all Fears". "What kind of emergency does an historian have?".

  15. #15
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Byrom View Post
    I know how you feel! I lent out my original copy, and never saw it again. After years of searching, I found a second-hand copy in Australia. Unfortunately, it seems that it is now only available in from the US in hard copy.
    ABE books have 11 copies on their website at present, 4 of them new and all paperbacks. The prices are a bit horrifying, the cheapest being $101.85 and the dearest $405.56 (both USD) plus postage.

    DJ
    ...I don't want to go among mad people Alice remarked, "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat ,"or you wouldn't have come here."

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