Making the Right Moves: Titles Inspired by “The Queen’s Gambit”

The Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit  has received both popular and critical acclaim, and deservedly so, for its superb acting, direction and compelling characters.   It is a show about an orphan girl in Kentucky in the 1950s who becomes obsessed with the game of chess and becomes a prodigy at a very young age in a game dominated by men.  The show is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis.

I have never played chess and yet I found the intense game scenes so riveting.   But the series is about more than chess. It is a coming of age story of a girl dealing with psychological trauma and abandonment issues, and struggling with drug and alcohol dependency; about high stakes competitions and the effects of fame. 

 The show has sent chess set sales soaring and reignited interest in the game.

Here are some chess themed nonfiction and fiction reads and DVDs that may help you further indulge in your fascination with this intellectual board game.

Hoopla also features a great selection of ebooks on chess.

Algorithms (DVD)

In India, a group of boys dream of becoming Chess Masters, driven by a man with a vision. But this is no ordinary chess and these are no ordinary players. This is a documentary on the thriving but little known world of Blind Chess in India. Filmed over three years, it follows three talented boys from different parts of India and a totally blind player turned pioneer who not only aims to situate India on a global stage but also wants all blind children to play chess.

All the wrong moves : a memoir about chess, love, and ruining everything by Sasha Chapin

A globe-trotting romp through the world of ultra-competitive chess, in which the author submits himself to humiliating defeats and the tutelage of ornery mentors in his search for glory–a celebration of the purity, violence, and beauty of the game.

A fan of the game, Chapin became obsessed after an accidental encounter with chess hustlers on the streets of Kathmandu. With an all consuming passion he began to play for hours and weeks at a time. Not able to fight it he decided to surrender to it. What follows is a rollicking, globe trotting memoir, as he submits to humiliating defeats, is taught by grumpy mentors and finds joy in the purity and beauty of the game. 

Birth of the chess queen: a history by Marilyn Yalom

In a lively and engaging narrative, Yalom draws parallels between the birth of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe, presenting a layered, fascinating history of medieval courts, with their intrigues and internal struggles for power.  Illustrated with beautiful art throughout, this book takes a fresh look at the politics and culture of medieval Europe, the institution of queenship, and the reflections of royal power in the figure of the chess queen. 

Bobby Fischer Goes To War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds

In the summer of 1972, with a presidential crisis stirring in the U.S. and the cold war at a pivotal point, two men, the Soviet world chess champion, the very un-Russian like Boris Spassky and his American challenger unconventional genius Bobby Fischer, met in the most notorious chess match of all time. The author gives full portraits of the players and the stakes and chronicles all the backstage and national dramas that came out of it. A roller coaster narrative of epic Cold War proportions. 

Brooklyn Castle (DVD)

I.S.318 is an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level, that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard.

The Death’s Head chess club by John Donoghue

A novel of the improbable friendship that arises between a Nazi officer and a Jewish chessplayer in Auschwitz. SS Obersturmführer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz from the Russian front wounded and fit only for administrative duty. His most pressing task is to improve camp morale and he establishes a chess club, and allows officers and enlisted men to gamble on the games. Soon Meissner learns that chess is also played among the prisoners, and there are rumors of an unbeatable Jew known as “the Watchmaker.” Meissner’s superiors begin to demand that he demonstrate German superiority by pitting this undefeated Jew against the best Nazi players. Meissner finds Emil Clément, the Watchmaker, and a curious relationship arises between them. As more and more games are played, the stakes rise, and the two men find their fates deeply entwined.

Endgame (DVD)

Since he was five years old, Jose’s abuelita taught him to play chess like his grandfather who was a champion in Mexico. Now as part of the Brownsville school team, Jose finds himself in the spotlight and has the chance to use his skills as he tries to help his team make it to the Texas state finals.

Endgame : Bobby Fischer’s remarkable rise and fall– from America’s brightest prodigy to the edge of madness by Frank Brady

Brady’s insightful biography of the legendary chess player focuses more on Fischer’s life as a chess champion than on his much-publicized legal troubles and alleged psychological breakdowns. Brady first became friends with Fischer at a chess tournament when they were both children, and he combines a traditional biography with a personal memoir. Fischer began playing chess at age six and was soon playing games by himself, unable to find worthy competition. He seems to have had a lifelong battle with himself, and his biggest challenge may have been conquering not his competitors but his own intellect. 

The Grandmaster : Magnus Carlsen and the match that made chess great again by  Brin-Jonathan Butler

In November 2016, as the world was shocked by Donald Trump’s election and the possibility of Russian meddling, hundreds of people descended on New York City—not to protest but to watch the World Chess Championship between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and Russia’s Sergey Karjakin at the South Street Seaport. By the time it was over,  it would be front-page news and thought by many to be the greatest finish in chess history and cement a player’s legacy of one of the greatest of all time. A riveting and absorbing story of a sport and how a champion can ascend to greatness. 

Master pieces : the story of chess : the pieces, players and passion of 1,000 years by Gareth Williams

This text explores the long history of chess with a mix of historical fact and colourful anecdotes. It also features 30 of the most influential chess sets, because the chess pieces themselves tell a story of war, revolution, peace and religion, technology, art and sport.

The moves that matter : a chess grandmaster on the game of life by Jonathan Rowson

A chess grandmaster reveals the powerful teachings this ancient game offers for staying present, thriving in a complex world, and crafting a fulfilling life. Refined and perfected through 1,500 years of human history, chess has long been a touchstone for shrewd tacticians and master strategists. But the game is much more than just warfare in miniature. Chess is also an ever-shifting puzzle to be solved, a narrative to be written, and a task that demands players create their own motivation from moment to moment. In other words, as Grandmaster Rowson argues in this kaleidoscopic and inspiring book, there are ways to see all of life reflected in those 64 black and white squares. Taking us inside the psychologically charged world of chess’s global elite, Rowson mines the game for its insights into sustaining focus, quieting our inner saboteur, making tough decisions, overcoming failure, and more.

Pawn Sacrifice (DVD)

In a gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire. This book  chronicles Fischer’s terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world.

303 tricky checkmates : [two, three & four move checkmates]

Both a fascinating challenge for chess players and a great training tool, this is a fun and entertaining compendium of two- and three-move checkmates for the advanced beginner, intermediate, and expert player. The examples provided, drawn from actual games, illustrate a wide range of chess tactics.

Queen of Katwe (DVD)

Based on the book by Tim Crothers–a vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

Unlimited challenge : the autobiography of Garry Kasparov, with Donald Trelford 

The engaging Russian who became world chess champion at age 22 in 1985 has co authored (with the editor of Britain’s The Observer ) an honest and interesting account of his competitive life. He devotes two brief chapters to his childhood, when his special talent for chess was recognized, but the rest details the challenges–intellectual and psychological–of his major tournaments. His descriptions of other master players, particularly his long-time rivals Florencio Campomanes and Anatoly Karpov, are fascinating. Equally engrossing are accounts of his clashes with the International Chess Federation, whose political squabblings have stalled many high-level games.

Winning chess tactics : learn the secrets of tactical chess today! by Bill Robertie

This complete guide to chess strategy fully explains each tactical concept in easy-to-understand language and includes diagrams, examples, and game situations so readers will understand the thinking behind the moves.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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