David Shenk surveys the history of chess, capturing the Zelig-like nature of the game that has changed the societies that have played it. It's rules and pieces have served as a metaphor for society (to be found in the writings of Borges, Nabokov, Tolstoy, Canetti, Eliot), it has helped to form the military strategies that conquered civilisations, influenced the mathematical understandings that have driven technological change and served as a moral guide. It has been condemned by Popes as the devil's game yet Benjamin Franklin used it as to promote diplomacy.
Chess's role in influencing the intellectual advances of the twentieth-century is explored, from its role in modernist art to its crucial part in the birth of cognitive science and the development of artificial intelligence. David Shenk investigates the omnipresent role of chess in the evolution of civilisation.
This history of chess is structured around a description of the "Immortal Game" played between grandmasters Adolf Anderseen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851, the great example of 'romantic' chess. David Shenk includes Benjamin Franklin's essay 'The Morals of Chess' and detailed analysis of games that illustrate chess's rules.
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"Shenk offers a free-form history of chess that juxtaposes a macro-level narrative of its spread from India and the Middle East to the courts of medieval Europe with a micro-analysis of a famous game played in London in 1851." --'Guardian'
"The game acts as a microcosm for wider social issues… A broad historical narrative, ranging from the earliest records to the latest development in computer chess… That David Shenk is a self-confessed chess amateur does not hold him back as a guide." --'Financial Times'
"David Shenk juxtaposes a move-by-move analysis of the game… with a general history of chess, from its origins in 6th-century Persia to its importance for the development of artificial intelligence in the 21st century." --'London Review of Books'
David Shenk is a bestselling US author, and contributor to magazines such as 'New Yorker' and 'National Geographic'.
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