The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

One might expect that an especially memorable chess match would have been a world championship game, or at least a tournament competition. However, one of the most famous matches ever played was an exhibition that had no significance for any competition. It was played in London in the middle of the 19th century, between two players you have never heard of (Aldolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky). This remarkable game, an archetype of "romantic" chess, is used as a scaffold on which David Shenk hangs the whole history of this addictive pastime. As he describes this relatively short game, disclosing the moves a few at a time in most chapters (and none in others), he interweaves anecdotes and history that provide perspective on this particular game and its relationship to an evolving sport. It is especially fitting in this time of war in the middle east to be reminded that chess originated well over a thousand years ago in the Muslim world, and that it has fascinated and challenged mankind through a substantial part of written history. The reason I recommend this book to teachers of science is that I have seen how chess can level the field of play for young people in a way that no other competition can. This game can help both minority and majority kids of both genders (especially with the model of Grandmaster Susan Polgar) to develop patience, concentration, foresight, and strategic thinking. I encourage teachers to consider establishing chess clubs like the one that Shenk describes in his last chapter, "The Next War" and Polgar encourages through her foundation at

Pick Attribution: 

David Shenk

Publication Date: 
Sunday, January 1, 2006