July 20 is International Chess Day – the day that the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded way back in 1924. Here are some chess-inspired fiction and non-fiction novels for this occasion.
The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
We know the Netflix show but have you read the book by Walter Tevis? The story delves into the angst, psychological trauma and introspection of a chess champion. Tevis was known for his pool hall movies but after a bout of alcoholism that lasted for two decades, he turned to chess and from that obsession came The Queen’s Gambit.
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
Chess lovers on an ocean liner, a chess champion and a chess player recovering from a nervous breakdown. The book is a translation of The Royal Game by Austrian author Zweig who died by suicide after sending the book to his publishers.
Birth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom
A non-fiction book that tells the story of how the Queen came to be. Five centuries ago, the Queen didn’t even exist in this game and this piece grew out of the medieval rise of the female sovereign. Marilyn Yalom, a pioneering scholar in gender studies and a leading cultural historian, has also researched and written about how marriage morphed from religious duty into what it has become today and the perceptions of the female breast in human society.
Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers
The inspiring story of a nine-year-old from the Kampala slums in Uganda who with a mentor’s help masters chess. Within a short time, she travels to Siberia to compete in the Chess Olympiad, the world’s most prestigious team-chess event. The screen adaptation by Mira Nair is a must-watch. Tim Crothers is the former senior writer at Sports Illustrated.
All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything by Sasha Chapin
A chess memoir that starts in the bylanes of Katmandu. Chess is a world game and the author Sasha Chapin follows his tribe across the globe in search of pure love of the game. Listen to what he thinks about uninhibited creativity here.
The Grandmaster by David Klass
A father-son relationship with chess at its core. The protagonist Daniel Pratzer doesn’t know that his father was a chess prodigy who vowed to never play the game again. Thirty years later, he needs to break this promise. David Klass is a Hollywood screenwriter and author of several YA novels.
Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds
Cold War intrigue at its peak and two chess players- Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer meet in a high-voltage chess match. The author is a philosopher and a radio feature maker at the BBC World Service.
A malevolent chess set makes for a riveting suspense thriller: “thirty-two carved figures believed to possess a dark power, but shut away in the forgotten library of a tumbledown Irish castle for many decades.” Sarah Rayne is the author of psychological thrillers and haunted house books.
The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
When chess enters the mind, a player hears ‘combinations like melodies’. Nabokov’s third novel, The Defense, like all his books delves deep into the protagonist’s mind and obsessions. Nabokov himself had an obsession with creating his own chess problems.
Have you read any novels or essays featuring chess? Do share in the comments.