The Immortal Game

  • by David Shenk
  • Narrated by John H. Mayer
  • 8 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Why has one game, alone among the thousands of games invented and played throughout human history, not only survived but thrived within every culture it has touched? What is it about its 32 figurative pieces, moving about its 64 black and white squares according to very simple rules, that has captivated people for nearly 1,500 years? Why has it driven some of its greatest players into paranoia and madness, and yet is hailed as a remarkably powerful intellectual tool? Nearly everyone has played chess at some point in their lives. Its rules and pieces have served as a metaphor for society, influencing military strategy, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and literature and the arts. It has been condemned as the devil's game by popes, rabbis, and imams, and lauded as a guide to proper living by other popes, rabbis, and imams. Marcel Duchamp was so absorbed in the game that he ignored his wife on their honeymoon. Caliph Muhammad al-Amin lost his throne (and his head) trying to checkmate a courtier. Ben Franklin used the game as a cover for secret diplomacy. In his wide-ranging and ever-fascinating examination of chess, David Shenk gleefully unearths the hidden history of a game that seems so simple yet contains infinity. From its invention somewhere in India around 500 A.D., to its enthusiastic adoption by the Persians and its spread by Islamic warriors, to its remarkable use as a moral guide in the Middle Ages and its political utility in the Enlightenment, to its crucial importance in the birth of cognitive science and its key role in the aesthetic of modernism in 20th century art, to its 21st century importance in the development of artificial intelligence and use as a teaching tool in inner-city America, chess has been a remarkably omnipresent factor in the development of civilization.


What the Critics Say

"Those curious about chess and wishing to learn more about the game (but not too much more) will welcome this accessible, nontechnical introduction." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Buy in print

A key element of this book is the chess boards that start each section and are scattered about. If you play, but a version where you can see the board. The Kindle version is great.
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- Ivy Reisner

a must-read for all chess lovers

if you love chess, you will love this book. the book's layout weaves together chapters addressing the moves in the casual (e.g., non-tournament) 1851 match between adolf anderssen and lionel kieseritzky (later dubbed "the immortal game") with chapters about the history of chess.

the immortal game's annotations are all over the internet, but to hear the match described in audiobook form brought it to life in a way that dry annotations cannot.

how can you not enjoy a match where someone gives up a bishop *both* rooks AND the queen to earn checkmate against an opponent who has only lost three measly pawns??

ok, will probably want to have a passing interest in chess before trying this book, but if you do have such an interest, listen in to one of the greatest chess stories out there.
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- bob.oneill

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-11-2006
  • Publisher: Books on Tape