Chess--battle of two minds

Chess is not only a game; for master chess players it can become a lifestyle.

Learning to compete and win at chess is not impossible. Competitions occur at all levels...beginner, intermediate, and advanced. It's played in many environments: homes, clubs, schools, shelters, online, and schools.

Endgame : Bobby Fischer's remarkable rise and fall from America's brightest prodigy to the edge of madness
Frank Brady.
New York : Crown, c2011.
Endgame is acclaimed biographer Frank Brady's decades-in-the-making tracing of the meteoric ascent---and confounding descent---of enigmatic genius Bobby Fischer. Only Brady, who met Fischer when the prodigy was only 10 and shared with him some of his most dramatic triumphs, could have written this book, which has much to say about the nature of American celebrity and the distorting effects of fame. Drawing from Fischer family archives, recently released FBI files, and Bobby's own emails, this account is unique in that it limns Fischer's entire life---an odyssey that took the Brooklyn-raised chess champion from an impoverished childhood to the covers of Time, Life and Newsweek to recognition as "the most famous man in the world" to notorious recluse. At first all one noticed was how gifted Fischer was. Possessing a 181 I.Q. and remarkable powers of concentration, Bobby memorized hundreds of chess books in several languages, and he was only 13 when he became the youngest chess master in U.S. history. But his strange behavior started early. In 1972, at the historic Cold War showdown in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he faced Soviet champion Boris Spassky, Fischer made headlines with hundreds of petty demands that nearly ended the competition. It was merely a prelude to what was to come. Arriving back in the United States to a hero's welcome, Bobby was mobbed wherever he went---a figure as exotic and improbable as any American pop culture had yet produced. No player of a mere "board game" had ever ascended to such heights. Commercial sponsorship offers poured in, ultimately topping $10 million---but Bobby demurred. Instead, he began tithing his limited money to an apocalyptic religion and devouring anti-Semitic literature. After years of poverty and a stint living on Los Angeles' Skid Row, Bobby remerged in 1992 to play Spassky in a multi-million dollar rematch---but the experience only deepened a paranoia that had formed years earlier when he came to believe that the Soviets wanted him dead for taking away "their" title. When the dust settled, Bobby was a wanted man---transformed into an international fugitive because of his decision to play in Montenegro despite U.S. sanctions. Fearing for his life, traveling with bodyguards, and wearing a long leather coat to ward off knife attacks, Bobby lived the life of a celebrity fugitive --- one drawn increasingly to the bizarre. Mafiosi, Nazis, odd attempts to breed an heir who could perpetuate his chess-genius DNA---all are woven into his late-life tapestry. And yet, as Brady shows, the most notable irony of Bobby Fischer's strange descent --- which had reached full plummet by 2005 when he turned down yet another multi-million dollar payday---is that despite his incomprehensible behavior, there were many who remained fiercely loyal to him. Why that was so is at least partly the subject of this book --- one that at last answers the question: "Who was Bobby Fischer?"
The KGB plays chess : the Soviet secret police and the fight for the world chess crown
Boris Gulko ... [et al.].
Milford, CT : Russell Enterprises, 2010.
The KGB Plays Chess is a unique book. For the first time it opens to us some of the most secret pages of the history of chess. The battles about which you will read in this book are not between chess masters sitting at the chess board, but between the powerful Soviet secret police, known as the KGB, on the one hand, and several brave individuals, on the other. Their names are famous in the chess world: Viktor Kortschnoi, Boris Spasski, Boris Gulko and Garry Kasparov became subjects of constant pressure, blackmail and persecution in the USSR. Their victories at the chess board were achieved despite this victimization. Unlike some books, this story has two perspectives. The victim and the persecutor, the hunted and the hunter, all describe in their own words the very same events. One side is represented by the famous Russian chess players Viktor Kortschnoi and Boris Gulko. For many years they fought against a powerful system, and at the end they were triumphant. The Soviet Union collapsed and they got what they were fighting for: their freedom. Former KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Popov, who left Russia in 1996 and now lives in Canada, was one of those who had worked all his life for the KGB and was responsible for the sport sector of the USSR. It is only now for the first time that he has decided to tell the reader his story of the KGB's involvement in Soviet Sports. This is his first book, and it is not only full of sensations, but it also dares to name names of secret KGB agents previously known only as famous chess masters, sportsmen or sport officials. Just a few short years ago a book like this would have been unimaginable. Read this book. It is not only about chess. It is about glorious victory of the great chess masters over the forces of darkness.
Win at chess
by William Hartson.
London : Teach Yourself, 2010.
Win at Chess is the ultimate beginner's guide to this complex tactical game. You will quickly get to grips with the pieces, basic moves and elementary tactics - to help you develop your strategy and win. You will build your skill and learn how to exploit your opponent's strengths and weaknesses to ultimately force checkmate. The book is packed with new interactive features which include tips and commentaries on historic games and exercises for the reader. It won't overburden you with too many complex ideas too quickly, but will build your understanding and confidence in simple steps. NOT GOT MUCH TIME? One, five and ten-minute introductions to key principles to get you started. AUTHOR INSIGHTS Lots of instant help with common problems and quick tips for success, based on the authors' many years of experience. TEST YOURSELF Tests in the book and online to keep track of your progress. EXTEND YOUR KNOWLEDGE Extra online articles at to give you a richer understanding of chess. FIVE THINGS TO REMEMBER Quick refreshers to help you remember the key facts. TRY THIS Innovative exercises illustrate what you've learnt and how to use it.

Chess moves through three stages of play. In the opening stage, the pieces and pawns leave their original squares. During the middle stage pieces and pawns engage their opponent. These stages lead to the end where one side captures, or "checkmates", the other's king. Different principles of play guide each level of the game. Strategies and techniques determine the fine line between victory or defeat.

Each stage requires its own tricks. Players employ such strategies as:

  • The fork, forcing the opponent to lose one of two pieces.
  • The pin,  preventing the opponent from moving a piece.
  • The skewer, forcing the opponent's king to move and lose a piece.
  • The sacrifice, using a pieces as bait to overpower the opponent.

Chess facts

Chess began in the middle east 3 thousand years ago.

The first American Grandmaster was Paul Morphy of New Orleans in 1857.

Child prodigy Bobby Fischer won his first major tournament at age 14.

A fool's mate is when checkmate is achieved in 2 moves.

Moving each piece and pawn is simple enough to learn for fun and leisure, but the subtle finesses require time and mental discipline to master.

Millions of people across the world engage in a chess game every hour.  At this present moment, somewhere two people are locked in a battle of minds. 

To rule the chess board requires  patience, focus, and determination. When properly played, chess presents a great game of beauty and intrigue.

More about chess

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff