NONFICTION

The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again

S. & S. Nov. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781501172601. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501172625. SPORTS
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OrangeReviewStarCentering on the November 2016 World Chess Championship in New York and its finalists, Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, this work by journalist Butler (The Domino Diaries) presents a readable examination of chess culture and history as well as a blow-by-blow account of the toll of winning a championship chess match. The driving question is who really has control, the game or the player? Spectators also wondered if Norway's Magnus Carlsen, who started playing chess at age five and reached grandmaster status at 13, might succumb to the downfall that has consumed legends of the game, such as Bobby Fischer. While primarily focusing on Carlsen, Butler also provides insight into the competitive play of Russia's Sergey Karjakin. Among those who watched the match include Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stanley Kubrick. In the end, Butler writes a visceral and riveting study of a game and its players at once austere, powerful, and imposing, yet simultaneously fragile and vulnerable. He perfectly captures the game's culture, as it's consumed by an ever-present valuation of worth, title, and rank.
VERDICT A must for chess enthusiasts and the curious alike. A truly fascinating and beautifully rendered account.

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