Book: Chess

One of the elusive books from the Penguin Mini Modern Classics that I’m attempting to read through. I first heard about this author through the TV show Criminal Minds. The name Zweig played a pretty a big part in the latest season, but I didn’t realize it was an author until I found the book.


Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

On a cruise ship bound for Buenos Aires, a wealthy passenger challenges the world chess champion to a match. He accepts with a sneer. He will beat anyone, he says. But only if the stakes are high.

Soon, the chess board is surrounded. At first, the challenger crumbles before the mind of the master. But then, a soft-spoken voice from the crowd begins to whisper nervous suggestions.

Perfect moves, brilliant predictions.

The speaker has not played a game for more than twenty years, he says.

He is wholly unknown.

But somehow he is also entirely formidable…

This synopsis is wholly deceiving. It definitely exaggerates what happens in the book, and instead of this match between an unknown and a chess master in high stakes chess, we  get a story about both the master and the unknown and how they entered the world of chess.

The novella is still gripping especially as it explores the torture techniques of the Nazi’s and how it impacts the mental well-being of Mr B, the ‘amateur’ chess player. It’s amazing psychology at work and really displays the madness that grows in his mind as the days pass and the world of chess consumes him.

It’s a wonderful short story that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone looking for a good afternoon read.

I don’t know much about Stefan Zweig, except that he was friends with Freud (I see the connection to psychology here) and that he committed double suicide with his wife. Still, considering how much I enjoyed Chess, I would love to read more of his books in the future. They are easy to read and understand, but give powerful insight into human psychology.


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