Suppose you chose to define your mental prowess through chess. Although a modest player, you want to prove to yourself that you could be a strong player. All that is between you and intellectual fulfillment is effort and commitment. You are determined to put in that effort, read the books, study the videos, and take private lessons. This is what Stephen Moss did as he embarked upon a self-development programme to banish his mid-life crisis and restore his cognitive faculties. He started playing chess at weekend tournaments and week-long events held at decaying seaside towns and budget hotels. He writes up this journey of self-discovery in his new book The Rookie. Fluently written and with wry humour, the author takes us with him as he agonises whether to take a draw or try for a victory and risk losing all.
This book records a slice of life that will form part of the historical record – what playing competitive chess is really like. From the past we have game records but we do not recall what the playing conditions were like, where the players ate, what their budgets were. When Capablanca played Alekhine, what did they do after the game? Moss brings us up to date in closely observed detail. When he couldn’t use his credit card he was forced to live on pocket money which had him worrying about whether he could afford a sandwich – a situation not unfamiliar to some chess players who are often noted for bringing a flask and sandwiches to chess events to the chagrin of the venue managers. Apart from his personal quest, he devotes half of the book to an exploration of the characters, culture and history of chess. The book is an accessible guide to all things chess, apart from the actual playing, which is relegated to an appendix at the end. If you know a chess enthusiast who wants to get better, then get them this book to strengthen their resolve.
The Rookie: An Odyssey through Chess (and Life) by Stephen Moss.
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