Netflix’s drama series The Queen’s Gambit might as well be the best show of 2020. With an incredible cast of Anya Taylor-Joy as Elizabeth Harmon, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Beth’s trusted friend and supporter, Benny, Jacob Fortune-Lloyed as Townes and Dudley Dursley’s Harry Melling as Beth’s first major win, Harry Beltik.
The miniseries is based on Walter Tevis’s book, The Queen’s Gambit and is named after a chess opening. Seven episodes long with an amazing cast and the most satisfying ending, it’s a show one should binge watch.
If you have watched it and are not over it, then it’s time to pick up some books. Here’s a list of 10 fiction and 10 non-fiction related to chess you can read.
1. HOW LIFE IMITATES CHESS
Author – Garry Kasparov
A little bit of self-help and a little bit of memoir, Kasparov explains how chess taught him some of the fundamentals of decision-making and the ways he applied them to his life. He takes us through his career’s greatest matches against other grandmasters and even machines.
2. BOBBY FISCHER GOES TO WAR
Author – David Edmonds
Bobby Fischer is probably one of the most famous names in the world of chess. In 1972, with the Cold War brewing, Fischer played against the Russian player, Boris Spassky. The media put their own spin on the encounter and 30 years later, the authors bring to light the full story behind the role of chess in the War.
3. THE QUEEN OF KATWE
Author – Tim Krothers
Elizabeth Harmon might be a fictional character and the show not based on a true story, but Phiona Mutesi and many other children from her slum in Kampala, Uganda are. Robert Katende, who grew up in the slums of Kampala himself, brings the game to the kids as a means to enrich their otherwise difficult lives.
4. THE TURK
Author – Tom Standage
A non-fiction book which reads like a really thrilling novel, The Turk is about a clockwork machine created by a Hungarian nobleman. The Turk was an ancient oddity which traveled around Europe and America playing chess and meeting some famous people of the times.
5. ALL THE WRONG MOVES
Author – Sasha Chapin
We have all been consumed with something at some point which we are not particularly great at. And such is the obsession of amateur chess player, Sasha Chapin. After encountering chess in school and then Kathmandu, the author can barely think about anything else and travels around the world to attain glory.
6. KING’S GAMBIT
Author – Paul Hoffman
King’s Gambit is half memoir and half historical account of the game. He talks about the development of the modern game of chess and also the pressure of living up the legacy of his father.
7. THE MOVES THAT MATTER
Author – Jonathan Rowson
The Moves That Matter is a philosophical account of chess. Taking lesson on strategy and decision making, learning to recognize your failures and keeping a clear head, the Grandmaster gives a first hand account of the world of the game.
8. BIRTH OF THE CHESS QUEEN
Author – Marilyn Yalom
One of the most popular books on chess, Birth of the Chess Queen talks about the most important piece on the board. How did the queen the most dominant piece? It’s a historical account of the queen from the Holy Roman Empire to the reign of Isabel of Castile.
9. THE CHESS ARTIST
Author – J. C. Hallman
From writer and chess enthusiast, J. C. Hallman comes an adventurous account of the obsession that takes over the chess lovers. The writer and his friend Glenn Umstead, travel around the world to explore the power of chess and some unusual players.
10. THE ROOKIE
Author – Stephen Moss
64 squares and 64 chapters. The authors travels around the board, giving accounts of plays, lessons from the Grandmasters and a historical look into the game as well as the most famous players.
1. THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
Author – Walter Tevis
The book barely needs an introduction anymore. It tells the story of Elizabeth Harmon, a child chess prodigy who learns to take control of the board and is almost unbeatable. As she becomes better and better, the stakes also get higher and Beth must learn to balance life and the game.
2. THE SQUARES OF THE CITY
Author – John Brunner
Based on a famous game between Wilhelm Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin, the science fiction novel was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1966. Its a fairly political novel, set in a fictional South American city of Vados.
3. LISA : A CHESS NOVEL
Author – Jesse Kraai
Lisa is a young adult novel with a weird theme. What if the pieces knew that they were pieces in a game and what if they also knew what they wanted?
4. THE FLANDERS PANEL
Author – Arturo Perez-Reverte
A chess game brought to life with politics and intrigue. This historical fiction includes deception and a mystery. While restoring an artwork, expert Julia, discovers a hidden inscription which leads her to a murder mystery.
5. THE CHESS MACHINE
Author – Robert Lohr
A fictionalized account inspired by the real life clockwork automaton, The Turk (mentioned above), the story follows Baron von Kempelen. But behind the genius machine is a great deceit and a dwarf controlling it.
6. ALEKHINE’S ANGUISH
Author – Charles D. Yaffe
Alexander Alekhine is a famous name in the world of chess and inspired this fictionalized account of his life from his career as a Grandmaster, his involvement with the Nazis during the world War 2 and his subsequent downfall from an inability to win back his fame.
7. THE CHESS GARDEN
Author – Brooks Hansen
The Chess Garden is an imaginative tale of speculative fiction. Dr. Uyterhoeven and his wife, Sonja, built a beautiful chess garden. The doctor soon leaves for the Boer War but writes to his wife about a fictional land called Antipodes where the chess pieces come to life and join the doctor in his adventures.
Author – Icchokas Meres
A classic holocaust novel where the protagonist never seems to win, the book revolves around a single game. Nazi Commandant Schoger decides to kill all the children until Lipman begs for mercy for them. Schoger decides that if Lipman’s son, Isaac a child prodigy can beat him, then the children will go free. But the deal has a major catch.
9. THE LUZHIN DEFENSE
Author – Vladimir Nabokov
Luzhin is a withdrawn child. When he picks up chess, it becomes a singular obsession. As he rises to the fame of a Grandmaster, his mental health slowly deteriorates until he finds himself hurtling towards madness.
Author – Ronan Bennett
A renowned Moscow psychoanalyst is a suspect in the murder of a journalist. How he has been implicated, he does not know and he finds himself in a Zugzwang – a position of complete helplessness. As the murder mystery gets deeper, the doctor falls in love with a troubled young woman and helping out a chess player with issues of his own.
Any other books you think should be on this list? Comment down below.