Chess Book That Aren't About How to Play Chess

Can someone recommend a book that is about chess, but not necessarily an instruction manual or study aid? Something that is, for lack of a better choice of words, a chess memoir? An example would be something like Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was about chess but it was about a player and his experiences, and not analyses of his games.


There’s a good deal of chess in the book The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon if you’re looking for fiction.

Not sure that it is exactly what you are looking for but the first thing that came to my mind was The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. It’s a mystery novel but chess is heavily involved.

Nabokov has a book called The Defense about a fictional chess player. I haven’t read it, though I presume it to be quite dry.

Nonfiction: I have recently finished The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, by David Shenk, which is … a history of chess – but the author personalizes it quite a bit because a progenitor of his was a chess master in Europe. Chess has a long and involved history; this book made it much more succinct while retaining lots of interesting details. In addition to the game of chess itself, the title refers to an informal match between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851 – the book contains a detailed description of each move of the game, which is more interesting than it sounds even to a casual chess player like myself. I recommend it.

Fiction: The Queen’s Gambit, by Walter Tevis (author of The Hustler and The Color of Money) is a great novel about the development of a chess prodigy – sort of a fictionalized version of Searching for Bobby Fischer. However, the young player is a teenage girl, which makes for an interesting perspective – as I understand it, there are very few female players on the competitive circuit. I think I found a recommendation about it on these very boards several years ago, and I’m very glad I read it.

‘The Defence’ by Nabakov is a serious study of the mind of a fictional professional player.
‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis is a novel with a strong chess background.

Although it’s not a work of fiction, you will enjoy ‘The Complete Chess Addict’ by Fox and James!

Gary Kasparov wrote a memoir in the early 1990s called Unlimited Challenge, which details his ascent as a chess player and the high-intensity politics of international chess.

There are a lot of great books about the chess subculture, from the elite ranks to the hustlers in the park.

The Kings of New York is a great book about chess prodigies in New York, one Brooklyn high school chess team in particular.

The Chess Artist by J.C. Hallman is also an entertaining read.

Chess Bitch by Jennifer Shashade is an interesting look at women in the top levels of competitive chess (the author was the women’s world champion at the time she wrote the book).

King’s Gambit by Paul Hoffman is an interesting look at the chess world, told in the form of a personal memoir.