With appendices offering detailed game analyses, illustration of rules and Ben Franklin’s essay “The Morals of Chess,” this...

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THE IMMORTAL GAME

A HISTORY OF CHESS, OR HOW 32 CARVED PIECES ON A BOARD ILLUMINATED OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WAR, ART, SCIENCE, AND THE HUMAN BRAIN

In this compelling, accessible study, Shenk (The Forgetting Alzheimer’s, 2001) ponders the question: Does playing chess require great minds, or are great minds formed by playing chess?

The history of chess is the history of the dissemination of culture, notes Shenk, and he nimbly employs the various disciplines in history, anthropology and psychology to convey the importance and usefulness of the game over its 1,400-year span. His work is conscientiously structured around an actual game, from Openings (the origins of chess and its civilizing attributes), to Middlegame (from the Enlightenment to Soviet domination of the game), to Endgame (chess in the age of technology). Alternating sections illustrate and analyze the moves of one “Immortal Game,” played June 21, 1851, in London between grandmasters Adolf Anderseen and Lionel Kieseritzky. From its evolution along the Silk Road as chatrang, the game drew on the use of skill rather than dice or chance. Thanks to its enthusiastic embrace by Muhammad, the new bloodless war game shatranj caught on in the Muslim world, where chess pieces were abstractions (due to religious strictures) rather than representational images. With its migration to medieval Spain, the game underwent some modifications: The Elephant figure became the Bishop, while the King’s Minister was replaced by the Queen—inspired by the emergence of powerful female rulers such as Isabella. Chess became a metaphor for war, social ranking and human behavior. From history, Shenk moves into cognitive science, i.e., how chess can make us think, combining memory, logic, calculation and creativity. He acknowledges the great eras of chess play (Romantic, Scientific, Hypermodern, and New Dynamism) and offers respective strategies—his own forebear Samuel Rosenthal was a grandmaster. A concluding chapter of this comprehensive study explores chess and artificial intelligence as illustrated in Garry Kasparov’s faceoff against the supercomputer Deep Junior.

With appendices offering detailed game analyses, illustration of rules and Ben Franklin’s essay “The Morals of Chess,” this proves an enriching guide for lay readers who’d like to be chess aficionados but don’t know where to start.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-51010-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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