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MORTAL GAMES by Fred Waitzkin


The Turbulent Genius of Garry Kasparov

by Fred Waitzkin

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1993
ISBN: 0-399-13827-7
Publisher: Putnam

 Colorful combinations by Waitzkin (Searching for Bobby Fisher, 1988) as he castles through the manic world of grandmaster chess. Waitzkin first bumped into Garry Kasparov when the world champ played Waitzkin's 11-year-old son, Josh, and 59 other kids in a simultaneous match in Manhattan. Josh drew the game, earning him and his father entry into Kasparov's circle. The man with the highest ranking in chess history proves to be a high-strung, arrogant loudmouth, eager to promote Russian democracy, denounce Mikhail (``the criminal'') Gorbachev, and ridicule his chess rivals as incompetents. The only opponent to give him serious trouble is Karpov, with whom Kasparov slugs it out through five arduous matches. Waitzkin devotes many chapters to a blow-by-blow account of one of these tournaments, a nail-biting affair that results in victory on the boards for Kasparov but moral triumph for Karpov, once despised as a Soviet pawn but here revealed as a normal bloke, lacking Kasparov's Brobdingnagian ego. As Waitzkin pushes towards the endgame, encountering park-side pawn-pushers, teenage prodigies who eat-sleep-and-breathe chess, and grandmasters who drive at 100 mph and accuse each other of paraphysical dirty tricks, readers may conclude that high-level chess outdoes Hollywood for daffiness. And just when things settle down--Kasparov announces plans to face English grandmaster Nigel Short in championship play this September--along comes Bobby Fischer to upset the apple cart. While suggesting that Fischer is mentally ill, Waitzkin also implies that he remains a chess genius and, in the eyes of the public, Kasparov's real rival. A Fischer-Kasparov Match of the Century? Stay tuned--and hope that Waitzkin is there to cover it.