cover image The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life

The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life

Jonathan Rowson. Bloomsbury, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-63557-332-9

Chess grandmaster Rowson (The Seven Deadly Chess Sins) draws on an incredibly deep well of knowledge in history, philosophy, and the humanities to posit chess as a “meta-metaphor” for life in this insightful work. Believing chess to be “the best kind of freedom” because it involves “choosing your constraints wisely and claiming them as your own,” Rowson ably translates many complex concepts into easily understood principles. Organized according to the chessboard’s 64-square layout, his persuasive analysis is broken into eight chapters of eight vignettes, such as “Thinking and Feeling,” “Winning and Losing,” “Learning and Unlearning,” and “Cyborgs and Civilians.” Each chapter begins with an illustrative memory; for instance, in “Power and Love,” Rowson recalls how comparing himself to his profiler, journalist Hugo Rifkind, caused him to reflect on his own insignificance with happy acceptance: “Success, after all, is not what one has achieved in life, but what one has overcome to achieve it.” For Rowson, having combativeness to what he considers the universal “status anxiety” provides the deep satisfaction of “successful underachievement.” Mining the “meaningful insignificance” and “insignificant meaningfulness” of chess, Rowson’s charming work will provide a pleasing structure for any reader looking for self-help advice, and will particularly appeal to chess players. [em](Nov.) [/em]