Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rave - The World of Chess

Rave - The World of Chess by Anthony Saidy and Norman Lessing. 274 pages. Ridge Press/Random House. 1974. $17.95 (in 1974 dollars).

Before there was David Shenk's the The Immortal Game there was Saidy and Lessing's The World of Chess. Time Magazine reviewed the book back in 1975, when "Fischer fever" was on the rise concerning a possible Fischer-Karpov match in the Philippines for a purse of 5 million dollars:

The World of Chess, by International Master Anthony Saidy and Senior Master Norman Lessing, is the handsomest and most informative chess picture book ever produced. Its illustrations include Persian paintings, medieval manuscripts,18th century court scenes, 20th centmy abstractions, a few sly cartoons and some arresting photographs of the strange cold men who become grand masters.

In the text, Saidy has provided some moving excerpts from his diary of a fumbled tournament that cost him a grand master's rating. Lessing has wittily recalled a misspent youth in one of Manhattan's less salubrious chess and coffeehouses. The authors have also taken care to make the historical sections pert and amusing. "Can you forgive me this indiscretion?" Benjamin Franklin writes to a wealthy Frenchwoman. "Never hereafter shall I consent to begin a game [of chess] in your bathroom."

You gotta love that Ben Franklin character :-)

This book complimented very well another favorite of mine - The Fireside Book of Chess by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld. Unlike the Fireside Book, this book was up-to-date at the time and contained dozens of great black and white and color pictures. It was more than just a "coffee table" picture book, however, as it was filled with interesting chess facts and stories, fascinating anecdotes, several dozen classic chess games, and some very insightful thoughts about the game from two chess masters who were intimately familiar with the topic the were writing about.

I don't imagine this will ever be republished, but it must be added to the list of Chess Books That Should Be Reprinted.

Look for the next installment of the series Rook's Rambling Rants & Raves each Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your weblog and the variety of items and subjects you display in your entries. Many of the books you cite are old favorites of mine, as well. I literally grew up on Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games" and Fred Reinfeld's "Chess for Young People."

Rook Van Winkle said...

Ah! The legendary Bobby Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games" is a book, I think, that any chess player would love to have in their library. I know you can track down a used copy - but they cost a pretty penny. I wish they would re-issue it and the rest of the items on the Chess Books That Should Be Reprinted.

Anonymous said...

I have one copy of the original hardcover Simon and Schuster edition (had to get a new binding) and one copy of the same in paperback. The paperback cost me $50 but as a piece of history (the Simon and Schuster edition is the only one Bobby approves of) it's priceless to me.