I read Frank Brady’s biography of chess prodigy Bobby Fischer during 48 of the busier hours of my life. I didn’t care. These are the kinds of books that I live for. Sleeping because an irritation. Eating is inconvenient. Having a job not comprising the reading of the book feels like an outrage. But luckily I was able to get through it and now I’m probably just going to read it again. It is one of the best examples of impeccable research and brilliant storytelling that I have ever seen, or ever will.
This is why I read. I’ve been walking around all day with a big stupid grin on my face. I’ve been thinking about the book all day. As many books as I go through, this is an experience I don’t get often enough. A wonderful writer chose the perfect topic and in every single sentence, he put the perfect words next to each other.
Yes, I am a nerd. Defiant and proud and already looking forward to the next time I get to feel this way.
What is Endgame about?
The complete title is Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall–From America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.
What do you know about Bobby Fischer? Here is what I knew when I picked up the book: he was a brilliant chess player but I wasn’t sure if he was considered the greatest. I knew that he had become an extremely unpleasant individual and whenever I heard something about him in a headline, it was because he was applauding the 9/11 attacks or spouting anti-semitism.
I knew that a few movies had been made about him.
I knew that chess was very hard for me so Fischer must have been very smart to play it so well. I had a dream once of being a chess master, but it was more along the lines of I’m the sort of person who should be a chessmaster than in any real passion for the game.
And that was about it. There’s a lot more to the story, of course.
Endgame is a book about how Fischer discovered chess and went on to dominate the world of the game. It is a book about his own private Cold War with the Soviet Union. It is about loneliness and sublimation. In the same way that Barbarians At The Gate made the story of a Nabisco merger into a page-turner, Endgame does the same thing with a story about a kid who plays chess really well. It reads more like a thriller to me than just about anything.
If you’re one of those people who get pumped up watching one of the Rocky movies, even if it’s the zillionth time you’ve seen it, try to image that feeling reading a book about chess. It’s true! It feels just like it!
For the chess know-nothing, Endgame is an accessible introduction to the game for those of us who cannot dream of anything more horrible than studying annotations of famous chess matches.
For those who love a good story, and good storytelling, this is it.
For those who want to know how the child chess prodigy became a man that could cheer when the 9/11 attacks occurred, it’s here. In my opinion, “To The Edge of Madness” doesn’t go far enough. In this book, Fischer steps off that edge. But what story.
And the writing is as good as it gets. Bravo Tom Brady.
I will be very surprised if I read anything better in 2011.
Now then, if you bookworms are rearing to go, read Endgame so we can talk about it. One of the best biographies ever.