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Everyone knows that the queen is the most dominant piece in chess, but few people know that the game existed for five hundred years without her. It wasn't until chess became a popular pastime for European royals during the Middle Ages that the queen was born and was gradually empowered to become the king's fierce warrior and protector.Birth of the Chess Queen examines theEveryone knows that the queen is the most dominant piece in chess, but few people know that the game existed for five hundred years without her. It wasn't until chess became a popular pastime for European royals during the Middle Ages that the queen was born and was gradually empowered to become the king's fierce warrior and protector.Birth of the Chess Queen examines the five centuries between the chess queen's timid emergence in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire to her elevation during the reign of Isabel of Castile. Marilyn Yalom, inspired by a handful of surviving medieval chess queens, traces their origin and spread from Spain, Italy, and Germany to France, England, Scandinavia, and Russia. In a lively and engaging historical investigation, Yalom draws parallels between the rise of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe, presenting a layered, fascinating history of medieval courts and internal struggles for power....

Title : Birth of the Chess Queen: A History
Author :
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ISBN : 9780060090654
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Reviews

  • Lewis Weinstein
    2018-11-10 23:05

    I bought this book years ago when I was doing research for my first novel The Heretic, perhaps looking for a way to relate it to Queen Isabel of Spain, a character in my novel. I didn't use it, didn't even read it then. Pruning my shelves, I found the book and read much of it. It's actually an interesting history of the evolution of chess. In the beginning, there was no Queen. There was a Vizier, who stood next to the King but had none of the substantial powers later taken on by the Queen who replaced him. The connection between the emergence of the Queen on the chessboard and powerful women in real life is only hinted at, but here's a quote from the epilogue ... "Any woman wishing to follow the chess queen's lead, especially in the public realm, needs to be tactically superior to the men around her, relentless in battle, even cruel when necessary ... She will have to learn to negotiate a treacherous terrain, not unlike the chessboard, if she wants to move forward, both at home and in the workplace ... She, and those committed to her well-being, could do worse than take up the chess queen as their personal emblem and silently utter those ritual words: Long live the queen!"

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2018-12-08 07:04

    This book was so interesting and engaging. It shows how the growing prestige and political power of queens during medieval Europe shaped the game of chess and gave the game it's Queen.

  • Nicole
    2018-12-09 05:56

    A well-written and educational read! There are a number of historical threads running through this book - the history of chess itself, the rise of courtly love, the rise of Mariolatry, brief biographies of a number of influential figures in history (specifically queens) - so while the book doesn't get too in-depth about any one thing, it gives a satisfying overview of the topic and its influences. Prior to this, I knew how to play chess, but knew next to nothing about its history or origins. I had no idea that the queen used to be a vizier, and that the allowed moves of the pieces were so different. I also appreciated the introduction to several historical figures that I'd love to learn more about - Dona Urraca, Blanche of Castile, Adelaide of Burgundy, Sigrid the Strong-Minded, Margaret of Denmark. It even prompted me to borrow a book on the Lewis Chessmen, so expect that review shortly! :-) 2016 Popsugar reading challenge: a book you had to drop everything and read

  • Orsolya
    2018-11-19 02:00

    I’m Hungarian. This means that aside from great food and the Rubik’s Cube, we also love chess. Personally, I am also a fan of queens, royalty, and history; making “Birth of the Chess Queen” by Marilyn Yalom ideal reading.Birth of the Chess Queen has two main themes: (1) the history of the game of chess/queen game-piece (2) the queens who MAY have influenced the creation of the queen game-piece’s rise within the chess world. Both, together and separately, are topics of interest, however; Yalom doesn’t seamlessly connect the two and instead flip-flops back and forth with history lessons. Beginning with interesting tidbits on the Indian and Persian roots of chess, Yalom then attempts to dive deeper into the biographies and accomplishments of queens and empresses during the time periods of high chess play. Basically, her conclusion to her thesis is that, “Queen A had such-and-such accomplishments (describes them here) that she must have influenced the queen chess-piece. Then again, so was Queen B…” Not convinced? Neither was I.Chapters in Birth of the Chess Queen are sub-divided into various topics similar to how one would imagine Yalom’s bullet-proofed manuscript notes. Some readers may find this to be helpful at breaking up the information into manageable portions but I found it distracting. Just as I was “getting into” a topic, the next one would begin pushing me out of the boat again. More pushed-out-of-boat moments occurred with Yalom’s habit of including her own thoughts and opinions within the text i.e. “Would that I could present even more convincing evidence for one or both of the empresses! As I studied their lives…” Um… not only was that not necessary but it hardly even made sense. Another example: “An ivory chess queen carved in Italy during the early twelfth century makes me think of Matilda…” Although this may be an attempt to de-scholarize the text and commit to one wavelength with the reader, it added to my distraction. On the positive end, Yalom’s extensive research shines though with a clearly amassed wealth of knowledge. Her work is well-annotated and with clear notes. Additionally, Yalom includes several photos throughout, adding a museum exhibit quality to the book. Sections simply on the game of chess itself are interesting but her connectivity attempts toward women’s studies fails. Much of the text is scannable. Simply: there is a lack of cohesiveness and steady pace. Although Yalom does stray on tangents, once you get used to this style and not focus on the dispatch of focus on chess history, the text becomes more interesting and tolerable.What Yalom lacks in interrelated topics and unity, she makes up with her wealth of knowledge. Although Birth of a Chess Queen is not what I expected and Yalom doesn’t quite prove her thesis that popular queens influenced the rise of the chess queen game-piece, I will still read her other works if due (to nothing else) on the unique topics involved.

  • Ian
    2018-12-05 01:07

    Would have made a great 20-page article.

  • David Dinaburg
    2018-11-25 23:15

    There is a question unasked everywhere except within Birth of the Chess Queen; given the historical level of vitriol directed toward women in authority and the vast—almost non-existent—minority of women in traditional armed fighting, how did the queen become the most potent tactical piece of an ancient wargame? The kerfuffle overFIFA2016’s inclusion of female players is an example par excellence for the unique position of the chess queen; where else but Mad Max: Fury Road are women portrayed as a match for—let alone superior to—their male counterparts? Historically, not everyone was keen on the chess queen:A woman who raced about destroying knights, bishops, and even the king struck terror in the hearts of men, some of whom reacted not only by calling the queen “mad,” but also by impugning the whole female sex….John of Wales accus[ed] queens of being greedy, like all women, and known to take through rapine and injustice. He made much of the fact that both the bishop and the queen moved on the diagonal, representing unjust qualities, whereas the king and rook moved in just, straight lines. Birth of the Chess Queen cares not a fig for your stereotypes, be they medieval or modern; the book is first and foremost a didactic experience. It presents information divested from any sort of modern inflammatory clickbait language—no "You'll-never-believes" nor "What-she-did-next-will-astonish-yous" to be found. Enough authorial personality peeks through to keep it from being dry, but the book was published in 2004; a time before the somewhat ambiguously dated narrative non-fiction revolution that brought dense characterization, snappy dialogue, and rising story arcs into the thick of factual inquiries. If one knows nothing of chess history, there are cool cocktail-party facts to pick up: that what is now the current queen was once the vizier—the king’s adviser, if you’ve forgotten your Aladdin—and he used to be quite weak, moving only one diagonal step. Not quite mocked-for-being-lame weak; at least, not until he became a she: “….Before she acquired her unparalleled powers, the critique of the chess queen was gentle: she was simply advised to stay close to the king. Conflating the chess queen with living queens, the authors of those earlier chess treatises would also occasionally remind her to remain chaste and behave in a “feminine” manner—attributes that obviously had nothing to do with her moves on the board.” That the queen was once a vizier is a neat fact. That the queen used to only be able to move one square diagonally is a neat fact. That the queen was mocked for weakness when her piece was frail, but then scorned for madness when it was potent, is a sad one.Pages move quickly in Birth of the Chess Queen, driven by the singular focus of the narrative. It is an honest surprise that an entire book can be filled with the theories surrounding “Wherefore Queen?” and the facts supporting those theories. The answers it gives are satisfactory and—given the relative esoteric nature of the material—probably as close as anyone will ever get to the truth.Plus, it spurred me to actually enter—not just walk past—the Chess Forum in the West Village and legit geek out over their replica Lewis Chess sets. Which are fantastic!

  • Lindsay Marie
    2018-11-13 05:20

    This is the best history lesson, it helped my chess game by allowing me to further understand the story and role of the most important piece on the chess board, the chess queen. Any Chess enthusiast should read. This book also manages to shed light on the general role of women and, more importantly, the women who went against that role in times around the time of Christ. I'd recommend this book!

  • Lynn Green
    2018-11-27 00:19

    Marilyn Yalom's history, which traces the transformation of the queen in chess and parallels its transformation from a relatively weak piece called the "vizer" to the most powerful piece on the chess board with the rise of several powerful female monarchs in Europe, is a well researched, very readible work that shows Yalom's scholarship and interest in feminist issues. Yalow is a senior scholar for Women and Gender at Stanford University and is the author of several works examining the roles women have played in history. Her scholarship is evident as she traces the history of chess in general, the chess queen in particular, and the backdrop of the role women have played in chess development and political power from the time of chess's murky origins in India around 1500 years ago through its introduction to Europe by way of the Arabs and their interaction with Western European countries and cultures. Her research looks at Muslim, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, German, and English chess playing and politics. She present a fulsome bibliography from both standard and obscure sources. The work not only explores chess and feminist history, but is a tour of the importance of historical events such as the rise of Islam, the response of the Crusades, the cult of Courtly Love, religious devotion to the Virgin Mary, the Renaissance, on through to modern Europe.Yalom discusses how the queen piece in chess evolved from one of the weakest pieces, able only to move to an adjacent square diagonally to the "fearsome warrior" able to nearly singlehandedly deliver checkmate turning chess from a slow-paced leisurely game to the far faster conquest where mate can be delivered in as little as three move. She speculates, but never completely proves, that this change, which included a complete change of gender for the piece in European chess, may have come from the rise of several politically powerful females: women like Adelaide of Burgundy, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, Isabella of Spain, Catherine the Great of Russia, and England's Elizabeth I. Along with these women, Yalom examines the rise of Mariolatry, the cult of worship of the Virgin Mary, as well as the Courtly Love tradition that elevated the status of the female love object over the would-be male seeking her love. Although this books is scholarship, it is very readable. The prose is never turgid or pedantic. The chapters are broken up into sub-section that create pause points in the reading, which I found very helpful to keep my focus. I would not only recommend this book to chess lovers, but also to those interested in history and the role women have had in developing civilization. There is very little technical "chess language". In fact, the only fault I have with the book is that she doesn't try to include the annotation for a couple of the chess matches mentioned in the book, particularly the one played between King Ferdinand and one of the female royal servants, which some claim gave Isabella the opportunity to persuade her husband to full Christopher Columbus's voyage of exploration. I very much enjoyed this book as a example of very good scholarship and very good writing.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2018-12-01 00:09

    It took me quite a while to read this book: I own it and I needed to fit the reading around books that I had borrowed.Marilyn Yalom attempts three objectives in this interesting book. Firstly, and of most interest to me, she outlines a history of the game of chess and its likely spread across the world. Secondly, Dr Yalom explains the development of the piece currently known as the queen in most European chess play both in terms of its replacement of earlier pieces, and its emerging power. Finally, Dr Yalom makes a case for parallels between the emergence of the power of the chess queen and the rise of powerful female sovereigns in Europe.While I am attracted to the notion of the role of the chess queen as a reflection of the rise of strong queens (such as Isabella of Castile), and a possible association with the cult of the Virgin Mary, this is of peripheral interest to me. What I did find fascinating was the history of the development of the game, especially the differences between cultures and countries. Dr Yalom advises that the chess queen did not appear on the board until about 1000: some 200 years after the game had been introduced to southern Europe. Yet, by 1497, the queen had developed from a weak piece (moving one square at a time on the diagonal) to the far more formidable force that she is today.

  • James Henry
    2018-11-13 05:03

    Did you know that the chess queen wasn't on the board originally and that shedidn't have her "super moves" until much later. Do you even care ?Well it used to be an all male cast with the Vizor ( military advisorto the King ) being the original Queen. The book tells her story froma feminist perspective and equates the rise of the Chess Queen withthe rise of the real queens ( esp. Isabella of Spain ) and theincreasingly powerful cult of the Virgin Mary. It's sort of a sadhistory tho in that women used to play as much as men ( and win ) butthe actual emergence of the Chess Queen coincided with the decline ofwomen players. Another side note of interest is religious prohibitionson chess...the Catholics tried to ban it from time to time, theEastern Orthodox church kept up their ban long after that and theMuslims just used abstract pieces since they can't represent human oranimal form. Some Christian nay-Sayers even had a problem with the"sex-change" the pawn undergoes when it reaches its opponents back rowand becomes a Queen. SHEESH ! Oh and the original chess pieces ( outof India ) had the Vizor instead of the queen, a boat for the knightand an elephant for the rook. Isn't that cute ?

  • John Carter McKnight
    2018-12-09 03:19

    An utterly enjoyable read, a fascinating tour across Medieval Europe in search of queens regnant, Mariolatry (the cult of the Virgin Mary, a new word for me), figurative art and evolving chess rules. Yalom tells a highly entertaining tale while delivering solidly researched history, documenting the evolution of the weak "vizier" piece in Islamic chess sets into the all powerful European "queen." A fascinating study of the co-construction of games and culture, this really should be on games scholars' reading lists - and it'd be fun to think of as an example of how entertainment technology, religion, politics and the arts all shaped each other - though, alas, many of those changes, in which women were widely expected to play, and to play as equals of men, were undone by the rise of modernity.Just great stuff, which I expected from the author of A History of the Breast.

  • Christopher
    2018-11-27 06:03

    This book alternately irked and entertained me. There were interesting stories about the evolution of some regional "dialects" of the game, and I enjoyed the recounting of some folk lore in the game was a vehicle for romance and seduction.The times in which the author droned on about role of the actual living, breathing queen, though, bored me almost to tears. In fact, it seems at times that there is more information about queens and powerful ladies in this book than there is about the game.But then again, and I didn't know this before starting to read, but this is by the author of A History Of The Wife and A History Of The Breast, so a bit of feminism is to be expected after all.

  • Mike
    2018-11-23 03:24

    Anyone who likes chess will get a lot out of this book. Anyone who has read anything by Marilyn Yalom will be enthralled that she picked this topic. One of the world's most accomplished feminist writer, Yalom has conquered such subjects as "The History of the Wife" and "The History of the Breast" and done an admirable job with both. I was astounded at how much hard history Yalom was able to unearth with this homage to the most powerful piece on the chess board. What surprised me is that the queen is the most recent player on said board. How she appeared is the mystery I won't spoil. A good read, but it will be lost on you if you have never played the game.

  • Allie
    2018-11-26 06:13

    I was super interested in the subject matter, as I had never known that the queen in chess was something that developed rather than began with the game. But this book bored me out of my skull. The structure was plodding and the writing style too plain for the material. Too bad, because there is some great research here.

  • Slmcmahon
    2018-11-30 05:00

    I never learned to play chess, and have always been fascinated by the game. This history of the development of the queen as the most powerful piece on the board follows the development of the game and the evolution of the piece. My intent to learn the game is renewed.

  • Jen
    2018-12-02 06:05

    I love how one small facet of history can shine a light on the society as a whole. And thus it is with the birth of the chess queen. Originally, her role was "vizier" in the Arab game, and the story of how the male vizier was replaced by the female queen also explores the role of women in society.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-28 04:14

    I liked the way the author approached the subject. She mixed the history of chess with the lives of these queens. Pretty good.

  • Ruth Laura Edlund
    2018-11-28 07:15

    Fascinating, scholarly, and obscure. The perfect leisuretime book.

  • Louise Chambers
    2018-11-13 06:04

    Very good. Fascinating history of the Chess Queen and the real life women who inspired Her.

  • Erin
    2018-11-17 07:07

    This book explores the evolution of the queen in the game of chess. Pretty interesting, but best interspersed with a nice juicy fiction novel to switch to when the going gets slow.

  • Michael
    2018-11-13 07:20

    I actually read this book a while ago but found it well worth the read.

  • Neil Pierson
    2018-12-08 04:19

    How did the queen become the most powerful piece on the chess board while the king makes his gouty way around the board one space at a time? The more you know about the history of chess, the more improbable it seems.Chess was probably born in India. (The bishop was originally an elephant!) It spread to Persia, and from there through the Arabian states. The Moors brought it to Europe during the seven hundred years (770-1492) that they occupied Spain.The game, of course, is a simulation of warfare, and up until the late 1400s, there was no queen. The piece next to the king was a vizier, a king's most trusted (male) advisor. Chess first became popular among royalty and nobility, where rights were based on male succession. Only later was it taken up by regular folk.So we have a war-based game that had all-male pieces developed in male-dominated societies. It certainly doesn't seem like the chess board would be any place for a woman, much less a powerful one.There is no specific event or circumstance that introduced and elevated the queen. The author suggests several influences, however.(1) It seems to have been acceptable for women to play chess and to play against men from a very early date. It was acknowledged that they could defeat a man in a game and might be a better player.(2) While chess was regarded as a war game, it was also viewed as a metaphor for love between man and woman. In the Middle Ages (the era, not the people), chivalry demanded that a gentlemen woo a lady and "win" her hand, with the woman choosing from among her suitors. The appearance and increase in the queen's power coincided with this higher ideal of womanhood.(3) There were some kick-ass queens around that time, including Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Isabella of Spain, all of whom enjoyed chess.*This book could be a pretty dry exploration of the history of chess and feminism in olden times, but the author takes such joy in the subject. Many of the characters of those times, male and female, were larger than life, and she vividly recounts their deeds and misdeeds. *We mustn't forget Sigrid the Strong Minded. But I don't want to spoil the story of how she got that name.

  • CarlPalmateer
    2018-11-14 02:55

    An intriguing book. The research seems solid and many of the arguments well founded. Sometimes, however, it seems like the book is driven by a preset narrative instead of the research. When this happens the logic and conclusions seemed strained and unsupported. Not that some of them might not be correct but it must be acknowledged that they rest on air not solid ground. Whether you read this for purposes of chess or history or women's studies you will find it interesting and informative while being confronted with questions or points worth consideration and thought.

  • Carrol
    2018-11-11 04:24

    It's a little long-winded in parts, but overall it's a good read with a cool peek into the history of chess and some of the queen's who influenced not only the game but the shaping of the world.

  • Jeroen
    2018-11-22 02:08

    This does exactly what you'd expect from the genre of microhistory. In a few hundred pages you get both the largely useless facts that are nice to throw around on birthday parties as well as the contentious attempt to connect the seemingly small topic to larger tides of history.Some of the facts I enjoyed:- The word "chess" comes from the Persian word shah, meaning king…    - …and more poetically, the term "check mate" derives from shah mat, which apparently translates literally to "the king was dumbfounded". I like that.- The queen did not exist in the early days of chess. It used to be a vizier…    …and this vizier (and later queen) started out as the weakest character on the board, only able to move diagonally and one step at a time.- Chess was in medieval times used as an excuse to allow two young lovers to spend languid afternoons together.- Chess was used as a metaphor to morally "check" the behavior of women: a queen needed to stay close and "faithful" to her husband the king. For instance, some men had trouble with the "queening" rule (promoting a pawn to queen), because it seemed to go against the monogamous dictum, allowing two queens for one king.As for the contentious history: that's there as well, as always. Yalom attempts to align the development of the chess game to the development of the role of women in society. While large parts of her theory are not implausible, she is marred by a lack of evidence. Most of the argument in fact comes down to little more than "this famous and powerful queen lived around this time of a development in chess so there is probably some causation."One of the reasons I enjoy reading these kinds of books, is because there is something endearing to me about the authors' desperate attempts to make their topic seem important, to attempt to explain the whole of world history through the lens of (in this case) an 8x8 playing field. Invariably I am reminded of that great passage in Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, softly mocking the furthest outposts of academia:It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article's niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool. “Let’s see,'” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.”

  • M Culhane
    2018-12-03 04:03

    I picked this up while shelving at work and thought it would be an amusing nonfiction book. The history of chess and significant female historical figures is something that I have always wanted to know more about. By the time I was finished with the book it had become a chore for me to sit down an hour each day and slog through this thing. It felt like I was reading her opinion of matters more than I was reading the fact. I remember one point near to the end she wrote (and I'm paraphrasing of course) "Queen Isabella probably would have played chess if she wasn't as busy". Was that all the information she had? I feel as though, even with the massive index in the back, she needed to do more research or keep opinions out of a fact section of a book titled "A history". I've finished this unsure what to believe.I'm a feminist myself and I felt like this book had a lot of overkill. Yes, I know she is a feminist and I knew the book couldn't be without historical views from a feminist viewpoint. I usually like books like this, but every time she brought up an example of a sexist writing from the past she had the need to explain it. It was as if she believed readers were not smart enough to tell what sexism was. It doesn't need to be pointed out that It's bad to force woman to conform to little boxes, or that its bad to insult women for being female; but she did it every single time.The pacing felt odd to the point where I wasn't excited to learn more about the chess queen's progress when I know I would have in any other book.Still, there were positive aspects to this book. I am giving it three stars. Despite my comments earlier in this review it is likely that Yalom may have done a good job researching from what limited backgrounds there are of women who were in power in medieval Europe and elsewhere. The book did teach me a few new things, just not enough to keep my interest. I believe Yalom could have made an engaging book if she made it a little shorter, concerning more fact over opinion.

  • Nathan Dehoff
    2018-11-18 05:56

    The author links the development of the queen in the game of chess to events and personages in history. In the earliest Indian and Arabian sets, the piece next to the king was the vizier, and he could only move one space at a time. When this piece became the queen in Europe, it still had this limited movement. It was only later that she became the most powerful piece on the board, and Yalom suggests this might have had to do with the power of certain queens. While there isn't much direct evidence for this influence, the author makes a pretty good case. With the additional abilities of the queen (and the bishop as well), games could be played much more quickly, and chess became more of a competitive sport than a leisurely activity. This actually led to it being viewed as more of a man's game, whereas before games between men and women were common enough to feature in folklore, and playing chess was part of courtship. So, while the women came to dominate the board, there weren't as many women moving the pieces. Not that there aren't women who play competitive chess (the book mentions the Polgar Sisters), but we know that game competitions have become somewhat of a boys' club. Some writers actually commented on how a pawn becoming a queen amounted to a sex change, as pawns were regarded as soldiers. Lewis Carroll avoided this, as Alice was not only a female pawn who became a queen, but she was taking the place of another female pawn, the White Queen's daughter Lily. Apparently some older games only allowed for the promotion of a pawn if the original queen was out of play, but under modern rules there can technically be up to nine queens in the game, although I doubt that's ever happened in normal gameplay. There were also pictures of chess pieces throughout the ages, including both representative ones and others that actually looked like people.

  • David Alexander McLane
    2018-12-04 02:01

    At the dawn of chess in India and the Middle East, there was no queen. Instead, the vizier stood on the square next to the king, acting as his advisor. His moves were limited to one diagonal square, making him even more impotent than the king (who could move one square in any direction). As chess spread to Europe at the turn of the millennium, the queen was introduced, bringing a female figure into a wargame dominated by icons of masculinity. While the queen still possessed the limited moves of the vizier, the author points out that her inclusion was a reflection of the powerful queens and regents of the 12th and 13th centuries. Ultimately, it wasn't until the reign of Isabella of Castile that the queen has a metamorphosis from the weak, vizier-like piece to the strongest and most feared piece on the board.This book is part chess history, part history of medieval queens, and part history of romantic literature. As others have said, quite dry at times, but still an interesting look into a history of chess before the analyses of Ruy Lopez and Gioachino Greco and the rise of the professional chess player.I probably wouldn't recommend this book to someone who isn't a chess enthusiast, but those with an interest in medieval history or feminism might take something away from it.

  • Tom
    2018-11-27 22:55

    I read this as a chess enthusiast, knowing (or caring) nothing about the author's rep as a feminist writer. Had known of the book for a long time, wouldn't have sought it out, but someone lent me a copy.The book is well written, researched and illustrated. There's a lot of interesting historical information, but little "hard chess" content (indeed, the closing couple of chapters suggest that the author is not a chess expert, e. g. by misspelling a current Grandmaster's name). I recommend it for general and historical information, but (spoiler) the precise origin of the chess queen can't be pinpointed and (personal taste) some of the author's inferences and conclusions seem speculative.I'd rank it as 3 and a half stars, but will round up to 4.

  • Richard Holmes
    2018-11-15 03:07

    Here we have a rather pedestrian account of two parallel histories: That of the queen piece in the game of chess, and that of queenship is real life — specifically Europe — during the same time period. It may be of interest to fans of chess and to followers of women's studies, though perhaps no more than mildly so. But it should be noted the Google Books edition has a serious drawback compared to the print version. The latter evidently had illustrations including a number of color plates. They are absent from the Google Books version.