Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2014 April 25 • Friday

Anthony Glyn's The Dragon Variation is a great read, probably even better for people who are interested in chess. (I'm not but I loved Walter Tevis's The Queen's Gambit, so I find myself inclined to give chess novels a chance.)

The main plot involves a woman, herself a great chess player, who believes she's found a genius chess prodigy in a young Iranian man she meets on vacation. We follow her efforts to groom him for championships despite being stymied by his lack of interest in memorizing openings and analyses.

The other thread involves a man who used to be a professional chess player but is now a journalist who writes about the chess world for various newspapers and magazines. He thinks he has also found a promising young chess player, a young man in Manchester.

As we follow these two paths, which intersect a good deal, we also encounter numerous other characters, mostly from the chess world and occasionally not the product of the author's imagination (e.g., Bobby Fischer).

The great thing about the book, in addition to its being a joy to read, is that Glyn persuasively but unobtrusively leaves you with the impression of these people as pieces on a chess board. The chapter on Debbie, for instance, is the story of a pawn who trades up to a queen but gets sacrificied. And the last line of the book firmly identifies one major character to be a pawn who believes he's a king.

The first line is "The midday sun poured down on to the Maidan-Shah, the Royal Square of Isfahan". It's nice how "midday sun" is echoed by "Maidan-Shah".