“Sets a New Standard for Serious Nonfiction Writing on Chess”

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a review of my book by Tim Redman, founder of the Chess Program at the University of Texas at Dallas and former president of the U.S. Chess Federation:

“Paul Hoffman’s engaging memoir relates how chess rescued him from a troubled adolescence and then offered solace to him as an adult: ‘Chess offered a tidy black-and-white sanctuary from the turmoil in the rest of my life.’

“Such a tale is typical for serious adult chess players…. But Mr. Hoffman’s writing skills and close access to the top echelons of chess make this book stand out.

“And what a group these players be! As a teenager, Mr. Hoffman beats his first grandmaster, Nicholas Rossolimo, at the latter’s small chess studio in Greenwich Village. During the course of the evening, Nick served a supper of steamed mussels with garlic, conversed with Paul’s father about Nabokov and Sartre, played chess with Paul, and consumed five bottles of white wine before resigning a lost game by dipping his king in the mussel broth and scattering the rest of the pieces.

“Mr. Hoffman’s descriptions are letter-perfect, and he doesn’t shy away from the game’s negative effects on some: its addictive nature and its frequent association with insanity and obsession. Indeed, as he notes, the chess world readily accepts eccentric behavior. For some, regrettably, chess is the Sargasso Sea of intellect.

“…Mr. Hoffman has sought to comprehend ‘the inner life of chess players.’ Whether nonfiction can accomplish this goal as well as fiction… remains to be seen. But Mr. Hoffman has come closer than anyone so far.

“The book’s great strength lies in its many interviews with key players…. His account of his encounter with the Keystone Kops of the Libyan security state, where he went to report on the World Chess Championship, is harrowing though comical in retrospect. The book is rich in such narrative treasures.

King’s Gambit, in short, sets a new standard for serious nonfiction writing on chess.”

The entire review is here.

3 Responses to ““Sets a New Standard for Serious Nonfiction Writing on Chess””

  1. Tacticus Maximus Says:

    I bought the book using the link in this post. I read it. I loved it!

    My chess career has many parallels to yours. I have ended up (currently) just above the 2000 line and greatly appreciate your views of chess and the chess world and envy your access to so many of the top players.

    I’ll be adding a review (or at least a link) to my blog in the near future.


  2. chessaddict1153 Says:

    Just finished the book. GREAT READ! Gives us hacks down in ‘C’ class a great peek into the lives of some of the people we envy:) I have deal for you – next time you 2nd for Pascal, I’ll tag along as your 2nd! The level of chess discourse will obviously decline, but I’m great with coffee, laundry, and travel agents;) Awesome book – and I’m telling everybody. Thanks!

  3. Blue Devil Knight Says:

    Congratulations on the compounded positive press. Kudos! I hate to be a ninny, but I am waiting for the paperback 🙂

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