I have always enjoyed the books and Chess Life column of grandmaster Andy Soltis. He can marshal words and turns of phrase as skillfully as he can marshal pawns and knights. And so his review of King’s Gambit in Sunday’s New York Post meant a lot to me. (I’m also tickled that the review appeared in the Post, whose headlines I’ve enjoyed for years). Under the headline ACCEPT ‘GAMBIT’ AS A GOOD READ, Soltis writes:
“Paul Hoffman, an accomplished author and magazine editor, was being interviewed for the job of publisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 2000 when the quirky new owner asked him just two questions. One was: What is the shortest possible checkmate?
“Hoffman, then 43, hadn’t played chess in 25 years. But he knew the Fool’s Mate (1 g4 e5 2 f3 Qh4), and this knowledge earned an impressive new addition to his résumé – one that turned out to be such a bizarre, stressful experience that he began playing tournament chess again for relief.
“His midlife crisis became a re-immersion in chess, including hanging out at a Moscow tournament with a world class player, Joel Lautier; investigating the bizarre subculture of “Grobsters” (1 g4 players) and Washington Square Park hustlers; and playing spectator at a world championship tournament in Moammar Khadafy’s Libya.
“He also tried to understand his con-man dad, who introduced him to the game and how he first became obsessed with it after his parents marriage collapsed.
“The result is King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father and the World’s Most Dangerous Game published this month by Hyperion…. Of the several general-interest books with a chess theme that appeared this year, this is the one to buy.”