New Book Illuminates the Unorthodox and Tormented World of Chess Champions

Newton Highlands, MA, October 02, 2008 --( The eccentricities of performers and academics are well-established. Many have been known to blaze their own peculiar path in life, going about things in a unique and unusual way. Nobody, however, personifies the role of the eccentric better than a professional chess player. Nearly every great chess champion in history—from Frenchman Louis-Charles Mahé de la Bourdonnais to American Bobby Fischer—has followed a strange and often dark and torturous path in life.

Why is this? What is it that prevents these rare geniuses of chess from living a ‘normal’ life? Are they hardwired to be different, unable to function within the traditional parameters of society?

The Genius and the Misery of Chess (Mongoose Press; October 1, 2008) fully examines the turbulent lives of some of the game’s great masters and highlights the chaotic themes that seem to run through so many of their lives.

Recounting the biographies of the geniuses of the game this new book, written by noted chess master and author Zhivko Kaikamjzov, illuminates these remarkably unique characters and shows how nearly every single one of them suffered through life unfulfilled and unable to carry on in a traditional manner. Despite possessing an indisputably unique and highly elevated level of intelligence for chess, this new book clearly illustrates how greatness at chess seems almost incompatible with handling the banalities of regular life.

The Genius and the Misery of Chess highlights the nineteenth-century Louisiana prodigy Paul Morphy who, during his painfully short yet dazzling career, once beat a series of opponents blindfolded. Refusing to play chess for money, Morphy tried to embark on a “respectable” career as a lawyer but wasn’t taken seriously—a victim of his own eccentric mind—and spiraled into a world of madness, eventually dying a sad and broken man.

There is the Eastern European Lionel Kieseritzky who so longed to live in Paris and play chess for his livelihood that he gave up a promising career as a notary and teacher to barely made ends meet as a chess player in the French capital. It didn’t work out. Despite showing great promise as a champion Kieseritzky eventually broke down from the stresses of paying chess and, unable to even earn enough money to move back to his homeland, he died alone and in desperate poverty in Paris.

Then there is the ever-modest and gentlemanly Austrian Karl Schlechter who, while living at the height of poverty and destitution after giving up a promising career as a trader in favor of chess, refused to take a sure-to-win bet with a total stranger because he believed that the man didn’t have a legitimate chance of beating him. Schlechter soon passed away, dying of physical exhaustion and malnutrition brought on by illness and poverty—a victim of the harsh and unpredictable world of a professional chess player.

And there is the unusual genius of Akiba Rubinstein, one of the greatest chess players of all time, who could speak several languages but could barely write because he hadn’t received even an elementary education. After some brilliant early success at chess Rubinstein eventually went mad and spent the rest of his life in an asylum.

The Genius and the Misery of Chess not only retells the unique, and often tragic stories behind history’s great chess masters, it also highlights each of their most magnificent performances, including detailed analysis of each player’s signature move that help lead them gain their own place within the pantheon of the game’s great players. But it is the remarkable inability of these great champions to function in traditional society that is most strikingly made clear in this new book. Perhaps it is the drive for absolute perfection that ultimately derailed so many of the games greats. Perhaps it is the unique analytical prowess required to succeed at the game’s highest levels. Whatever it is, The Genius and the Misery of Chess offers a chance to peak inside of the odd and eccentric lives of these unique and great champions.

About The Author
Zhivko Kaikamjzov is the author of 33 chess books and has dedicated more than a half century to chess. Born in 1931 in Dobrich, Bulgaria, Kaikamjzov graduated from the Sofia Institute of Economics and established the first Bulgarian chess school for children in his home town in January of 1962. His students have included grandmasters Velikov, Spassov, and Voiska, as well as Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov. Kaikamjzov was the manager of the Bulgarian chess federation in the 1980s, and is an international arbiter, elected President of the East-European zone of FIDE, and became a member of the FIDE Central Committee in 1986. He was one of the referees of the world title match of Kasparov vs. Karpov in London in 1990. He is an editor of the Bulgarian chess magazine Chess Thought and has been a journalist for over ten years.

The Genius and the Misery of Chess
By Zhivko Kaikamjzov
978-0-9791482-3-1; $19.95; Mongoose Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2008

Mongoose Press
Olga Rasin