The Match that Made a Novel

In 1892, between January 1 and February 28, Mikail Chigorin and Wilhelm Steinitz faced off in Havana for a World Championship rematch.  In was on this day (Feb 7) in 1892 that they played the 16th game of this championship.

What was so special about this game?  Author John Brunner found something interesting about this game as he used it in his 1965 novel, “The Squares of the City.” Reading like the Godfather in some ways, urban class citizens are caught in a political battle in the fictional South American country of Vados. The book went up for a Hugo award in 1966. It had some tough competition that year, however, as Dune was also on the list.

Using the appendix, one can familiarize oneself with how the characters line up with the pieces. Don’t read any further in the appendix unless you want spoilers on how pieces/characters are captured. Having the game printed out will allow one to read along and match the story line with each move in that game.

Some moves are much more obvious to spot in the story than others, especially when the move is a capture.  There was no storyline for casteling which the reader should just assume is implied. All other moves have a storyline but may be more challenging to spot. 

The concept of the novel was unique. I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and playing) along. As a stand-alone novel, one might think it was unneccesarily violent and quite a stretch at times. If you are both a sci-fi fan and a chess enthusiast, you should most definitely check out this book.

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