Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard by Robert Desjarlais

By Robert Desjarlais

“Chess will get a carry of a few humans, like a scourge or a drug,” writes Robert Desjarlais during this soaking up ebook. Drawing on his lifelong fascination with the sport, Desjarlais publications readers into the realm of twenty-first-century chess to assist us comprehend its designated pleasures and demanding situations, and to boost a brand new “anthropology of passion.” Immersing us at once in chess’s tricky tradition, he interweaves small dramas, heavily saw information, illuminating insights, colourful anecdotes, and unforgettable biographical sketches to explain the sport and to bare what is going on within the minds of skilled gamers once they face off over the board. Counterplay deals a compelling tackle the intrigues of chess and exhibits how topics of play, attractiveness, pageant, dependancy, fanciful cognition, and intersubjective engagement form the lives of these who soak up this such a lot pleasing of games.


“The topic of chess boasts extra books than the other online game, yet this one is detailed, crafted for the overall reader in addition to the aficionado. . . . just like the video game itself, Counterplay is an relaxing psychological exercise.”
(E. James Lieberman Foreword 2011-03-01)

“Desjarlais attracts from his backgrounds in ethnographic examine and novice match chess to nimbly discover the game’s social, philosophical, aesthetic, mental, and technological quirks.”
(Will Wlizlo Utne 2011-07-01)

“An informative and penetrating survey of the sport today.”
(Publishers Weekly 2011-01-24)

“Desjarlais brings to Counterplay a social scientist’s eye for broader subject matters and implications, a researcher’s exhaustive annotation, and a chess junkie’s ardour and appreciate for the game.”
(Wayne Lee Santa Fe New Mexican/ Pasatiempo 2012-06-01)
From the interior Flap
"Counterplay explores the internal global of a chess participant and examines how we strive to make which means from the sport and the varieties of lifestyles that encompass it. Desjarlais's own account skillfully illustrates the soaking up, spell binding, and exacting features of chess, whereas additionally highlighting the penury, disillusion and pettiness that regretfully permeate the game."—Jonathan Rowson, PhD, Grandmaster and British Chess Champion (2004-2006)

"This publication is replete with deeply researched and heavily saw info, small dramas, interesting insights, compelling anecdotes and potted biographies—all interwoven with nice authorial ability and intelligence. this can be a brilliant creation to the 'lifeworld' of chess that gives glimpses into the psychology of gamers and touches at the social and political dimensions of aggressive chess. In each bankruptcy, Desjarlais deals captivating feedback as to what sorts of delight diversified humans locate in enjoying chess."—Michael D. Jackson, writer of The Palm on the finish of the brain

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Sample text

You’ve survived the first onslaught. You’ve managed to develop your pieces and get your king castled safely behind a row of pawns, without giving up too much ground. Your heart beats less frantically. You step out of the room to get some water, and return to the board. You take a look at the game to your right. A man in his fifties (Russian, apparently) is playing a gritty game against a hormonal kid pushing sixteen at best. The Marshall fields a spectrum of chess players. Eager schoolkids, many with personal trainers, are looking to earn rating points.

You played him once before, back in June, at another Marshall week­ ender. After a long, muddled game, you stepped into time trouble, messed up a tense position, and lost. “The endgame,” you said after resigning, while looking at the remaining pieces on the board. ” But given his limited English, you uttered only the shorthand version. “Yes. The endgame,” Grechikhin replied. Later, you wondered if he took your comment to mean that you can’t play the endgame well. Americans have a reputation for that.

The calculus continues with each new move, leading mathematicians to conclude that the estimated total number of unique chess games is about 10120, which is more than the total number of electrons in the universe. Yet that mathematical feature is not what holds the interest of chess play­ ers while playing, perhaps because most of those hypothetical moves are pointless, but also because any possible arrangement of words in a con­ versation between people, or the various ways that musical notes can be strung together, would involve similarly astronomical numbers, with most of the sequences being nonsensical.

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