We are used to reading about glorious feats by chess masters from the past, but we often are unaware that chess drove some unfortunate ones to nervous breakdowns, asylums, and poorhouses. In contrast, the lives of child prodigies, the wunderkinds of chess, typically have overflowed with success – these prodigies have achieved unbelievable sports feats at a very young age. Yet, sometimes the promising trajectory of the wunderkind clashes with fate, leaving the youngster to take on the unfortunate plight of a martyr, too.

This book recounts all of these stories – the woe of the aged master, the triumph of the prodigy, the sometime reversal of fortune in the other extreme. From as-Suli of the ninth century to Magnus Carlsen of the twenty first – the triumphs and tragedies that shaped their lives.

Here are some of the early reviews:

Review 1

“The book is clean, easy to read, and contains a lot of information about a variety of chess players new and old. Included subjects are: Radjabov and Kasparov’s tantrum when he lost to him; Bacrot (fascinating story), Judit Polgar, Antoaneta Stefanova, Pillsbury, Steinitz, Schlechter, Fischer, Alekhine and 40 more. Others were Ponomariov, Mecking, Lahno, Kamsky, and M. Carlsen.

The book is good for another reason: little tidbits interspersed showing that Kaikamjozov has done some research and dug up info that is not ordinarily known or in some cases, completely missed by me (and I feel like sometimes I have read everything). The claim is that he is a respectable journalist. Whatever you think, the book is full of goodies.”

Review 2

“In this book we get to see the games, but the main focus is on the human being behind the hero. The great chess masters were mere mortals like us, with lives full of ups and downs.

The lives of 50 chess champions are described. It starts with As-Suli who lived in 880-946. Many of the modern players made it into this book, starting with Garry Kasparov and ending with Magnus Carlsen. What I like most about this book is the excellent insight into the personality of chess masters.

One also learns a lot about the history of our beloved game and how chess was valued or which role it played at different times. Chess has always been popular among the nobility. Arabian Caliphs valued our game and so did over 600 years later the European nobles. From 1600 until the second part of the 20th century chess-players had a hard time making a living. There where few tournaments or matches and they mainly played for small sums of money in coffee houses. At times reading about the masters of these times is a bit shocking because they seem to have become totally addicted to chess and to have neglected other things that are necessary in order to have a certain balance in ones life. Many died young in poverty after many years of malnutrition and hardship.

This is an excellent, informative and well-written book, that everyone will enjoy reading, independent of their playing strength.”

Review 3

“The Bulgarian chess master Zhivko Kaikamjozov portraits in this book the life and games of 48 great players,many of whom were brilliant, but too often their lives ended in misery.

The tragic life of the Scotsman Cecil de Vere,who was so as many others of that time doomed by tuberculosis.This chess genius fell into depression and became a heavy drinker,and died five days before his thirtieth birthday.

The story of the great Akiba Rubinstein who suffered from anthropophobia,a fear of people and society. During the World War II, the Nazis came to deport the aged Jewish grandmaster from his asylum to the death camps, but he was so obviously insane that they reconsidered and left him alone.

One of the most talented Russian chess players, the chess prodigy Mark Stolberg only become nineteen years old when he was struck down by heavy enemy fire in 1942.The German Klaus Junge was only one year older when he was mobilized and sent to front and never returned.Have you ever heard from As-Suli the Exile? This great man lived from 880 till 946 and wrote the first book on chess strategy {Kitab Ash-Shatranj.) Even today, after more than a millennium, he is remembered by the people of middle Asia and the Near East as a name of legends.

Also included are stories of young talented players who are still at the beginning of there careers, most notably Magnus Carlsen.

Conclusion: One of those books you can not put down!”

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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar