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Bloomsbury, 2007 - Fiction - 278 pages
32 Reviews
Zugzwang:derived from the German,Zug(move) +Zwang(compulsion, obligation). In chess it is used to describe a position in which a player is reduced to a state of utter helplessness. He is obliged to move, but every move only makes his position even worse. St Petersburg, 1914: imposing and shabby, monumental and squalid, and - under its surface of frosty glamour - seething with plots and secret allegiances. On a blustery April day O.V. Gulko, a respected newspaper editor, is murdered in front of a shocked crowd. Five days later Dr Otto Spethmann, famous psychoanalyst, receives a visit from the police. There has been another murder in the city - and somehow he is implicated. He is mystified - and deeply worried, as much for his young, spirited daughter as for himself. He is preoccupied, too, by two new patients: Anna Petrovna, the society beauty plagued with nightmares with whom he is steadily and inappropriately falling in love, and troubled genius Rozental, the brilliant but mentally fragile chess master, due to play the most important competition of his life - the spectacular St Petersburg chess tournament - but on the verge of a complete breakdown. With the city rife with speculation and alarm, Spethmann broods over his own chessboard, its pieces frozen mid-battle, and contemplates the many forces - political, historical, sexual - that are holding him in their grasp...

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I might have rated this even higher had not the chess diagrams been wrong and worse depicted impossible positions. I think that if you are going to write a novel that "mirror" a chess game the illustrations that show the various positions sb correct. Other then that a pretty good story.

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User Review  - Denise - Goodreads

There wasn't enough chess in it for me. Also, I was hoping we would go to the big chess tournament taking place in the city at the time. Well, we did go...briefly, but I was wanting to go during the ... Read full review


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About the author (2007)

Ronan Bennett was brought up in Belfast. He is the author of three novels -- "The Second Prison, Overthrown by Strangers, " and, most recently, "The Catastrophist" (shortlisted for the 1998 Whitbread Novel Award). He has also written screenplays for film and television. Ronan Bennett lives in London with his family.

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