Chessays: Travels Through The World Of Chess

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Open Agenda Publishing, Nov 30, 2022 - Games & Activities - 208 pages

A collection of thought-provoking essays by physicist-turned-filmmaker Howard Burton about a wide range of chess-related issues which he encountered while being a "tourist" in the chess world during the production of the 4-part documentary series about the fascinating history and sociocultural significance of chess, Through the Mirror of Chess: A Cultural Exploration.

Howard has produced a comprehensive investigation into the remarkable impact of chess across a wide range of times and places up to the present day, touching on cultural history, the nature of competitiveness, artificial intelligence, psychology, art, literature, gender issues, education, and much more in an attempt to comprehensively address the question of what makes the game so unique.

These essays provide insightful and playful reflections on the (ab)uses of the history of the game to the birth of the modern game as a competitive sport and the way it is run by FIDE. Howard also questions several of the long-held assumptions about its widely acclaimed benefits and highlights the many surprising contemporary applications of chess to artificial intelligence, prison reform, social inequality, and more and makes sharp observations on what chess reveals about current attitudes to gender, technology, sports, entertainment and the nature of play.

Praise for Chessays:

“…Howard Burton is new to this world, one which naturally mistrusts outsiders. This allows him to approach the arena of chess with a fresh perspective and enables him to debunk in his typically humorous and sardonic style many of the long-held assumptions about the game. He questions the rarely debated opinion that chess is proof of superior intelligence, and wonders whether the skill shown in moving pieces around a board is as easily transferable to other activities as many seem to claim. Is adding chess to the national curriculum really such a good idea? And is the game a conduit to a lifetime of greater achievement, or just a frivolous end in itself?“

– GM Daniel Gormally

“A candid, engaging and provocative glimpse into the world of chess by a former physicist turned filmmaker…reading Chessays is very much like having a chatty and delightful dinner guest provide entertaining and sharp philosophic insights. Get taken on a whirlwind journey through chess history, chess politics, gender issues in competitive chess, and thoughts regarding the benefits of playing chess…each essay offers authentic thoughtful viewpoints (substantiated by an abundance of footnotes), including fascinating reflections on the global chess community and the future of chess.”

– Wang-Sheng Lee, Associate Professor, Monash University

“…the essays are well written and well structured…The substance of the essays is intriguing. I believe that most readers, both chess players and others, will find many points of interest…”

– John Knott, co-author of Blindfold Chess


Selected pages


The Uses and Abuses of History
Waste of Time?
Evolutionary Forces
FIDE is a Fourletter Word
Watch Her Play
Far Transfer
Farther Transfer
Farthest Transfer

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