The Kings of New York
Michael Weinreb's fascinating book reviewed.
Everybody knows that Andrew Flintoff is a world class all-rounder, champion drinker and now a potential pedalo champ but who'd have thought that he was once an aspiring chess player?
After his recent booze fueled antics it seems incredible to think that Fred was once an up and comer in that most cerebral of games, good enough in fact to represent his county. And he's not the only sportsman with an interest in the game. Lennox Lewis, Roger Federer, the Klitschko brothers and Rafa Benitez are all said to dabble. With a cast list like that it's surprising that there haven't been more calls for chess to take its place in the school sporting curriculum. Which is just what has happened at one extraordinary school in New York.
There is plenty of literature available for the devoted player wishing to polish his end game or master the Sicilian opening, but for those of us with just a passing interest coverage is rare. Now in addition to the excellent Bobby Fischer Goes To War, we have Michael Weinreb's fascinating book which tells the amazing story of Murrow High School, the most successful chess playing school in America.
Weinreb follows the Murrow School team on their journey to the national championships competing against much wealthier and illustrious private schools. We witness the financial struggles faced by the team, the frustration of pupils and teachers alike as the dedication and brainpower required on the chessboard doesn't transfer to the academic environment and how teenage boys (for it is largely teenage boys) no matter how gifted, are still just teenage boys trying to grow up. It's an engaging story of devotion to a complicated game and at the same time a rites of passage tale of young men trying to make their way in the world.
Garry Kasparov has said, an aptitude for chess demonstrates nothing more than an aptitude for chess. That's not to say that some of the strategic skills aren't transferable to other spheres though. Like the Murrow boys, Flintoff and co have all benefited in their chosen arena from the skills brought from chess (ok maybe not the pedalo). Now, having read this excellent book I'm tempted to get onto the Internet Chess Club and try my luck myself.