We've Got Game | Mechanics' Institute

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We've Got Game

If you haven't seen the new Netflix miniseries The Queen's Gambit, you're missing out. The series, based on Walter Tevis' 1983 novel by the same title, is an electrifying view of the 1950s chess circuit.Tevis' story follows Beth Harmon, a quiet, withdrawn 8-year-old orphan who learns how to play chess from the janitor at the Methuen Home in Kentucky. Captivated, Beth's thinking grows clearer, her senses grow sharper and she hones her skill by visualizing chess moves as a frequent pastime. By 16, she is competing for the U.S. Open championship. 

A fascinating show on its own, The Queen's Gambit is even more enjoyable if the viewer understands chess and chess players. MI Library collects a wide range of chess-themed novels, training manuals and films. While the list below is a slice of the library's chess offerings, it is guaranteed to entertain and educate chess enthusiasts about one of the world's oldest games. All items are available to check out through the library's To Go express service.

If you find yourself craving even more chess, MI also houses the oldest continuously operating chess club in the U.S. Whether you are a beginner or a more serious player, MI's Chess Club page offers marathons and activities for every level. 

Chess in Fiction:

Alekhine's Anguish by Charles Yaffe - A fictionalized account of the life of Russian-born Alexander Alekhine, widely considered to be one of the greatest chess players of all time. 

The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr - Set in 1770 Vienna, Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveils a strange and amazing invention, the Mechanical Turk, a sensational and unbeatable chess-playing automaton.

The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov - A chilling story of obsession and madness. Luzhin, a distracted, withdrawn boy, takes up chess as a refuge from everyday life. As he rises to grandmaster status, the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality as he moves inexorably towards madness. Nabokov's third novel was made into a 2000 film entitled The Luzhin Defence starring John Turturro. 

The Eight by Katherine Neville - Computer expert Cat Velis becomes involved in a search for a legendary chess set once owned by Charlegmane. Fans of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code will appreciate Neville's debut novel and its sequel, The Fire

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte - A 15th century Flemish painting of a chess game contains a clue to present-day murders in the art world. 

Gambit by Rex Stout - Nero Wolfe and Archie Godwin take on the murder of an eccentric chess player. 

Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett -  In this first title of the Lymond Chronicles set in 1547, Francis Crawford of Lymond, a nobleman of elastic morals and dangerous talents whose tongue is as sharp as his rapier returns to his native Scotland, which is threatened by an English invasion. Accused of treason, Lymond leads a band of outlaws in a desperate race to redeem his reputation and save his lands. Chess is woven into this first book and in all of the titles throughout Dunnett's series.

Grandmaster by Warren Murphy - This Edgar Allan Poe Award winner  finds a genius American spy in a deadly rivalry against a master strategist, a competition that begins when they meet at the age of ten during a pivotal chess championship and escalates during their relentless pursuit of the Grandmaster title.

The Immortal Game by Mark Coggins - When the world's most innovative chess software is stolen, San Francisco PI August Riordan is hired to find it. 

Lisa: a chess novel by Jesse Kraai - A young girl finds sanctuary in the game of chess. Beautifully written by a Mechanics' Institute member.  

The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig - A tale of chess rivalry between two men, which begins in the 1930s and continues into World War II. One of them becomes the Nazi commandant of a death camp, while the other, a Jew, becomes its inmate. 

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis - Orphaned at age eight, Beth Harmon learns to play chess from the orphanage janitor, launching her career as a chess champion. 

Stalemate by Icchokas Meras - During World War II, a chess match between a Nazi commandant and a child prodigy will decide the fate of the Vilna Ghetto's children. Only a draw can save the children from a terrible demise. 


Bobby Fischer Against the World - A documentary about American chess genius Bobby Fischer.

Brooklyn Castle - I.S.318 is an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level, that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard.

The Dark Horse - An award-winning film based on the life of New Zealand chess player Genesis Pontini. 

Endgame - Since he was five years old, Jose's abuelita taught him to play chess like his grandfather who was a champion in Mexico. Now as part of the Brownsville school team, Jose finds himself in the spotlight and has the chance to use his skills as he tries to help his team make it to the Texas state finals

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine - Documentary about Gary Kasparov, widely regarded as the greatest chess player the world has ever seen, played Deep Blue - a hulking one and a half ton IBM supercomputer in May, 1997.

Knights of the South Bronx - Richard, recently unemployed, decides to return to his first love, teaching. When he finds a job as an inner-city fourth-grade schoolteacher, he discovers a way to reach out to his skeptical students through the game of chess. He inspires his students to become champions, not only at chess, but in life

Pawn Sacrifice - In a gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire.

Queen of Katwe - Based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

Queen to Play - A French chambermaid becomes obsessed with chess. View on Kanopy, MI's streaming service. 

Searching for Bobby Fischer - This heart-warming film is based on the true story of a young boy who is a chess prodigy and his father, who attempts to walk the fine line between encouraging his son's talent and preserving the love they have for each other.

The Seventh Seal - Disillusioned and exhausted, a knight encounters Death on a desolate beach and challenges him to a fateful game of chess. View on Kanopy, MI's streaming service.

Posted on Nov. 3, 2020 by Celeste Steward