Book Review: People of the Rook

COUNTERPLAY: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard by Robert Desjarlais (University of California Press)
by Will Wlizlo
July-August 2011
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“Chess,” world champion player Bobby Fischer once said, “is life.” Trying to prove that maxim true, anthropologist Robert Desjarlais draws from his backgrounds in ethnographic research and amateur tournament chess to nimbly explore the game’s social, philosophical, aesthetic, psychological, and technological quirks. On top of his engaging scholarship, Desjarlais narrates many historic matches and recasts them as white-knuckled battles for honor—games in which every dashed pawn or triumphant queen reveals a moral, computational, or existential truth.

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