Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Review of "Lisa: A Chess Novel"

Midway through perusing Lisa: A Chess Novel [Zugzwang Press, 2013, 231 pages] by grandmaster Jesse Kraai, I suddenly realized that I wasn't reading prose. I was reading free verse poetry, interrupted now and then by dialogue. The book might just have well been titled Igor: A Chess Poem because the late grandmaster Igor Ivanov comes across as a far more interesting character than Lisa Lena Schmied.

I can't recall the exact date, but sometime around the early 1980's I played a game against Igor Ivanov at the Bar Point in New York City. Playing White, I followed Fischer-Korchnoi, Curacao 1962 for the first 28 moves and then varied with the recommended improvement 29.Ra2, which seemed to take Igor by surprise as he spent a great deal of time looking at the position before continuing.

A few moves later, Igor offered a draw which I accepted. My elation at having drawn against such a strong player was short lived. Behind Igor's back, as he exited the room, a player gestured with thumb to mouth and head tilted back that Igor was drunk. The fictional Igor Ivanov in Lisa has mostly recovered from his alcoholism, although he still has a "big drink" occasionally.

The following chess problem plays an important role in Lisa.  See if you can solve it, as the title character is required to do by her coach Igor.

                                   White to play and draw

If you want the solution, you will have to buy the book!