Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

First edition of The Queen's Gambit published by Random House in 1983
Walter Tevis' fifth and second to last novel is about the ascent of female chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon. Orphaned when her mother dies at age 8, Beth spends the next five years in the Methuen home for girls and learns how to play chess covertly with one of the janitors while combating an addiction to tranquilizers. Beth is eventually adopted and steals money to play in a tournament, where she finally becomes recognized as the talent that she is. The Queen's Gambit follows Beth from her humble beginnings to challenging the world champion at 18, and, despite being extremely chess-heavy in detail, is incredibly gripping and fun to read. I have yet to read or even hear of another book that deals with the plight of the female chess player in an almost always male-dominated field. The Queen's Gambit is easily in contention for my favorite of Tevis' novels, and this first edition features great jacket art by Will Barnet.