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All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir about Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything

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Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. Like countless amateurs before him--Albert Einstein, Humphrey Bogart, Marcel Duchamp--the game has consumed his life and his mind. First captivated by it as a member of his high school chess club, his passion was rekindled during an accidental encounter with chess hustlers on the streets of Kathmandu. In its aftermath, he forgot how to ca Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. Like countless amateurs before him--Albert Einstein, Humphrey Bogart, Marcel Duchamp--the game has consumed his life and his mind. First captivated by it as a member of his high school chess club, his passion was rekindled during an accidental encounter with chess hustlers on the streets of Kathmandu. In its aftermath, he forgot how to care about anything else. He played at all hours, for weeks at a time. Like a spurned lover, he tried to move on, but he found the game more seductive the more he resisted it. And so, he thought, if he can't defeat his obsession, he had to succumb to it. All the Wrong Moves traces Chapin's rollicking two-year journey around the globe in search of glory. He travels to tournaments in Bangkok and Hyderabad. He seeks out a mentor in St. Louis, a grandmaster whose personality is half rabbi and half monk, and who offers cryptic wisdom and caustic insults ("you're the best player in your chair"). His story builds toward the Los Angeles Open, where Chapin is clearly outmatched and yet no less determined not to lose. Along the way, he chronicles the highs and lows of his fixation, driven on this quest by lust, terror, and the elusive possibility of victory. Stylish, inventive, and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Wrong Moves is more than a work of history or autobiography. It's a celebration of the purity, violence, and beauty of the game.


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Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. Like countless amateurs before him--Albert Einstein, Humphrey Bogart, Marcel Duchamp--the game has consumed his life and his mind. First captivated by it as a member of his high school chess club, his passion was rekindled during an accidental encounter with chess hustlers on the streets of Kathmandu. In its aftermath, he forgot how to ca Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. Like countless amateurs before him--Albert Einstein, Humphrey Bogart, Marcel Duchamp--the game has consumed his life and his mind. First captivated by it as a member of his high school chess club, his passion was rekindled during an accidental encounter with chess hustlers on the streets of Kathmandu. In its aftermath, he forgot how to care about anything else. He played at all hours, for weeks at a time. Like a spurned lover, he tried to move on, but he found the game more seductive the more he resisted it. And so, he thought, if he can't defeat his obsession, he had to succumb to it. All the Wrong Moves traces Chapin's rollicking two-year journey around the globe in search of glory. He travels to tournaments in Bangkok and Hyderabad. He seeks out a mentor in St. Louis, a grandmaster whose personality is half rabbi and half monk, and who offers cryptic wisdom and caustic insults ("you're the best player in your chair"). His story builds toward the Los Angeles Open, where Chapin is clearly outmatched and yet no less determined not to lose. Along the way, he chronicles the highs and lows of his fixation, driven on this quest by lust, terror, and the elusive possibility of victory. Stylish, inventive, and laugh-out-loud funny, All the Wrong Moves is more than a work of history or autobiography. It's a celebration of the purity, violence, and beauty of the game.

30 review for All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir about Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Chapin

    I think it's quite good for a first book, and it's short and breezy. I'm not ashamed of it, which is more than I can say for most of my writing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    Sasha Chapin is obsessed with the game of chess. "The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life." (Paul Morphy quote) In this well-written, insightful and often hilarious memoir, Chapin describes how the game of chess took over his life. He never really excelled at it at any point but kept believing that he could. He traveled the world looking for teachers and tournaments; he played online incessantly: he kept losing. Like any ot Sasha Chapin is obsessed with the game of chess. "The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life." (Paul Morphy quote) In this well-written, insightful and often hilarious memoir, Chapin describes how the game of chess took over his life. He never really excelled at it at any point but kept believing that he could. He traveled the world looking for teachers and tournaments; he played online incessantly: he kept losing. Like any other addiction, he gave it up numerous times but would slip back. Unfortunately I've known too many people with similar addictions to enjoy reading about his. I received a copy of this memoir from Doubleday in their Facebook book club giveaway. Many thanks for the opportunity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bon Tom

    This is so good I turned back to the first page the very second I finished, for the second reading. This was the last thing I expected from the "chess book", but it's simply one of the best writing styles I've ever read. I mean, easily in the top three ever. It's unique, funny, sad, deep, heavy, easy, life-truth-bearing, yet very easily digestible variety. And somehow, it's the author's first book. Not the last one, I hope. I have few theories why the author failed as a chess player, which may o This is so good I turned back to the first page the very second I finished, for the second reading. This was the last thing I expected from the "chess book", but it's simply one of the best writing styles I've ever read. I mean, easily in the top three ever. It's unique, funny, sad, deep, heavy, easy, life-truth-bearing, yet very easily digestible variety. And somehow, it's the author's first book. Not the last one, I hope. I have few theories why the author failed as a chess player, which may or may not be true. But one thing is for certain: if you invested that much deliberate practice and deep thinking into the chess as you did in writing, you would live long and prosper in the chessboard plains. And no, I won't accept that this book just fell out of your head as a result of natural talent or something. There's beautiful music to your words, and one needs to learn how to play the instrument. Nobody does that "naturally". And that life-chess metaphor at the end, my God, that's one beautiful, archetypal truth that would make Carl Jung offer you a draw. That's the exact way chess should be played, life lived, and this book read. Slowly, enjoying every move, never wanting to end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fred Forbes

    A Milwaukee Brewer's pitcher living in my apartment complex decided to forgo his annual winter retreat to AZ and one cold, snowy night asked if I knew how to play chess. Well, I know the moves. He proceeded to kick my butt over and over again. Don't think I ever did beat him but as he moved on to San Francisco, the fire he ignited stayed lit. Milwaukee had an active chess scene so I got to attend some grandmaster lectures, participate in club play and official tournaments. Naturally, the Fischer A Milwaukee Brewer's pitcher living in my apartment complex decided to forgo his annual winter retreat to AZ and one cold, snowy night asked if I knew how to play chess. Well, I know the moves. He proceeded to kick my butt over and over again. Don't think I ever did beat him but as he moved on to San Francisco, the fire he ignited stayed lit. Milwaukee had an active chess scene so I got to attend some grandmaster lectures, participate in club play and official tournaments. Naturally, the Fischer-Spassky match intensified my interest during this period. I gave it up for a few years after moving to CA but the flame returned when I relocated to Florida and a retired military man and I began to play on weekends. I found an active chess group near the office. This group contained some Russian expats as well as rank beginners so it was fun to set some evenings aside to play. I had a chance to take a lesson at Sammy Reshevsky's home, he a famous grandmaster, 7 time U.S. champion who beat Bobby Fisher a few times. I once drove several hundred miles round trip to see the U.S. Open in Jacksonville where I had a chance to meet Yasser Seirawan, 4 time U.S. champion and noted chess author. Met a fellow in NC who beat me with surprising ease so I was not surprised to find out he was the WV state champion and we played for years by mail. I play at about the level of the author of this book, at about the 1500-1600 level which is the rating for the average club player. My main problem is my inconsistency, beat an expert once then turned around and lost to a 12 year old rated hundreds of points below me. Biggest achievement? Being the only one to beat a master in a 12 person simultaneous game. My interest has waned the last few years, competition is hard to find but for online which is not quite the same as live tournament competition. I donated 222 chess books to a chess club when I downsized. But, I digress, severely ... I wanted to make the point that yes, the chess bug is infectious, the addiction is filled with the highs and lows of tournament competition and no book I have ever read has been able to capture the nature of the game as this one does. Most books on the topic are written by grandmasters and the rarefied air they breath is difficult to translate to the average chess mope like me. Granted, I did not travel internationally for the games, I did not destroy relationships and jobs over it so maybe I was lucky. I just figured out earlier than the author that there is more to life than 32 figures on a 64 square board - as enjoyable as that pastime can be. I had to ponder the question as to whether the non chess enthusiast would find this an enjoyable book and have to answer yes. It does not get bogged down in theory except in a very general way - names of openings, opening moves, some tactics and objectives - but nothing a person of average intelligence would fail to understand. The addiction, the relationships, the emotions are all too human not to relate to in this interesting narrative. At times funny, at times most serious, but overall, very entertaining.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    All the Wrong Moves is a touching and brilliant portrait of masculinity. Chapin writes with arresting honesty. He humiliates himself in all the right ways. His descriptions of chess and players are luminous and profound and hysterical. He captures the manner in which none of us are truly in control of our personalities. And we explain our idiocies and achievements in hindsight with a philosophy we hope gives them meaning. We watch Chapin’s obsession with amateur chess talk him into derailing his All the Wrong Moves is a touching and brilliant portrait of masculinity. Chapin writes with arresting honesty. He humiliates himself in all the right ways. His descriptions of chess and players are luminous and profound and hysterical. He captures the manner in which none of us are truly in control of our personalities. And we explain our idiocies and achievements in hindsight with a philosophy we hope gives them meaning. We watch Chapin’s obsession with amateur chess talk him into derailing his life in order to play in tournaments against a ten year old he despises for no reason. And then find himself in conversation with a chess master who brings him as close as anyone can get to the secret of chess and life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    DNF at page 55. I was an Asia bum for 2 years and have great stories. Often people tell me I should write a book. I always say that the stories are better for cocktail accompanied chatter, and that as a book it would get tortured and tedious. This book confirmed that for me. The chess angle doesn't really help.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have been connected to the chess world, sporadically, for many years, first in the sixties, then in the nineties, and again in the present. I have known the pull of the game. I have felt the “obsession”. I know people who have been consumed by it. The game has been the ruin of some. It has also been the salvation of others. And, for many, it’s just a wonderful pastime. So, it was with great interest that I heard a current memoir had been written about the subject, and I picked up a copy of Sas I have been connected to the chess world, sporadically, for many years, first in the sixties, then in the nineties, and again in the present. I have known the pull of the game. I have felt the “obsession”. I know people who have been consumed by it. The game has been the ruin of some. It has also been the salvation of others. And, for many, it’s just a wonderful pastime. So, it was with great interest that I heard a current memoir had been written about the subject, and I picked up a copy of Sasha’s book as soon as it was released. Sasha Chapin is a good writer. He clearly has studied the history of chess, knows basic openings, and does a good job of portraying behaviour at the board. His book also has some good tips for chess players, albeit in philosophical terms rather than chess specifics. In particular, the book is a tribute to Ben Finegold, and a significant part of the book is the expression of Finegold’s teaching. It is an unusual story. Sasha, with no history of over the board competitive chess, signs up for a tournament as an unrated player. Not unusual. But instead of playing against other unrated or low ranked opponents, he chooses to play against someone rated over 2000, near-master level. Very unusual. He loses badly, then drops out of the remaining games. Then, rather than playing a series of tournament games to improve and climb the ratings ladder, as most do, Sasha travels to St. Louis and pays for personal lessons from a grandmaster. Interesting, and again, unusual. Then, rather than entering local easily accessible tournaments to test his newly learned skills, he flies half way around the world for a single tournament in India. He plays badly, and doesn’t complete the tournament due to stomach ailments. The book ends with Sasha entering the Los Angeles Open as a low rated player with limited games under his belt, but registering in a top section against high rated opponents. Going into this tournament, Sasha has already decided that these would be his last games ever (maybe). He does very well, winning a game and drawing a couple of others. Chess is a hard game. His achievement at the Los Angeles Open is truly a remarkable story. That Sasha played so few tournament games as a self-proclaimed chess addict is at odds with what I see from most newly obsessed chess players who sign up to every tournament possible. The author is honest about this, stating his “dalliance with the tournament chess scene was brief.” It was incredibly brief. He also says in the book, as a memoirist, “I’m constantly wondering whether any definable portion of my experience is marketable.” This makes me wonder. Was the author genuinely addicted to the game? Or did he temporarily “jump in the deep end” as fodder for publishing a memoir? Was this adventure into chess driven by chess? Or was it driven by a desire to write, an author needing to find an experience to write about? Some of his actions, such as flying to India, unusual for a rating fixated newcomer to chess, make complete sense as a journalist investigating a story. So what was the motivation? Maybe it was a combination of both; someone in search of a story to write becomes addicted to the subject, at least temporarily. In any event, Sasha has achieved some success in this difficult game which will forever be part of his story. I will be interested in what Sasha writes next.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Sasha Chapin tames the unruliness of the memoir with an 8x8 grid, while chess kicks his ass. The conventions of the game are used to bring meaning to the obsessions, impulses, and indignities that are experienced universally, but are most acute when struggling against ones own mediocracy. Chapin's prose are humorous and self deprecating, As they have to be to describe the humility that comes with learning and struggling to reach ones potential. Chapin is beaten by young children one minute and, old Sasha Chapin tames the unruliness of the memoir with an 8x8 grid, while chess kicks his ass. The conventions of the game are used to bring meaning to the obsessions, impulses, and indignities that are experienced universally, but are most acute when struggling against ones own mediocracy. Chapin's prose are humorous and self deprecating, As they have to be to describe the humility that comes with learning and struggling to reach ones potential. Chapin is beaten by young children one minute and, old street hustlers the next, but the hardest beat is that after a certain skill level, chess mastery is about about the luck of genetics. This gives us one more reason to be embarrassed about having a body, but another to laugh at it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aryeh

    This is just great writing, man. Chapin's writing hooked me much like the amphetamines he described in the first piece of his writing that I had the pleasure of reading. (https://hazlitt.net/feature/dreams-ar... read this if you'd like to experience the best description of amphetamine mania you will ever see). I want to break open his skull and suck out his powers of metaphor. Look at these things (these are from memory and are paraphrased): "He gave me a look that nearly made my testicles fall o This is just great writing, man. Chapin's writing hooked me much like the amphetamines he described in the first piece of his writing that I had the pleasure of reading. (https://hazlitt.net/feature/dreams-ar... read this if you'd like to experience the best description of amphetamine mania you will ever see). I want to break open his skull and suck out his powers of metaphor. Look at these things (these are from memory and are paraphrased): "He gave me a look that nearly made my testicles fall off." "It was like being stabbed with my favorite knife." "My heart pounded against my ribs like a suicidal toad." I don't give a fuck about chess (at least I didn't before I read this book). I read this memoir for good writing and that is what I got. You know good writing. You know it when you read a sentence and think "holy shit, I thought I was the only person who felt that way" or "fuck, I wish I came up with that" or just "hahahahahahaha". It's good writing. It is full of great stuff: mushrooms, mental illness, chess, India, love, it's got it all. It increased my love for writing and memoir and inspired me to get better at words. I read this book in three sittings, and I would have gladly read for another few. The secret of chess, according to the author, has a lot to do with never wanting it to end. That is how I felt about this book. Well Played, Sasha Chapin. Well played.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Deeb

    All the Wrong Moves is a sharp, clever, and meaningful story from an author who has exactly the right tools to tell it. Chapin’s account of his journey, compelling on its own, is broken up by asides that effortlessly blend knowledge with narrative. These give the reader an inside look at the professional chess world and offer a robust history of the game. Luckily, Chapin’s passion for chess is infectious, and you’ll find yourself enthralled with the subject even if you’d never played before. When All the Wrong Moves is a sharp, clever, and meaningful story from an author who has exactly the right tools to tell it. Chapin’s account of his journey, compelling on its own, is broken up by asides that effortlessly blend knowledge with narrative. These give the reader an inside look at the professional chess world and offer a robust history of the game. Luckily, Chapin’s passion for chess is infectious, and you’ll find yourself enthralled with the subject even if you’d never played before. When I finished reading, I ended up spending hours on chess.com getting my ass handed to me by players who were almost definitely twelve years old. It wasn’t until I was personally trounced by children that I realized how accurately Chapin describes the experience. From the outset, Chapin makes it clear that he’s self-aware enough to know that his deep dive into competitive international chess is a fool’s errand, but bold enough to do it anyway. While this might come off as pretentious or obnoxious from a lesser writer, Chapin’s unending wit, honest reflection, and remarkable voice make All the Wrong Moves an incredibly riveting read that will stick with you for weeks.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    i love chess books (not instruction but fiction or memoirs) so i'm giving this five altho there were parts i could have done w/o and i really did not love it. but there were paragraphs that i loved enough to photograph and send to my son, so...a five

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    It's mostly fine.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Devoured it within a day of receiving it. I enjoyed the hell out of this delightful book. It had such a perfect balance of new-to-me knowledge, human insight, and wicked humour all the way through. For a memoir about a game, I was moved by the depth of Chapin's insights into himself and the people around him (the healthy dose of self-deprecation added to the overall feeling of honesty). I enjoyed every literary reference and every well-drawn character (his master chess teacher was a scream). It Devoured it within a day of receiving it. I enjoyed the hell out of this delightful book. It had such a perfect balance of new-to-me knowledge, human insight, and wicked humour all the way through. For a memoir about a game, I was moved by the depth of Chapin's insights into himself and the people around him (the healthy dose of self-deprecation added to the overall feeling of honesty). I enjoyed every literary reference and every well-drawn character (his master chess teacher was a scream). It was fascinating to think about the kind of mind that can really master chess, and the people whose cognitive styles that end up coming up short (not much of a spoiler here: Chapin is humble and frank about falling into the latter category). I wish I could read more memoirs like this, that expand my knowledge of human achievement while maintaining an amusing authenticity about our shortcomings. More please Mr. Chapin!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Lynn

    I read the entirety of this book in an afternoon. I carried it around with me while I made tea, and took it into the bath, and curled up with it at night. I dog-eared a good 30% of the pages & kept revisiting passages over and over again. It's just one of those reads. I was surprised by how funny it was. And it's like... really hard for a book to make me laugh? Which made the ending all the more poignant, when it sort of socked me in the guts with its profundity. This book does that to you with I read the entirety of this book in an afternoon. I carried it around with me while I made tea, and took it into the bath, and curled up with it at night. I dog-eared a good 30% of the pages & kept revisiting passages over and over again. It's just one of those reads. I was surprised by how funny it was. And it's like... really hard for a book to make me laugh? Which made the ending all the more poignant, when it sort of socked me in the guts with its profundity. This book does that to you with ease. It makes you laugh, it makes you question your own life choices, it makes you google words & events, and then it casually, and unexpectedly hands you glistening gems of enlightenment in the form of strange, thoughtful, beautifully twisted and elegantly crafted prose. I'm floored that this is his debut. It is a deeply touching piece of work, utterly unique, and full of complex ideas & gorgeous, unconventional stories. He's a stellar writer. Needless to say, this book is officially one of my all time favorites.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Bastin

    Many people who read this book seem to think it's some kind of wonderful; I couldn't get there. To me, it seems like a frivolous description of a period of his life centered around playing bad chess. I play chess, I can appreciate his description of the attraction of the game. I've played tournament chess, he does a pretty accurate characterization of the time in the game when things seem to be going well, right before you make the blunder that kills your chances. Like him, I've been there and I Many people who read this book seem to think it's some kind of wonderful; I couldn't get there. To me, it seems like a frivolous description of a period of his life centered around playing bad chess. I play chess, I can appreciate his description of the attraction of the game. I've played tournament chess, he does a pretty accurate characterization of the time in the game when things seem to be going well, right before you make the blunder that kills your chances. Like him, I've been there and I know the feelings. Unfortunately, if they're my feelings I can appreciate them, but based on his writing and his description of the happening, I just cannot bring myself to care. If you read this story, it is entertaining, and thankfully it's not terribly long, so you can finish it easily before you tire of it and put it away.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin Langlois

    This was an entertaining read. Sasha Chapin was really able to explain the almost inexplicable draw of chess. As a player and chess club adviser, I've found myself completely taken over by the game at many different parts of my life. While not quite to the extent of the author (I've never gone to a small town in India for a chess tournament), I have found myself playing online games of chess for hours on end without even realizing it. I'd recommend this book to anyone who has ever played chess a This was an entertaining read. Sasha Chapin was really able to explain the almost inexplicable draw of chess. As a player and chess club adviser, I've found myself completely taken over by the game at many different parts of my life. While not quite to the extent of the author (I've never gone to a small town in India for a chess tournament), I have found myself playing online games of chess for hours on end without even realizing it. I'd recommend this book to anyone who has ever played chess and found themselves completely drawn in by its complexities and competitive nature...or to anyone who has had to deal with such a person.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amber Daugherty

    I wanted to live in this book forever. It was hilarious, endearing, self-aware and honestly just really interesting. Sasha wanted to be a chess genius - someone who picked up the game and impressed everyone around him with his crazy skills, learned very quickly or perhaps just unlocked from somewhere in his deep subconscious. But when he starts playing - in Bangkok, St. Louis, India, LA, he realizes that his story is not that one and if he wants to be good, he has to play the long game, study an I wanted to live in this book forever. It was hilarious, endearing, self-aware and honestly just really interesting. Sasha wanted to be a chess genius - someone who picked up the game and impressed everyone around him with his crazy skills, learned very quickly or perhaps just unlocked from somewhere in his deep subconscious. But when he starts playing - in Bangkok, St. Louis, India, LA, he realizes that his story is not that one and if he wants to be good, he has to play the long game, study and lose a bunch to learn how to win. This is a book about failure. About putting passion over people. About being so intent on a goal that nothing else matters. I want you to read this book because his writing is amazing and he's clearly just an amazing person. This may be my favourite book of the year - and I think you'll love it too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Yesmo

    Ehh, hes kinda full of himself or trying too hard to be funny. I dunno. Maybe after a few years he'll be less annoying. Decent book though.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Glynis

    Despite a busy life juggling two kids under 5 and farming, I plowed (p the p) through this little book in less than 20 hours. Chapin’s witticisms and sharp insights never got old, and I had to dog ear a couple of pages. Honest, surprisingly thrilling and all in all a worthwhile and feel good read. No need to play chess to appreciate, just a pulse.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    This is a brutally (beautifully?) honest memoir of the drama I never thought would be drama: Chess addiction. Thank you Sasha for every time I laughed aloud while sitting at the cafe reading this, hoping someone would realize how much fun I was having.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve Kohn

    Unlike the author, in his twenties, I'm 72. Like him, though, I took up chess late in life, and have recently been playing for the first time since my young adult years. Not to beat anyone. I'm in it just for mental exercise. I haven't even played anyone, just a computer, increasing its skill level as I've gotten (slowly) better. How I love the game, for reasons articulated so well in the book. In fact, everything is articulated so well in this book. How does he do that, I often marveled. So you Unlike the author, in his twenties, I'm 72. Like him, though, I took up chess late in life, and have recently been playing for the first time since my young adult years. Not to beat anyone. I'm in it just for mental exercise. I haven't even played anyone, just a computer, increasing its skill level as I've gotten (slowly) better. How I love the game, for reasons articulated so well in the book. In fact, everything is articulated so well in this book. How does he do that, I often marveled. So young, yet writes so well. And plays a pretty good game of chess, too, even if he wouldn't think so. (I've just remembered he's not the only young man to have a troubled history with chess. Let me also recommend "The Art of Learning," by Josh Waitzkin, another, even more impressive, author of a memoir about chess. Search for "Josh Waitzkin wrestling" and yes, that's him.) "All the Wrong Moves" came to my attention hearing the author on the KERA podcast "Think." He impressed me then, and then his book impressed me as well. I wish he'd been less enthusiastic (in the book) with the word f*ck, but I'm afraid that battle's been lost; even best sellers have the word in their titles. Other than that, it's a delightful read. It may be delightful (for me, anyway) because the author's obsession with chess resonates with me. When I started playing against the computer (lichess dot org), it was one game a day. Lately it's become two and even three games a day. Followed by the computer's analysis, move by move. Plus studying chess books and attending a weekly chess class. Should I be getting concerned? I've been encouraging our grandchildren to play the game. Should I stop? Who wouldn't love this book after a first sentence that goes "Anyway, like most people, I became obsessed with chess after I ran away to Asia with a stripper I'd just met." Brilliant!

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    Engaging, eloquent and Unique Just finished the book and I found it absolutely wonderful. It really resonated with me. I too have struggled with the burden and self-loathing resulting from being addicted to chess but possessing no natural raw talent at all. This book is witty, compelling and even profound at times. And you don't have to be a chess player or know anything about chess to enjoy it. His conclusions and musings eloquently expressed. Highly recommend and enjoyable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Ha

    Read this to learn the secret of chess, and a little bit more After the author lamented the frequent appearing of the name of Tarrasch in his book, quoting Tarrasch could be unfair, but that quote is, “Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make people happy.” This book was a great love story of an amateur with chess, and the story, as much as I wanted it to continue, has an ending, like any game of chess, and all three possible results - win, loss or draw - are ok.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andy Klein

    Totally didn’t capture my attention or interest. The author’s alleged chess obsession didn’t seem like much of an obsession. He played in a few tournaments at out of the way places and took some lessons and had a few girlfriends. He never bothered to tell us if things worked out the Catharine or what he did with his spare time after chess or how his real career progressed. In fact, I just took this down to a single star.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    “Badly played chess is kind of like badly played life. Real problems are dealt with poorly or not at all, while much effort is expended on avoiding imaginary danger.” Having a casual familiarity with both the rules of chess as well as Sasha Chapin's voice (from both his fantastic essay "Wallacitis" which appeared on Hazlitt, as well as his always-entertaining Twitter feed), I figured I'd give his memoir a go. All the Wrong Moves is a wonderful expose of chess culture that perfectly blends presenta “Badly played chess is kind of like badly played life. Real problems are dealt with poorly or not at all, while much effort is expended on avoiding imaginary danger.” Having a casual familiarity with both the rules of chess as well as Sasha Chapin's voice (from both his fantastic essay "Wallacitis" which appeared on Hazlitt, as well as his always-entertaining Twitter feed), I figured I'd give his memoir a go. All the Wrong Moves is a wonderful expose of chess culture that perfectly blends presentation of fact with personal narrative. Chapin includes plenty of information about chess, a game thought to have originated in India prior to the 7th century. He explains what a FIDE score is and how easy official tournaments are to organize. He describes visualization as a necessary characteristic of any dominant chess player. He analyzes why Magnus Carlson is such a dominant player by breaking down Carlson's dominant 70-board simultaneous exhibition performance in Hamburg, a performance which yielded 69 victories and 1 draw. And he recites many of the lessons he learned while under the tutelage of American grand master Ben Finegold. Chapin talks about different openings, middle games, and end games. He even finds the time to talk about how Marcel Duchamp was once addicted to chess, and performed favorably when playing competitively. As Chapin presents them, the logistics and tactics of chess are easy to understand, even for the layman. And his conversation about the game is so interesting that whatever wasn't already known prompts further inquiry. That said, the real strength of the book is that it's about the growing pains of a young man in pursuit of something he desires. Chapin, though obviously intelligent, is not well-suited to play chess competitively. He lacks the ability to properly visualize the board, and even after studying under GM Ben Finegold, he makes only marginal improvement (and those improvements develop slowly). Chapin doesn't necessarily have a consistent style of play, nor can he quiet the parts of his character that are anathema to the "perfect information game". He changes every variable available to him, venue, style, ritual, and mood, but the variable he can't change is talent. At the end of his amateur career, Chapin concludes, "My firm belief is that it's important to discover your own tremendous lack of potential. Life often contains the discovery that your place in humanity isn't quite what you thought it was." All the Wrong Moves was a fantastic first book from an accomplished freelance writer. It was funny, insightful, and had a perfect amount of self-deprecation. Despite being a book unabashedly about failure, it is full of lighthearted moments and surprisingly solid advice (applicable to those of us, like me, who aren't really chess players).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    I'm a semi-competent chess player (of the 2000-level Sasha aspires to beat), and whilst there were some valuable parallels between chess and life (props to Finegold!), I can't help but wonder if this could have been a model about being bipolar than playing chess... I do not mean this comment to discredit or offend the author, and it may come from a place of arrogance. Firstly, the book was funny (although not sharp!), lucid and light. But... to pick chess up at, play it intensely for 2 years and I'm a semi-competent chess player (of the 2000-level Sasha aspires to beat), and whilst there were some valuable parallels between chess and life (props to Finegold!), I can't help but wonder if this could have been a model about being bipolar than playing chess... I do not mean this comment to discredit or offend the author, and it may come from a place of arrogance. Firstly, the book was funny (although not sharp!), lucid and light. But... to pick chess up at, play it intensely for 2 years and then drop it again, isn't... the experience of chess that I have had. There are times that I have enjoyed opening or endgame study more than at others. I am a sucker for a week-long open in the Baltics or Eastern Europe, where accommodation is cheap and you can spend all day prepping a masterpiece, via a database and 10 books. But, chess is a hobby and I am unlikely to become an FM anytime soon. It has, and for the vast majority of my (normal, and far-better) peers, been just that - a hobby they can pick up, and study, and then drop again. The author has a far better knowledge of Grandmaster games than myself, so... I was surprised that at his dedication he was only able to reach a certain level. I would be interested to hear how he approached studying, whether he realised smashing online blitz wasn't... the most efficient way to learn, and how bipolar has effected his addictions to other aspects of life. It was an odd, yet interesting book. But there was a lack of payoff at the end. Ultimately... it feels like Chapin is trying to "earn" (pun-intended) two years of his life back, as the personal lessons he drew from his escapade (apart from... living to live), weren't obvious. And even that lesson is shallow - it takes the Dalai Lama to completely articulate that living is a worth pursuit unto itself. The rest of us need some sort of goal to drive us. What is/was Chapin's? And how did he arrive at a place where he could allow himself to be so beholden to chess in the first place?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Don Putnam

    Just finished the Audible version of the book. It was a good book. I could have easily given up on it - having read other chess memoirs - the author re-hashed some chess history at a high level, where other authors spent far more time developing rich content. The author's angle was a bit different with his take on love and his philosophical views on life mixed with chess. His restlessness with his life comes across strongly and you are left thinking he was desperate to find something about which Just finished the Audible version of the book. It was a good book. I could have easily given up on it - having read other chess memoirs - the author re-hashed some chess history at a high level, where other authors spent far more time developing rich content. The author's angle was a bit different with his take on love and his philosophical views on life mixed with chess. His restlessness with his life comes across strongly and you are left thinking he was desperate to find something about which to write a book. I loved the insights he learned from Finegold and his trip to India was amusing. And while the format he used to write about his chess tournament in LA was quite clunky, I loved the actual story. He should have given up on the Q&A format, maybe, after the first couple of paragraphs. However, I'm left wondering what big chunks in his story did he leave out, to come out the tournament in LA with a win and a couple of draws against such highly rated players? Either the author's actual chess rating was much higher, or there is a large part of the story he's not telling. While I could find some results of his games from India and NY chess tournaments, I could not find the results from the LA tournament. I would have loved to see the games! If indeed he scored those draws and win in LA, then I am thrilled and amazed - that is truly impressive. He would be the modern-day "Rocky" by going the distance with some very stiff competition. Anyway - I guess if he hadn't scored that win and those draws in the LA tournament, I think I would have given this book a 2 star rating. Also, if the "secret of chess" he received from Finegold had been really bad, I probably would have rated it a 2 as well. But he scored well and the secret actually was really good! So I gave it a 3 and I was entertained by this quirky book, while I went on my lunch walks, during the corona virus pandemic, when everyone is working from home.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Learning to play chess was one of my 2020 new year’s resolutions. It turned out to be a pretty good one since we’re largely home bound. Lately, everyone is talking about Netflix’ The Queen’s Gambit, as well, so chess is enjoying a bit of spotlight it hasn’t been in for some time. However, as Sasha Chapin details in All the Wrong Moves, for a certain type of person chess is always in the spotlight. The game becomes an obsession. It’s a niche world and perfect for nerds and people prone to addictio Learning to play chess was one of my 2020 new year’s resolutions. It turned out to be a pretty good one since we’re largely home bound. Lately, everyone is talking about Netflix’ The Queen’s Gambit, as well, so chess is enjoying a bit of spotlight it hasn’t been in for some time. However, as Sasha Chapin details in All the Wrong Moves, for a certain type of person chess is always in the spotlight. The game becomes an obsession. It’s a niche world and perfect for nerds and people prone to addictions. There is always more to learn, there are always more classic games to study, there is always a ranking to develop or a tournament to prepare for. All of that is why I picked up Chapin’s book in the first place. At the beginning of the year I didn’t know how to set up a chess board or how pieces moved, and that quickly evolved (or devolved?) into watching Youtube lectures from Grandmasters, trying to track down obscure chess books, learning notations, challenging players all over the world to Blitz, trying to figure out what my middle game said about me as a man, yada yada. All the Wrong Moves details Chapin’s descent (ascent?) into the chess world as an adult trying to find his place in the world. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the first chapter of the book because it became obvious this isn’t a book a chess player wrote so much as a Writer’s book about chess. Chapin uses chess to explore larger issues of a meaningful life and being ok with being normal. It’s very Writerly, but Chapin is aware of that and still has some funny chess stories to tell. If you like Writerly books and chess, check this one out. If you just want to learn more about chess, I recommend Shenk’s The Immortal Game.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Valli Keller

    This book will not be for everyone. But it is definitely a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I find chess boring beyond belief (sorry Sasha) but I can relate to the obsession and the journey I took with Sasha. I loved this book. I've read notes from some reviewers who were disappointed there wasn't more information about chess in the book; more time devoted to chess games and clever strategies. I find it funny that these commenters are probably very like Sasha when he was in the throes of his chess "add This book will not be for everyone. But it is definitely a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I find chess boring beyond belief (sorry Sasha) but I can relate to the obsession and the journey I took with Sasha. I loved this book. I've read notes from some reviewers who were disappointed there wasn't more information about chess in the book; more time devoted to chess games and clever strategies. I find it funny that these commenters are probably very like Sasha when he was in the throes of his chess "addiction." His obsessive single-focus on finding the secret to becoming a chess genius describes someone who, in reading Sasha's book, would be disappointed that they weren't handed the secret to becoming a chess genius. You may need to read the book to understand why that tickles me. This book is about a guy who truly loves - is consumed with - chess and spends a few years of his life discovering that, not only will he never reach the pinnacle of the chess world, he could very well destroy any chance for a rewarding life by continuing to pursue that goal. The story is one I relate to but could never have expressed as beautifully as Sasha has here. His descriptive skills are extraordinary. His ability to draw the reader into the experience and consequences of eating the wrong food in a very hot and unfamiliar country is an experience you shouldn't miss. All The Wrong Moves will have you laughing throughout and unable to put the story down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has had to move past an initial, perhaps obsessive, dream to find a life of actual fulfillment and who has been glad they did so.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Daddeo

    On Chapin's journey to pursue his obsessive passion, his mentor and chess grandmaster Ben Finegold often quips, "the truth hurts", and indeed as Chapin's overwhelming love for chess bumps up with the cold, ambivalent reality of both the game and his life, Chapin is forced to wrestle with some profound but painful truths. The writing is intelligent and often hilarious, and in it Chapin bares his naiveties, insecurities, and deepest desires in full, giving us an honest account of the mixture of hop On Chapin's journey to pursue his obsessive passion, his mentor and chess grandmaster Ben Finegold often quips, "the truth hurts", and indeed as Chapin's overwhelming love for chess bumps up with the cold, ambivalent reality of both the game and his life, Chapin is forced to wrestle with some profound but painful truths. The writing is intelligent and often hilarious, and in it Chapin bares his naiveties, insecurities, and deepest desires in full, giving us an honest account of the mixture of hope, anxiety, elation, and disappointment he experiences in his quest for meaning and greatness. Throughout the narrative Chapin gives a gripping and personal exposition of the game, from its austere beauty to its singular significance as a human endeavor. In chess, Chapin sees a simple yet combinatorially infinite world of "perfect information" free from the ambiguities and bullshit that plague life. This brutal honesty is a paradox for Chapin as it's what both attracts him to the game but also painfully exposes his familiar tendency to idealize life. Though Chapin never reaches the heights of chess glory he dreamed of at the outset of his journey, he triumphs in a more human and profound way as he comes to understand an enigmatic, koan-like secret of the game, and just maybe his life.

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