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Players and Pawns

How Chess Builds Community and Culture

Gary Alan Fine

Players and Pawns
Read an excerpt from the introduction: "Chess as Art, Science, and Sport".

Gary Alan Fine

288 pages | 4 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226264981 Published August 2015
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226265032 Published August 2015
A chess match seems as solitary an endeavor as there is in sports: two minds, on their own, in fierce opposition. In contrast, Gary Alan Fine argues that chess is a social duet: two players in silent dialogue who always take each other into account in their play. Surrounding that one-on-one contest is a community life that can be nearly as dramatic and intense as the across-the-board confrontation.
Fine has spent years immersed in the communities of amateur and professional chess players, and with Players and Pawns he takes readers deep inside them, revealing a complex, brilliant, feisty world of commitment and conflict. Opening with a close look at a typical tournament in Atlantic City, Fine carries us from planning and setup through the climactic final day’s match-ups between the weekend’s top players, introducing us along the way to countless players and their relationships to the game. At tournaments like that one, as well as in locales as diverse as collegiate matches and community chess clubs, players find themselves part of what Fine terms a “soft community,” an open, welcoming space built on their shared commitment to the game. Within that community, chess players find both support and challenges, all amid a shared interest in and love of the long-standing traditions of the game, traditions that help chess players build a communal identity.
Full of idiosyncratic characters and dramatic gameplay, Players and Pawns is a celebration of the ever-fascinating world of serious chess.
Prologue: A Tournament Revealed
Introduction: First Moves
Chapter One: The Mind, the Body, and the Soul of Chess
Chapter Two: Doing Chess
Chapter Three: Temporal Tapestries
Chapter Four: Shared Pasts and Sticky Culture
Chapter Five: The Worlds of Chess
Chapter Six: Status Games and Soft Community
Chapter Seven: Chess in the World
Conclusion: Piece Work
Review Quotes
Mark Jacobs, George Mason University
"Fine demonstrates above all that chess is not an individualized activity, but rather a communal one. The logic of chess is not impersonal, but embodied and social. It is not merely a game, but an important part of the way that many people make their lives together. It is a significant and masterful achievement."
James M. Jasper, author of The Art of Moral Protest
"Whether you are a casual player or a grandmaster you will find something of interest in this book, which takes a bemused look at the extensive activity that goes into making chess communities. Even if you have never played chess, you will still learn a lot about social life from this book, the best yet by this prolific author."
Les Gofton, teaching fellow in sociology, Durham University | Times Higher Education
“A traditional ethnography, Players and Pawns combines rigor with a wry lightness of touch. Even those for whom chess has always seemed a bizarre mixture of obsession, paranoia, and sublime mastery, will see it revealed as a wondrously diverse landscape of contrasting temperaments, climates, and folkways.”
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