A cultural history of chess-players

Minds, machines, and monsters

By John Sharples

A cultural history of chess-players


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9420-4
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2017
  • BIC Category: Sociology: sport & leisure, History, Board games: Chess, HISTORY / Social History, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, GAMES / Chess, Sociology: Sport & Leisure, Chess, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Social & cultural history


This inquiry concerns the cultural history of the chess-player. It takes as its premise the idea that the chess-player has become a fragmented collection of images, underpinned by challenges to, and confirmations of, chess's status as an intellectually-superior and socially-useful game, particularly since the medieval period. Yet, the chess-player is an understudied figure. No previous work has shone a light on the chess-player itself. Increasingly, chess-histories have retreated into tidy consensus. This work aspires to a novel reading of the figure as both a flickering beacon of reason and a sign of monstrosity. To this end, this book, utilising a wide range of sources, including newspapers, periodicals, detective novels, science-fiction, and comic-books, is underpinned by the idea that the chess-player is a pluralistic subject used to articulate a number of anxieties pertaining to themes of mind, machine, and monster.


Introduction: 'Of magic look and meaning': themes concerning the cultural chess-player
Part I: Minds
1 Sinner, melancholic, and animal: three lives of the chess-player in medieval and early-modern literature
2 'A quiet game of chess?': respectability in urban and literary space
3 Elementary: the chess-player and literary-detective
Part II: Machines
4 Future shocks: IBM's Deep Blue and the Automaton Chess-Player, 1997-1769
5 A haunted mind: Kasparov and the machines
6 'Everything was black': locating monstrosity in representations of the Automaton Chess-Player
Part III: Monsters
7 Red, black, white, and blue: American monsters
8 Performance notes: absence and presence in Reykjavik, Iceland, 1972
9 Kapow!: the chess-player in comic-books, 1940-53
Epilogue: exploding heads and the death of the chess-player


John Sharples is an independent historian

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