Funny you should mention Capablanca , Steve. I’m almost finished with Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union , which focuses on the murder of a chess prodigy (who may also be the Messiah; it helps to have a Plan B should the board game thingee not work out). Capablanca’s name surfaces more often than any other historical chess champ in the book, which is unusual, as the Cuban master is usually usurped in such discussions by Fischer and the later Russians.

And speaking of Nabokov . . . if you want to check out a fairly decent adaptation of his The Defense — about a chess master who is on the ragged edge of sanity and too easily played by friends turned opponents—then rent The Luzhin Defence . Warning: The ending has been Hollywooded, and would undoubtedly have made Nabokov contemplate self-defenestration. (Can one, technically, self-defenestrate? Or by definition is it always an act one person performs on another?)

Articles by Anthony Sacramone