Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again
Brin-Jonathan Butler gives readers an inside look at the nail-biting showdown between two of the greatest chess players alive - Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Sergey Karjakin of Russia - during the 2016 World Championships in New York City. But THE GRANDMASTER is much more than a book about a chess game. It is the story of how one young prodigy overcame the odds to become the champion chess master - all again geopolitical influences surrounding the game.
Originally from Crimea, Karjakin had recently repatriated to Russia under the direct assistance of Putin. Carlsen, meanwhile, had expressed admiration for Donald Trump, and his first move of the tournament he played with a smirk what's called a Trompowsky Attack. Then there was the Russian leader of the World Chess Federation being barred from attending due to US sanctions, and chess fanatic and Trump adviser Peter Thiel being called on to make the honorary first move in sudden death. That the tournament required sudden death was a shock. Oddsmakers had given Carlsen, the defending champion, an 80% chance of winning. It would take everything he had to retain his title. In doing so, he would firmly make his case to be considered the greatest player chess has ever seen.
The book's main character is Magnus Carlsen, the biggest name in chess and the object of intense fascination. A chess prodigy, Carlsen earned his grandmaster title when he was only 13-years-old. He debunks many of the standard preconceptions of a chess player: he's young, charismatic - and even has a side gig as a model. This book is not only an account of a legendary tournament, but an attempt to reconcile the personality of Carlsen, a model for Porsche and the premium denim brand G-Star RAW, with the complex genius of the man known as the "Mozart of Chess."
Butler was granted unique access to the two-and-half-week tournament and watched every move. In The Grandmaster, he aims to do for Magnus Carlsen what Norman Mailer did for Muhammed Ali in The Fight. Butler captures one of the world's greatest sportsmen at the height of their powers, and attempts to decipher the secret to that greatness.
Brin-Jonathan Butler has written for Esquire, Bloomberg, ESPN Magazine, Al Jazeera, Harper's, The Paris Review, Salon, and Vice. His first book, The Domino Diaries, was shortlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for literary sports writing and a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015. His work has also been a notable selection in both Best American Sports and Best American Travel Writing multiple times.