A most gripping story written in a spellbinding fashion. I just couldn't put the book down and had to consume it in one go! Fascinating to a lover of chess ( I don't know how it would seem to someone who knows nothing about chess, though), and very poignant in its depiction of the power of chess, both in its positive and negative potential.
Unfortunately, there's a basic (but huge) mistake, (on page 48) when the narrator describes the moment he came to understand the notation of the chessboard, saying that the letters "a, b, c" stand for "horizontal" rows of squares, where as the numbers, "1, 2, 3" stand for the vertical rows: the truth is the exact OPPOSITE! Just one look at any chessboard would verify that! I don't know if the mistake is Zweig's, or that of the translator (with the editor not caring to revise properly?)! It would be very surprising if it were Zweig's since the whole story suggests a very intimate knowledge of chess, not just in the technical sense, but also in the profound understanding of its emotional impact and power. (I guess the only way to know whose mistake it was would be to read it in the original German!)
That blunder aside, the story manages to combine emotional truth, darkness, and humor, and would leave you feeling like you've been on a roller coaster ride into the depths and heights of what the Royal Game is capable of invoking in its truest devotees.