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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-12-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Like Searching for Bobby Fischer, this novel about competitive chess encapsulates the intensity of the game and the players who become obsessed with it. After joining the chess club at his private school, freshman Daniel Pratzer is surprised when his super-achiever co-captains invite him to participate in a New York City father-son tournament. An even bigger shock is their claim that Daniel’s father was once a famous grandmaster of the game. When confronted with this information, Daniel’s father admits the rumor is true but remains secretive about his past; reluctantly, he agrees to come out of retirement for the event. The tale of his playing years and why he quit dramatically unfurls at the three-day tournament, where Daniel watches in awe as his father transforms from a mild-mannered man into a cutthroat competitor. Klass (Stuck on Earth) builds significant tension as Daniel’s father begins to unravel, and the nobility of the team’s members is tested. Daniel learns something about the nature of competition and the values he and his father need to hold dearest in this emotionally taut story. Ages 12–up. Agent: Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency. (Feb.)
A game of cutthroat chess
“Your father doesn’t have any enemies. He’s an accountant.” Daniel Pratzer’s mom couldn’t be more wrong about her mild-mannered, potbellied husband.
Mr. Pratzer’s secret past begins to unravel quite by accident. Struggling freshman Daniel has joined the chess club because . . . well, he isn’t great at sports. When two popular seniors invite him to participate in a father-son chess tournament, he laughs. After all, he’s just a beginner, and his father doesn’t even play. But the seniors have done some research: Morris W. Pratzer was ranked a grandmaster of chess.
Mr. Pratzer reluctantly agrees to attend the tournament, but as the weekend unfolds, Daniel starts to understand the complex reasons why his father left the game: Competitive chess almost killed him, and he has an enemy who understands the depth of his weaknesses.
Grandmaster is a page-turning read, full of authentic details that offer a fascinating glimpse into tournament chess. It’s also a compassionate look at the choices we make, and how difficult situations bring families closer in unexpected ways.