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The Greenbecker Gambit

The Greenbecker Gambit

Ref: c6702

Product type: Printed book

In stock

Ben Graff

From the author:
When Carlsen and Caruana played in London, I was lucky enough to spend a day at their world championship match, and to write about it in these pages. As I sat in the tiny, baking hot theatre, I couldn't help but think about these questions. I wondered whether someone could use chess as a way of giving their life meaning, even if how they described both their achievements and potential at the board did not necessarily accord with objective reality. Was it possible for a person to carve a whole sense of self out of not very much?

Might such an individual be able to convince themselves they were Magnus Carlsen's rightful challenger? So it was that ultimately Tennessee Greenbecker came about. A man who sees chess and life in the following terms:

"I only feel truly alive when the chess clock is ticking and the patterns on the squares in front of me are dancing in my head. Very little else gives me the same feeling. Nothing else that does not involve a flame. It is like unlocking a complex riddle, that is beautiful and for a few moves might only be for me, until ultimately all becomes clear and appreciable to the talentless fans and hangers on. Often, my opponent only understands when it is too late to alter the course of events."

"No, nothing can surpass the feeling of weaving magic into cold hard combinations on the board. Creating game by game another part of chess's story with me at its centre. Let's be honest. The feeling that comes when an opponent has been humiliated, their ideas destroyed, cannot be bettered. There is no higher calling than to crush a man's dreams, and to then hold out your hand for him to shake."


Yet at the outset of The Greenbecker Gambit, Tennessee Greenbecker is a long way from the top of his game. Near destitute and with only his long-suffering brother still trying to help him, Greenbecker counts his deeply creased copy of Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games amongst his most treasured possessions and as a constant companion. He does not have all that much else.

It just so happens that Tennessee Greenbecker has found something to cling to in the game of chess. Where others might see a loner sitting in an all-night café, chess has given Tennessee Greenbecker a certain amount of resilience, an inner-life, a way to keep going - however misguided he undoubtedly is on many levels.

Tennessee Greenbecker is by no means an easy character. His mental and physical health are both fragile, his choices often catastrophic. His obsession with fire and his certainty that the 'State' (which takes many forms) is determined to thwart his ambitions, does not always turn out well for him, albeit there is considerable comic potential in many of his experiences.

Still, if nothing else, Tennessee Greenbecker is generally not lacking in confidence. As he says: "It is not always obvious to people when they are in the presence of greatness. I am wise enough not to expect too much. Not everyone can fully comprehend Tennessee Greenbecker, the foremost chess player never to be world champion. A better claim to that mantle than Korchnoi, Keres or Bronstein. Now all dead, as is my good friend Bobby Fischer. Their stories over. My own just beginning."

It is fair to say that Tennessee Greenbecker is more right than wrong on some of this. Certainly not everyone he encounters fully understands him. The reader will have to draw his or her own conclusions as to where Tennessee Greenbecker ranks amongst the world chess elite. However, whether his tale is destined to end with a match against Magnus Carlsen or not, Tennessee Greenbecker is correct about one thing. At the outset of The Greenbecker Gambit, his story really is just beginning.

Ben Graff is a writer, journalist and Corporate Affairs professional. He is a regular contributor to Chess and Authors Publish and is also the author of Find Another Place. He is not a grandmaster but did draw with one once.

Published 2020, softback, 353 pages.

Our Price:8.99

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