When people have asked me what I like most about chess, I have said that chess is one of the few areas of human knowledge where you can actually arrive at the truth. You may never get to the truth, but at least you know you could. Paul Hoffman, whose book King's Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game has been drawing well-deserved rave reviews, seems to have a similar interest in the game. But he approaches it from the opposite side of the coin: rather than seeking truth in chess, he seems obsessed with chasing out lies. That is the central theme of his book, which traces his own interest in the game and his obsession with the overly competitive liars who have played it (including his father) with a win-at-all-costs attitude. Hoffman's opinion piece in this weekend's Washington Post, "Winning by Rook or by Crook," gives you some sense of his concerns.
I recommend King's Gambit highly -- one of the best books I've read this year -- and if I had more time I would write a long and glowing review, complete with annotated games (for there are many referenced and described in the book), a lengthy discussion of Claude Bloodgood's 1.g4, and reflections on Hoffman's adventures in Tripoli. Not having the time, though, I thought I'd just post a little webliography devoted to Hoffman, which should give you some idea of his chess qualifications and access to fascinating figures. I also recommend that you check out his excellent website and chess blog, The PH Test (http://paulhoffman.wordpress.com/) where you can read an excerpt from the book.
A Selected Paul Hoffman Webliography
- "Postcards from Tripoli." ChessBase (June 28, 2004)
Shows many photos of the Stefanova simul. It seems that if any parts of Hoffman's own story take liberties with the truth, it is in his stories of his simul games.
- "Chess Queen: At 22, Jennifer Shahade Is the Strongest American Born Woman Chess Player Ever [sic]" Smithsonian Magazine (August 1, 2003) - also referenced by ChessBase, which issued a correction regarding the title's claim.
- "It's 6 a.m. and Your Opponent Is Garry Kasparov." ChessBase (April 7, 2003)
Discusses the author's simul game with Kasparov, which is deeply annotated online.
- "Retooling Machine and Man for the Next Big Chess Faceoff." The New York Times (January 21, 2003)
- "Chess Champion Faces off with New Computer." ChessBase (January 21, 2003)
- "Karpov Defeats an Old Rival in a Four-Game Rapid Chess Match." (December 21, 2002)
- "Castling in the Square: The Harvard Chess Club Battles the Clock and the Competition" (Harvard Magazine, November-December 2002)
- "'Brains in Bahrain': Man and Machine Call It Quits." Time (October 22, 2002)
- "'Brains in Bahrain': Kramnik Tries to Be a Viper." Time (October 15, 2002)
- "Of Pawns and Programs." Time (September 30, 2002)
- "The Pandolfini Defense." The New Yorker (June 4, 2001)
- "The Youngest Champ, the Dirtiest Game." The New York Times (October 7, 1990)
Profiles, Reviews and Interviews
- ChessBase. "King's Gambit and the Story-Teller Paul Hoffman." (October 8, 2007)
- Howard Goldowsky. "Hoffman's Gambit." Chess Life Online (October 1, 2007)
An interview, book review, and annotated game. Excellent.
- Michael Weinreb. "64 Squares." The New York Times (September 30, 2007)
Who better to review Hoffman's book?
- Paul Hoffman on the Leonard Lopate show (September 24, 2007)
- Marshal Zeringue. The Page 99 Test: Paul Hoffman's "King's Gambit." The Page 99 Test (September 20, 2007)
- Andy Soltis. "Accept 'Gambit' as a Good Read." (September 16, 2007)
- ChessBase "King's Gambit." (September 13, 2007)
- Martin Seeber. "King's Gambit: The Review." Chess Tales blog (September 14, 2007)
- Noah Davis. "So What Do You Do, Paul Hoffman?" Media Bistro (August 22, 2007)
- Mark Weeks. "Tales of Hoffman." Chess for All Ages Blog (August 5, 2007)An overly negative and picky review by the About.Chess webmaster which may have been the first to question whether Hoffman's story about the Larsen simul was truthful.
- Howard Goldowsky. "A Conversation with Paul Hoffman." ChessCafe (November 06, 2003) -- also referenced by ChessBase.