All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir about Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything by Sasha Chapin

Learning to play chess was one of my 2020 new year’s resolutions. It turned out to be a pretty good one since we’re largely home bound. Lately, everyone is talking about Netflix’ The Queen’s Gambit, as well, so chess is enjoying a bit of spotlight it hasn’t been in for some time.

However, as Sasha Chapin details in All the Wrong Moves, for a certain type of person chess is always in the spotlight. The game becomes an obsession. It’s a niche world and perfect for nerds and people prone to addictions. There is always more to learn, there are always more classic games to study, there is always a ranking to develop or a tournament to prepare for.

All of that is why I picked up Chapin’s book in the first place. At the beginning of the year I didn’t know how to set up a chess board or how pieces moved, and that quickly evolved (or devolved?) into watching Youtube lectures from Grandmasters, trying to track down obscure chess books, learning notations, challenging players all over the world to Blitz, trying to figure out what my middle game said about me as a man, yada yada.

All the Wrong Moves details Chapin’s descent (ascent?) into the chess world as an adult trying to find his place in the world. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the first chapter of the book because it became obvious this isn’t a book a chess player wrote so much as a Writer’s book about chess. Chapin uses chess to explore larger issues of a meaningful life and being ok with being normal. It’s very Writerly, but Chapin is aware of that and still has some funny chess stories to tell. If you like Writerly books and chess, check this one out. If you just want to learn more about chess, I recommend Shenk’s The Immortal Game.