Counterplay (Paperback)

An Anthropologist at the Chessboard

By Prof. Robert R. Desjarlais

University of California Press, 9780520272606, 266pp.

Publication Date: March 22, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (3/22/2011)

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


“Chess gets a hold of some people, like a virus or a drug,” writes Robert Desjarlais in this absorbing book. Drawing on his lifelong fascination with the game, Desjarlais guides readers into the world of twenty-first-century chess to help us understand its unique pleasures and challenges, and to advance a new “anthropology of passion.” Immersing us directly in chess’s intricate culture, he interweaves small dramas, closely observed details, illuminating insights, colorful anecdotes, and unforgettable biographical sketches to elucidate the game and to reveal what goes on in the minds of experienced players when they face off over the board. Counterplay offers a compelling take on the intrigues of chess and shows how themes of play, beauty, competition, addiction, fanciful cognition, and intersubjective engagement shape the lives of those who take up this most captivating of games.

About the Author

Robert Desjarlais is Professor of Anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College.

Praise For Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard

“The subject of chess boasts more books than any other game, but this one is special, crafted for the general reader as well as the aficionado. . . . Like the game itself, Counterplay is an enjoyable mental exercise.”

— E. James Lieberman

“Desjarlais draws from his backgrounds in ethnographic research and amateur tournament chess to nimbly explore the game’s social, philosophical, aesthetic, psychological, and technological quirks.”

— Will Wlizlo

“An informative and penetrating survey of the game today.”

— Publishers Weekly

“Desjarlais brings to Counterplay a social scientist’s eye for broader themes and implications, a researcher’s exhaustive annotation, and a chess junkie’s passion and respect for the game.”

— Wayne Lee

“Brilliant . . . a rewarding read.”

— Toomas Gross