Grandmaster Review

Third book for today’s reviews. This session of reads were emotionally… a lot. I remember now, why I read fantasy. It doesn’t destroy my heart as much.

Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target  audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.

That being said… Spoilers ahead.

Grandmaster by David Klass

Synopsis From The Book

Freshman Daniel Pratzer gets a chance to prove himself when the chess team invites him and his father to a weekend-long parent-child tournament. Daniel, thinking that his father is a novice, can’t understand why his teammates want so badly for them to participate. Then he finds out the truth: as a teen, his father was one of the most promising young players in America, but the pressures of the game pushed him too far, and he had to give up chess to save his own life and sanity. Now, thirty years later, Mr. Pratzer returns to the game to face down an old competitor and the same dark demons that lurk in the corners of a mind stretched by the demands of the game. Daniel was looking for acceptance―but the secrets he uncovers about his father will force him to make some surprising moves himself, in Grandmaster by David Klass.

Contemporary – Drama | YA – PW |Thoughts and talk of suicide, trauma, bullying, sexual assault | Growth, Redefining Love, Family, Belief in one’s self.

Initial Thoughts Before Reading:

I got this from the book fair with my mom and you know those books that scream at you to read? That was this book for me. It kept telling me to read it and I just put it off. Well not anymore! I want to read it and I will. Nothing will stop me now.

Initial Thoughts After Reading:

Oh that plot went a different way than I expected but it was fun all the same. I had a lot of fun reading it and enjoyed it thoroughly. I had been waiting and waiting to read it and now that I have I feel a little lost on where I’m to go from here. 

Plot Overview:

Daniel is a part of his private school’s chess team. He’s been only playing for 6 months and his two team captains (Eric and Brad) want him to go with them to a father-son tournament. Not because he is good, but because his father is a grandmaster. Initially Daniel does not believe them, but his father reveals it as truth and Daniel tells them that they will go. They book a hotel and pay a tournament fee and are ready to go. Daniel finds out that his team mates’ fathers are really good as well (on a surgeon and the other a hedge-fund manager) as well as being rich (which he already knows). Britney (a freshman dating Brad) tells Daniel that they are only using him for his father, because they only need 5 points to move on each match. They upgrade Daniel’s father and his room and it throws Daniel’s father off (his name is Morris). 

The first day of games happens and Daniel meets a girl named Liu. She beats him ruthlessly but they become friends. Daniel sees his father start to panic but Morris wins his first game. After a disaster of a dinner, Morris admits to Daniel that the reason he dropped chess was because of a horrible incident he almost caused. The next day, not only does Dnaiel win against his opponent (with some pointers the night before from his father) but he talks to another grandmaster who knew his father before. This is Grandmaster Liszt. 

Grandmaster Liszt tells Daniel about how Morris could have been the best but he self destructed. He constantly talked to himself and to opponents, and when told to hush would turn the thoughts internal, causing him to implode. He’d almost killed a competitor when he lost once, and immediately after had tried to kill himself. (Morris later tells Daniel this was not the first time he tried) Grandmaster Liszt tells Daniel that he will push Morris should they intercept, and that Daniel should get him home before that happens. 

Daniel’s father continues to self destruct, passing out, and Daniels’ mother and sister come to the competition. Brad and Britney have an altercation which results in Brad and his father leaving, for Brad’s father needed to teach his son to be a better man. This leaves them with only four players for the last day. 

On the last day, Daniel beats his opponent who believes he should win because Daniel is an unknown player. Daniel wins thanks to what his father taught him. Meanwhile his father looks like he is about to have a heart attack. When Grandmaster Liszt takes off his belt and places it around his neck (which is how Morris tried to kill himself when he was a teenager), Morris loses it and flees the tournament. 

Daniel finds his father with Liu on the edge of a roof. Daniel keeps his father from jumping, and his father admits that it wasn’t that he wanted to jump but that he was done. He also explains that by being there he realized what was important, what he had and what he wanted. They return to the tournament and he’s allowed to resume (probably because the ref knows Liszt did something sketchy, even if not what it was). Morris wins and Liszt freaks out. The novel ends with Daniel balancing school and home life. His father has now decided to embrace chess again because of how much he loves it, even if he won’t compete, and is training Daniel and Daniel’s sister. Daniel and Liu are a couple and go out skating.

What I Liked:

Daniel; He wants to prove himself, and by doing so realizes that there is something that he is good at, and also draw the conclusion that his father will be okay. He has always been average at best, and now that there is something he could be okay at, he latches on to it. I know, however, that he will be okay. I doubt history will repeat.

Morris; This is the case of the artist that destroys themselves for what they love. However, Morris got himself out before it went too far and he got an anchor of a family. He won’t let himself dive deep again, but he will let himself love chess and for that I have bountiful respect. 

Use of Chess; I always like reading and watching chess stories.

Liu; I loved her from her sassy introduction, to how it continued on.
Other characters; were pretty well rounded and described. The other boy’s fathers and Britney got the most in the development department, but I don’t blame it. They were interesting characters.

Brad’s father; I make a note on this specific. Because when Brad assaulted Britney, Brad’s father jumped in and immediately took Brad out of the equation. He forced Brad to do more, to be better, and to repent. I respect this.

What I Would Have Liked or Changed:

Some jokes didn’t land for me, and I suppose that makes sense.

Rating: 4/5

Notable Quotes:

“As we say, chess is like a bridge. In order to get to the other side, you need to cross it.” – pg 68

pt 1
pt 2
pt 3

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