Book Recap #36- The King: Chess Pieces by GM Jan Hein Donner (with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam)

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Book Recap #36- The King: Chess Pieces by GM Jan Hein Donner (with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam)

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The Perpetual Chess Book Review series, Chess Books Recaptured is finally back! I am honored to be joined by renowned author and chess journalist Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam to discuss GM Jan Hein Donner’s The King: Chess Pieces. The book is widely considered a 20th century classic and has been recommended by the likes of GMs Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson. It is a compilation of chess columns from a 3-time Dutch national champion, who spanned the chess generations between Max Euwe and Jan Timman. Donner is a brilliant, prescient and provocative writer who chronicles his own career, and also opines as the careers of Fischer, Spassky, Tal and others unfold in his proximity. Reading The King is a fun way to retrace 20th-century chess history, and the life and career of Donner. But, in my opinion, the book is not without its flaws. Donner’s writing is sometimes offensive, particularly when he bombastically shares his views about women in chess. I was grateful to have Dirk Jan help me discern whether Donner was being sarcastic in some of his more scathing columns. After we finish discussing the book, I chat with Dirk Jan a bit about his current projects, and his work on New in Chess’ excellent new podcast. Timestamps of topics discussed are below. 0:00- Thanks to our sponsor,! If you sign up for Chessable Pro in order to unlock discounts and additional features, be sure to use the following link: What is Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam’s personal history with The King and with its author, GM Jan Hein Donner? Mentioned: Dutch novelist Harry Mulisch
0:09- How is the English edition of The King, connected to the history of New in Chess publishing?Mentioned: Allard Hoogland, Taylor Kingston’s review of the 1997 edition of The King:
12:00- We discuss Donner’s personal life, including the one, short-lived, real job that he had at IBM. Mentioned: Hein Donner: The Biography by Alexander Munninghoff 
18:00- Some of Donner’s most famous writing is very sexist- how was it viewed at the time? Mentioned: GM Jan Gustafsson 

23:00- Did Dirk Jan work directly with Richard de Weger, the book’s translator? 
24:00- Likes and dislikes from the book, starting with his acquaintance with Donner’s beautiful reflections on Fischer and Spassky. Mentioned: Richard James’ review of Hein Donner, The Biography:

42:00- What was Donner’s opinion of legendary Dutch World Champion, Dr. Max Euwe? 
43:00- What did Donner mean by his famous quote “Chess is a game of chance?” We also discuss a few other memorable quotes. 
48:00- Was Donner being sarcastic when he wrote at length that “women cannot play chess”? 
54:00- Why is Donner’s rivalry and demeaning writing about Dutch champion Lodewijk Prins, such a famous part of Dutch chess history? Mentioned: GM Ben FInegold’s video on Donner:
59:00- Closing thoughts on The King
1:03:00- Dirk’s thoughts on the Candidates and his other current big projectMentioned: The Real Paul Morphy by FM Charles Hertan, Games and Goals 
1:08:00- How is Dirk Jan enjoying podcasting?Mentioned: New in Chess Podcast: 207 with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam 

Thanks to Dirk Jan for sharing his knowledge and experiences with this book! Be sure to sub to the New in Chess Podcast!
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