Last Gambit by Om Swami

Last Gambit by Om Swami
Publisher: Black Lotus
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (208 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance. Vasu Bhatt is fourteen years old when a mysterious old man spots him at a chess tournament and offers to coach him, on two simple but strange conditions: he would not accompany his student to tournaments, and there was to be no digging into his past. Initially resentful, Vasu begins to gradually understand his master’s mettle.

Over eight years, master and student come to love and respect each other, but the two conditions remain unbroken – until Vasu confronts and provokes the old man. Meanwhile, their hard work and strategy pay off: Vasu qualifies for the world chess championship. But can he make it all the way without his master by his side?

Inspiring, moving and mercurial, The Last Gambit is a beautiful coming of age tale in a uniquely Indian context.

I have to confess that I’m not a chess whiz. I know the names of the pieces… I even know how they move. But, that’s the extent of it. But, the good thing is, you don’t really need to know chess to get a lot out of this book (though I’m sure a chess background wouldn’t hurt and you might get a whole other level of understanding from it).

The lessons that Vasu learns at the hands of the Master go way beyond playing chess–they are definitely life-changing and life-encompassing. The Master’s wisdom, and the way he imparted it, made me think at times of the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi in Karate Kid, though the stories couldn’t be more different.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was getting to see a glimpse of Indian life. This was something new to me, and it was presented simply as a background to the story. I found the glimpse of the culture fascinating.

All in all, this is a book I found easy to read, but at the same time it’s a book I think I could dip into again from time to time– just to pick places in random to reread and see what lesson I could learn more about…and to pick up little nuggets of information to think about.

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