Grandmaster by David Klass
At what cost would you reveal your most painful secret?
Interests/Topics: chess, competition, family relationships, internal conflict, secrets
Curriculum Connections: English
Blurb: I’m not the sporty type. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy sports; I do. I like attending games and watching matches; I like the intensity of the competition and the loyalty that fans have for their favourite teams; I like cheering and getting caught up in the enthusiasm. Most of all, I like when people work together to accomplish a unified goal.
When I say that I’m not the sporty type, I mean that I don’t excel in playing any particular sport. Sure, I participate occasionally, but I don’t have any natural ability. I also don’t really have the desire to improve. I can enjoy a day of moderate skiing, but I’m not inclined to take lessons in order to advance. I am far more interested in strengthening my creative side. Art and photography courses are more up my alley.
I do love playing games, however. Board, trivia, dice, card…you name the game and I’m up for playing it. Except for Chess. I just don’t get it. People have tried to explain the rules to me, but about halfway through the second instruction my mind goes blank and I start rocking in place with my hands over my ears. I. just. don’t. get. it.
Daniel Pratzer, in David Klass’s Grandmaster, is a beginning chess player at his elite private school. He signed up for the club merely because it required fewer hours than the commitment to a sports team would. Daniel’s just a dorky freshman, which is why he can’t figure out why the two coolest seniors ask him to compete in a tournament with them. The catch? He has to bring his father. The problem? Daniel’s father doesn’t know how to play chess.
There’s a $10,000 prize at stake. At what cost would you reveal your most painful secret?
Flavour: “A ‘patzer’ in chess speak is a beginner who barely knows the moves and is a pushover to beat. It’s like being called a combination of chump, rookie, and dufus. Given the unfortunate similarity of my name to ‘patzer,’ I had been called it many times since I first walked in the door of the chess club. But ‘Patzer-face’ was a new twist by the co-captains that I didn’t particularly like.” (3-4)
“Brad plunked his big frame down on the desk next to my chair and folded his arms, staring at me with his bright blue eyes. It didn’t seem fair that a guy who could swim fifty meters in thirty seconds and had a physique of a Viking raiding-party chieftain was also a chess master, with a rating well above the 2200 norm. ‘We know about your father,’ Brad announced. ‘Huh?’ I gulped. What was there to know about Morris Pratzer except that he was the shortest, baldest, and no doubt the poorest father to ever send a child to Loon Lake Academy?” (6)
“I kept expecting my father to make a mistake or shout at his opponent and get disqualified. But he hung in there—when it came to chess it was like he had an iron will and reserves of energy. Then again, I think he had a special reason for not wanting to lose to his third-round opponent.” (135)
“’Don’t you guys have games to play tomorrow morning?’ [mom asked].
‘One game,’ I told her. ‘If our team gets four or five points, we can win the tournament, and a ten-thousand dollar first prize. But dad is gonna have to play his old enemy, and it’s gonna be brutal.’
She looked back at me like I was insane. ‘Your father doesn’t have any enemies. He’s an accountant.’” (163)