Mindful Chess - Paul van der Sterren

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Paperback, 128 pages, New in Chess 2024

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Mindful Chess  by Paul van der Sterren
The Spiritual Journey of a Professional Chess Player

The Dutch Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren was a professional chess player for over twenty years. At the peak of his career, he qualified for the Candidate Matches for the World Championship – and was only four victories away from the World Title. In Mindful Chess, you will get his long and short answer to whether meditation or mindfulness will help your chess.

As a boy, Van der Sterren became fascinated by chess and became a gladiator at the chess board. To quote Theodore Roosevelt, he met with both victory and defeat, much joy and suffering. When, later in life, he discovered vipassana meditation, he met again with joy and suffering – and approached these issues with the same total devotion as he had brought to chess—thousands and thousands of hours on the cushion and studying Buddhist literature.

The reader will follow the two journeys through chess and meditation. And find answers to questions such as: What is chess? What is meditation? Who am I? What is I? Or will the answer elude you, is too much inexplainable and unknowable?

Paul van der Sterren (1956) was a professional chess player for over twenty years. At the peak of his career, the Dutch grandmaster qualified for the Candidate Matches for the World Championship – and was only four victories away from the World Title. He is the bestselling author of Fundamental Chess Openings (Gambit Publishers). In 2023 New In Chess will publish his books: Mindful Chess and In Black and White - a spiritual and a chess autobiography.

Book Review By Miguel A Ararat (FIDE Instructor and National Chess Coach)

 GM Paul van Der Sterren is a former candidate for the World Chess Championship, and writer. Two books by van Der Sterren, Fundamental Chess Openings and Your First Chess Lessons, caught my attention because of their clarity and concise explanations. The new book Mindful Chess, The Spiritual Journey of a Professional Chess Player, is written by Van Der Sterren in a more flexible style than the previous books mentioned above. The stylistic charm of the two interwoven circular structures in Mindful Chess makes it more enjoyable to read.  When you finish the book, the author’s chess journey and the role of mindfulness fits together.

The first circular structure was built during Van Der Sterren's journey from amateur to chess professional and back to amateur. The second structure starts with the introduction of the three characteristics of existence, which are Aniccia (impermanence), Dukkha (suffering), and Anatta (non-individual). After completing his career as a chess professional, the author describes his journey as a meditation teacher. At the end of this journey, van Der Sterren realized that in his life events happen and encompassed aniccia. The changing nature of life (Aniccia) will burden (Dukhha) the individual resisting change. Fortunately, the suffering of the individual will be alleviated by Annatta or the grace of the non-existence of individuality.

The author successfully made the content of the book relatable to any chess player. The book also provides the reader with a reality check about what mindfulness can and cannot do for a chess player. This explanation about the chess improvements attributions to the practice of mindfulness is very important. Many chess players have an intuitive belief that mindfulness practice can improve their performance, but they may find themselves pleasantly disappointed. Mindfulness offers much more to the chess player than just a tool for playing better. It can also be a way to self-discovery. Mindful Chess can provide chess players with valuable insights into non-performance-related issues that can be addressed through mindfulness practice.

The reader will be delighted with the time they spend enjoying this well-written and potentially life-changing book.

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