When Daniel Pratzer joins the chess club at his new high school, he can't understand why the cocky team captains think that his short, balding, potbellied-accountant dad is so special, until they explain that his name is listed in the Chess Federation as a grandmaster (a highly-rated master of chess). After the captains threaten to wring Daniel's neck if he doesn't show up with Grandmaster Pratzer at a weekend-long father-son chess tournament, Daniel confronts his dad, who grudgingly confirms his chess prowess. However, he is not willing to divulge why he has kept this information secret for 30 years. His dad accepts the tournament invitation, but the two have no idea what to expect when they arrive. Indeed, their time will be interesting, to say the least, especially when Daniel searches for the real reasons why his dad gave up something that he's extremely good at.
"GRANDMASTER has a unique young adult plot that is filled with adventure, tension and love, all interwoven with light humor. "
Written in first person, the inspiration for Daniel's story comes from Klass's own competitive chess experiences, post-Bobby Fischer era. He gave up the game but then returned to it 30 years later when his two children began playing in school tournaments. Though the overall tone of GRANDMASTER is obviously chess-based and is laced with plenty of terminology for young enthusiasts (familiar chess moves, iconic grandmasters and even a little chess history), Klass cleverly incorporates various themes to keep non-chess readers engaged as well. A prominent theme throughout his narrative, for example, is that of facing one's fears. This is evident when Daniel has to play against higher-rated opponents and when his dad has to deal with his past life and an old nemesis.
GRANDMASTER has a unique young adult plot that is filled with adventure, tension and love, all interwoven with light humor. An acclaimed screenwriter and author, Klass has created a delightful novel that also has all the makings for the big screen.
Reviewed by Anita Lock on February 19, 2014