• The Moves That Matter

  • A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life
  • By: Jonathan Rowson
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Rowson
  • Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (39 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson, read by Jonathan Rowson. 

Refined and perfected throughout human history, chess has long been a touchstone for shrewd tacticians and master strategists. But enfolded within this ancient game can be found a singularly resonant metaphor for the challenges, thrills and setbacks that fill our lives with meaning and complexity.  

Jonathan Rowson’s competitive success as a Grandmaster and his work as a philosopher of public policy have given him a unique perspective on why the great game is more important than ever for understanding the conflicts and uncertainties of the modern world. In 64 witty and addictive vignettes, Rowson takes us on an exhilarating tour of the game of life, from the psychology of gang violence, to the aesthetics of cyborgs, the beauty of technical details, and the endgame of death. Chess emerges as a rich and endlessly evocative way of thinking about the desires that shape the world around us.  

The Moves That Matter celebrates the redeeming power of intense concentration while offering a humane and compassionate account of our interdependence and need for community. Jonathan Rowson reveals, one move at a time, what it means to love, think or care deeply in the intricate game of life.

©2019 Jonathan Rowson (P)2019 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"Terrific...What a beautiful, thoughtful work. I see thinking in a fresh light. I see my own life in a fresh light as well." (David Bodanis, author of Einstein’s Greatest Mistake and E=MC2

"At a time when we urgently need new ways to think about the challenge of creating a meaningful life - far more than we need conventional self-help advice - Jonathan Rowson has written a powerfully unconventional and mind-expanding book...A generous, nuanced and witty meditation on confronting the challenges life throws at us all." (Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking)

"A remarkable, highly original and personal book, unlike anything else you have ever read, packed with wisdom about life. You need to know next to nothing about chess to enjoy it and to want to keep coming back for more." (Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary)

What listeners say about The Moves That Matter

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Such a well thought-out book!!!

This book is honestly more about philosophy than chess. Or rather, it is life as seen through the prism of chess. And it is very enjoyable. 64 essays spanning a wide range of subjects, I honestly wish I’d found this book early.

2 people found this helpful

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Sort of a chess book

First, the author has done a great job of reading for the audio book version.
Second, there's some interesting non-chess stuff here and there.
Third, there are some cabal zombie talking points here and there.
And fourth, the chess related content is interesting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gary
  • 01-08-21

Blue Face

There is a really excellent book and I always enjoy it more when the author takes the time out to read it themselves. Particularly as Jonathan is great narrator. It’s very well thought out, full of interesting insights and quotations. Clearly a lot of effort over a significant amount of time has went into this book so it flows as well as it does. It’s a book I can already see I’ll re-listen to every year or two. Also spent about an hour with my wife trying to fully understand all the intricacies of the blue face puzzle, while often just about to grasp it fully and then finding I’d confused myself again (A knows this to be true but thinks B thinks...). 5 stars.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul Butcher
  • 12-15-19

Compelling, beautifully written, audio page turner

I was not sure what to expect before I started listening to this - from what I had heard I knew it would be part personal story, part investigation of what is important in life and that chess would somehow be the prism through which the insights were explained/ revealed. (And i know the rules of chess but thats about it).

But nothing could prepare me for how utterly compelling the book was. The strangest “page turner” I have ever listened to - I wanted to hear more as quickly as possible. Several things made this the case. Firstly, it is beautifully written with exquisite precision. Much of the time I listened I was simply marvelling at the extreme aptness of the analogies he continually made. Second, linked to the first point, the clarity of thought and perceptiveness of what he was saying and the way he was able to communicate it so effectively was mesmerising. There was so much packed into so few words all the time. Thats what turned it into a “page turner” I kept wanting more of this concentrated insight.

The tools that Rowson used also worked brilliantly. Chess clearly does have a lot to teach us both directly, and as Rowson showed again and again (with astonishing insight and creativity) by analogy. The other tool he uses to great effect was his life experiences (which of course involve a lot of chess but go far beyond that).

Basically what the reader/ listener is gaining from this book that means it is worth so much more than anyone else writing about their life experiences (or chess for that matter) is that Rowson is a very very deep thinker and also a consummate communicator. He shines his powerful mind onto the deep questions of life we all face and helps the reader/listener expand their mind/ see things from refreshing, interesting, surprising, humorous and ultimately uplifting ways.

In summary this is an uncharacterisable tour de force which I would recommend everyone to read/ listen to - regardless of any interest in chess.

Final point: I am sometimes wary of buying audiobooks read by the author, but Rowson reads it perfectly and this very personal (though still universal) book gains a lot from having the author speak his own words.

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  • L Joubert
  • 09-22-22

Interesting but overdone

The word "palpable" was used too many times, almost as if something had to sound fancy and complicated, or because the author didn't know how to express his views.
I play chess and this is not a boring chess book, it is an interesting take on llife. Many parts are enjoyable but some felt like they were added for the sake of having more pages.

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  • S. Lormor
  • 11-01-21

Captivating

This book is about much more than chess. It’s a lesson in life with chess interwoven into it.

I bought this after picking up chess again with my children. I didn’t know what to expect and loved it from start to finish.

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  • MB
  • 12-25-20

Unexpectedly brilliant

I picked up this audio book almost accidentally, without much expectation even though other reviews were positive. But it proved to be one my favourite audio books I listened to in 2020. The author is undoubtedly a smart individual beyond chess and manages to open interesting perspectives while drawing paralells with the chess world. I'd say it's a blend of psychology, philosophy and sports. The author is open about his personal life and acknowledges his own limitations and missteps, which is unusual these days. Narration was perdect and the Scottish accent is just a cherry on the cake.

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  • Daniel Fonseca
  • 02-10-20

great book

Thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you Jonathan for sharing your thoughts with us, even some embarrassing details, your honesty is much appreciated!