Samuel Rosenthal playing chess in Paris, 1891
Shenk’s great-great grandfather, Samuel Rosenthal, in Paris, 1891

For many people chess is more than just a game. The kerfuffle over Vladimir Kramnik’s bathroom breaks during this year’s world championship demonstrated precisely how emotional the game can get.

David Shenk, whose great-great-grandfather was a celebrated player in 19th-century Paris, has spent the past few years writing The Immortal Game, an investigation of chess’s enduring influence. He talks with us about its evolution, and its role in Jewish life and lore from Moses onward.