Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"The Last Gambit" by Om Swami

The Last Gambit
by Om Swami

The Last Gambit by Om Swami

The Last Gambit by Om Swami is currently on tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance. Vasu Bhatt is fourteen years old when a mysterious old man spots him at a chess tournament and offers to coach him, on two simple but strange conditions: he would not accompany his student to tournaments, and there was to be no digging into his past. Initially resentful, Vasu begins to gradually understand his master’s mettle.
Over eight years, master and student come to love and respect each other, but the two conditions remain unbroken – until Vasu confronts and provokes the old man. Meanwhile, their hard work and strategy pay off: Vasu qualifies for the world chess championship. But can he make it all the way without his master by his side?
Inspiring, moving and mercurial, The Last Gambit is a beautiful coming of age tale in a uniquely Indian context.

‘Do you know who the finest teacher is?’ he asked.
Ignoring my answer, he continued, ‘Experience is the greatest teacher, Vasu. Always replay your own games to see where you went wrong and what made you play the way you did. People don’t lose because they make mistakes, they do so because they repeat their mistakes. The first time, it’s not a loss but a learning.’
‘So, how do I avoid making mistakes?’
‘Just don’t repeat them,’ he said after coughing and clearing his throat. ‘Be it life or chess, that’s the only difference between a grandmaster and an amateur. An amateur expects to reach a different destination by walking the same path. He hopes for miracles or serendipities. A grandmaster, on the other hand, relies on his own effort and intelligence. He does not commit the same error twice.’
‘But Master,’ I said, curious, ‘I do try my best to not repeat my mistakes. Why do I still lose?’ ‘Because you nourish the body and starve the soul.’ I gave him a blank look because I didn’t have a clue about what he just said. ‘Do you know the soul of chess, Vasu?’
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The Last Gambit is an amazing and a very nicely written book. While the book primary describes a relationship between a chess master and his teenage student, the moral lessons and teachings behind the story make for a deeper meaning. [...] I would say that this book is suited for all ages and is definitely recommendable." ~ imdvp
"Another gem by Om Swami, offering many invaluable life lessons in most interesting and fun ways, making you all nostalgic and warm inside. [...] Must read for all." ~ Pavani Om
"My 13-year-old son, a reluctant reader, read this book over the course of two days, staying up past midnight to finish it. He loved it and was truly inspired." ~ Mom of a teen
"Amazing book. While reading it, I felt like I was in the story, with the characters. In fact, I got so engrossed while reading I finished in less than a day. Flawless writing and very inspiring as well as moving." ~ Verma's
"It's a book that made me laugh and cry the hardest. It's quite apparent that Chess is used as a metaphor for Life in this story. [...] This story should be adapted into a film as it will make it reach to wider audiences who can benefit from these very interestingly woven nuggets of wisdom for life." ~ Rahul

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
The year is 1983, and Vasu has just turned fourteen. At a local chess tournament, he meets the mysterious Anand Sharma, who sees his potential and offers to teach him how to become a grandmaster. Who is this old recluse, and how does he know so much about the game? After intensive lessons and no wins against the master, Vasu becomes discouraged. Over the years, he also struggles with school works, bullying, tough teachers, mean girls, and unpleasant chess opponents. But he is rewarded by his increasing closeness to his brother, his teacher's devotion, and first love. Will Vasu persevere against the odds and become India's first world chess champion in over 50 years?
I'm not a chess player, but I found the story interesting and compelling. A glossary of Indian terms with hyperlinks would be handy, as the translate feature of the Kindle app didn't work for most words. There are some editing inconsistencies (e.g., the use of mom and mum), but the author's profession as a philosopher is apparent in his beautiful and insightful writing. Vasu's chess lessons are also important life lessons; as Vasu learns how to become a chess champion, Anand also teaches him how to become a winner in life. Vasu is lost in his own inner world, oblivious to the depth of Rea's love and devotion and the extent of his parents' sacrifices to make his dream come true. But rather than hate him, we sympathize with him, feel his guilt and self-loathing, and eventually his confidence and pride. And then there's that perfect ending in which everything comes full circle.
Simply masterful.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"... it’s really irritating when people get all philosophical and tell me that life is like chess. Yeah, right. How can you even compare the two? For one thing, chess has rules. It is an elegant work of art, whereas life, life is a freaking hammer. Even if it falls elegantly, it crushes you."
"Champions are not born, Vasu. They are made. And no one really makes them. Champions make themselves."
"... chess is not a game, it’s a way of life."
"... life doesn’t run on dreams. [...] Chess is not a career option."
"I was still young enough to cuddle and kiss my mother then. It made me stronger, it made me softer."
"... I just knew that I had found the best teacher there could be. And, sometimes, that’s what makes all the difference – the one who’s by your side."
"Currently, the only thing I wanted more than a girlfriend was to win at least once."
"Imagine building a hundred-metre long tunnel. Even at the ninety-ninth metre, when the end is only a metre away, you won’t see any light. If you want success, you must go right till the end."
"Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance."
"Love is the soul of life. Without love, nothing has any meaning nor value."
"... a gambit is more important than a checkmate in love. [...] love is not about winning but offering. The first gambit is care, second appreciation, but it’s the last gambit that matters the most. [...] Self-sacrifice. Until you offer yourself wholeheartedly, you can’t win. In love or in anything else."
"Don’t judge him for what he says, see him for what he does."
"Sometimes, the best way is to enjoy the journey with your co-traveller than rushing to the destination. For the joy of seeking is more exhilarating than attaining what’s sought."
"With each passing day, I only loved her more. In a way, she was like chess, only much more unpredictable. Every time I thought I had her figured out, she would take me completely by surprise."
"Sometimes, that’s the only beautiful thing about life – our dreams."

About the Author
Om Swami
Om Swami is a monk who lives in a remote place in the Himalayan foothills. He has a bachelor degree in business and an MBA from Sydney, Australia. Swami served in executive roles in large corporations around the world. He founded and led a profitable software company with offices in San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney and India.
Om Swami completely renounced his business interests to pursue a more spiritual life. He is the bestselling author of Kundalini: An Untold Story, A Fistful of Love, and If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir.
His blog is read by millions all over the world.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon or B&N gift card.