by Om Swami
GENRE: General Fiction-> Coming of Age
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. ‘You!’
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?’
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
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.
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4.25 out of 5 stars
The Last Gambit by Om Swami is, on the surface, the story of a young boy learning how to excel at chess. There are so many other levels that can be appreciated and the author’s voice effortlessly captures that of a youngster as he grows, so it is impossible to be bored even though the game of chess has never held a particular allure for me. I was fascinated to get a glimpse of Indian culture and mores even as I enjoyed the pearls of wisdom imparted to a young child who must learn to convert his passion into a work ethic that will stand him in good stead as he enters adulthood. The dynamics of family and mentorship are fascinating to learn about, even as one discovers how different life is in this country.
Watching Vasu blossom from a self-centered and indulged younger son to a disciplined and respectful adult who learns adages such as “Learn to move at the pace you are comfortable with, learn to alter it effortlessly when necessary.” and “Success by design is infinitely better than a win by chance.” makes me happy I read this story and appreciative of the philosophy that permeates it. There are many great lessons to absorb as one follows the sacrifices that are required to achieve mastery and I think this is a great read for those of all ages.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review