In Vienna, in the winter of 1910, the world of chess is aghast and the city abuzz. The unthinkable has happened: in the fifth round of the World Championship the renowned defending champion, Emanuel Lasker, has made an elementary error and lost a match. The little-known Austrian challenger, Carl Haffner, stands in the limelight, the title within his grasp. Haffner is a shy and fragile man, brought up in extreme poverty, from which his only escape is his exceptional gift for chess. His is a game shaped by the harsh experiences he has undergone. He has an obsessive fear of defeat, and his tactics and overall strategy are based on the sheer artistry of defence. But this confrontation with Lasker is not merely a clash between rook and knight; it is a collision between two men with vastly differing attitudes to life: the wealthy, worldly, self-confident champion on the one hand, the lonely, idealistic and penniless Haffner on the other. Carl Haffner is modelled on the Austrian grandmaster Karl Schlechter, and in his brilliant first novel Thomas Glavinic brings to life both the events surrounding the ten-match world championship and the atmosphere of the cafes and chess clubs of Vienna and Berlin in the years before the First World War. With mature insight, he analyses the reasons for Haffner's view of the world, a world that is thrown into further confusion by the appearance of the fascinating and beautiful Anna.