There aren't many good novels about chess. A Partial History of Lost Causes is a fabulously good one. In Jennifer Dubois's debut novel, two chess players from different countries alternate telling their stories until their paths cross in Russia in 2006.
The first, Aleksandr Bezetov, a child prodigy, moves to St. Petersburg to attend an elite chess school while he is still a teenager. Exceedingly naÃ¯ve and innocent, he's assigned to a boarding house where prostitutes and a crazy assortment of other Russians live.
On his first day, while attending a celebration honoring Stalin's memory, he meets two young dissidents who invite him to their gathering spot, CafÃ© Saigon. Soon Aleksandr is drawn into a world of samizdat and far-left causes.