The Last Checkmate: A Novel (Paperback)
A PopSugar Best Book of the Year!
Readers of Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz and watchers of The Queen’s Gambit won’t want to miss this amazing debut set during World War II. A young Polish resistance worker, imprisoned in Auschwitz as a political prisoner, plays chess in exchange for her life, and in doing so fights to bring the man who destroyed her family to justice.
Maria Florkowska is many things: daughter, avid chess player, and, as a member of the Polish underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, a young woman brave beyond her years. Captured by the Gestapo, she is imprisoned in Auschwitz, but while her family is sent to their deaths, she is spared. Realizing her ability to play chess, the sadistic camp deputy, Karl Fritzsch, decides to use her as a chess opponent to entertain the camp guards. However, once he tires of exploiting her skills, he has every intention of killing her.
Befriended by a Catholic priest, Maria attempts to overcome her grief, vows to avenge the murder of her family, and plays for her life. For four grueling years, her strategy is simple: Live. Fight. Survive. By cleverly provoking Fritzsch’s volatile nature in front of his superiors, Maria intends to orchestrate his downfall. Only then will she have a chance to evade the fate awaiting her and see him punished for his wickedness.
As she carries out her plan and the war nears its end, she challenges her former nemesis to one final game, certain to end in life or death, in failure or justice. If Maria can bear to face Fritzsch—and her past—one last time.
About the Author
Gabriella Saab graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor of business administration in marketing and now lives in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where she works as a barre instructor. While researching The Last Checkmate, she traveled to Warsaw and Auschwitz to dig deeper into the setting and the experiences of those who lived there. The Last Checkmate is her first novel.
"From the strategic opening move of The Last Checkmate, I was in the grip of an unforgettable story. Vivid prose and heart-stopping scenes, Saab unfolds the story like her protagonist plays chess, with cunning wit and brilliant strategy. Gabriella Saab’s debut is immersive, smart, and haunting—a do-not-miss WWII historical novel.”
— Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah
"What's the best strategy to survive in a place as evil as Auschwitz? For Maria, a young member of the Polish resistance in Gabriella Saab's debut The Last Checkmate, chess is a lifeline... The Last Checkmate kept me turning pages long into the night. A fantastic debut!"
— Anika Scott, international bestselling author of The German Heiress
“Just wow! I was speechless when I finished reading this book. Raw and powerful in its humanity, The Last Checkmate will break your heart and stitch it back together again. Gabriella Saab has given us a rare and wondrous gift. A must-read for all historical fiction lovers.”
— Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Radar Girls
"The Last Checkmate is a winner. Gabriella Saab’s debut kept me turning the pages and I was rooting for our young, brave, and resourceful chess prodigy every step of the way."
— Elise Hooper, acclaimed author of Sisters of the Pacific
“A compelling and raw journey through the mind of a young Polish woman who comes of age in Auschwitz and lives only for revenge against her family’s killer.”
— Sara Dahmen, author of Tinsmith 1865
"Still thinking about The Queen's Gambit? Then The Last Checkmate by Gabrielle Saab is the book for you."
"Saab’s capable debut features a revenge plot set amidst the horrors of the Holocaust... Readers who love WWII fiction with strong female leads should check this out."
— Publishers Weekly
“Fans of World War II fiction with strong female leads, such as Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter and Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz, will enjoy this story. The recurring theme of chess is also reminiscent of Walter Tevis’s The Queen’s Gambit.”
— Library Journal
“The dramatic tale of valiant teen chess player Maria offer YAs a portal into the WWII Polish Resistance movement”