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Debut Author Gabriella Saab Celebrates New Novel, ‘The Last Checkmate’

Last year, Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” became a cultural phenomenon, as evidenced by the show’s recent Emmy win. As audiences now long for a new chess-inspired story, debut author Gabriella Saab’s stunning novel, The Last Checkmate” is here to fill that void. The novel is about a young Polish resistance worker, imprisoned in a concentration camp, who is challenged at chess by an SS Officer — and winning would save  her life.

The 25-year-old debut author asked: “If a woman had been sent to Auschwitz in 1941, how might she have been spared execution and what might she have done to fight for survival?” To answer this, Saab embarked on a journey to Warsaw and Auschwitz, where she extensively researched the Polish resistance, the prisoner resistance movement, and the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. Her travels to Poland and intense research process are vividly rendered in her storytelling in this impressive debut.

Photo provided by Gabriella Saab

In the book, the character 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.

Gabriella Saab graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing, and now works various jobs, including teaching barre classes. In researching for this novel, she traveled to Warsaw and Auschwitz to dig deeper into the experiences and setting of those who lived there.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.