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Schachnovelle

Staunton Design Chess Pieces in Play

Staunton Design Chess Pieces in Play

Chess is for me a lifelong obsession. Not that I’m any good at it: I tend to be too unaggressive, too defensive. But I love to follow the game and even, from time to time, solve endgame problems.

Why am I drawn to chess? Is it because it approaches infinity in the number of possible chess games—a number that exceeds the number of atoms in the universe. According to Chess.Com:

The number of legal chess positions is 10^40 [that’s 10 to the 40th power], the number of different possible games, 10^120. Authors have attempted various ways to convey this immensity, usually based on one of the few fields to regularly employ such exponents, astronomy. In his book Chess Metaphors, Diego Rasskin-Gutman points out that a player looking eight moves ahead is already presented with as many possible games as there are stars in the galaxy. Another staple, a variation of which is also used by Rasskin-Gutman, is to say there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the universe. All of these comparisons impress upon the casual observer why brute-force computer calculation can’t solve this ancient board game. They are also handy, and I am not above doing this myself, for impressing people with how complicated chess is, if only in a largely irrelevant mathematical way.

After only a few moves, the chess player is staring at infinity. No doubt, many of the moves are atrocious, perhaps even borderline illegal; but the variety of possible moves is truly staggering.

Even if I am not a good player, I love the literature of chess. I have just finished re-reading Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle (translated as Chess Story). That short novel was itself turned into a great film directed by Gerd Oswald called Brainwashed (1960) starring Curd Jürgens.

Borges has written a great poem about chess, which I will post soon. Also, you can expect to see a short story by Lord Dunsany entitled “The Three Sailors’ Gambit.”

I will also tell you about some of my heroes, such as the Estonian Grandmaster Paul Keres, Former World Champion Mikhail Tal of Latvia, and. of course, the never-to-be-forgotten Bobby Fischer.