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Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Literature and chess – A Brief History

Around 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of over 20 stories written in Middle English. In “The Franklin’s Tale,” Chaucer wrote, “Her friends saw that it was no alleviation, but grief for her, to roam by the sea, and planned to disport themselves somewhere else. They led her by rivers and springs and eke in other delectable places; they danced and they played at tables [backgammon] and chess.”

In 1531, Thomas Elyot (1490-1546) wrote The Book of the Governor, also called The Boke Named the Gouernour. It was a treatise on how to train statesmen. It states that chess is to be commended to sharpen a player’s intellectual faculties.

In 1610-1611, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote a play called The Tempest. It may be the last play that Shakespeare wrote. In Act 5, Scene 1, Prospero gathers everyone around and dramatically draws back a curtain to reveal his daughter, Miranda, and Prince Ferdinand playing chess in the final scene. Miranda accuses Ferdinand of cheating, but he says that he wouldn’t cheat her for the whole world.

Around 1620, Thomas Middleton (1580-1627) wrote a play called Women Beware Women. It was first published din 1657. Chess is used as a metaphor in Act II, scene ii this play.

In 1624, Thomas Middleton wrote a play called A Game at Chess. Chess was used to represent the intrigue of the Anglo-Spanish conflict. This comic satirical play was first stage in August 1624 by the King’s Men at the Globe Theatre. It was notable for its political content. It was an allegory of the conflict between Great Britain (the White pieces) and Spain (the Black pieces). The play was stopped after 9 performances after becoming the greatest box-hit of early modern London. Middleton and the actors were arrested, reprimanded, and fined. Middleton never wrote another play after that. The crime was that it was illegal to portray any modern Christian king on the stage.

In 1836, Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) wrote an essay called “Maelzel’s Chess Player.” It was originally published in he April 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Magazine. He was trying to expose a fraudulent automaton chess player called The Turk. Although it is the most famous essay on the Turk, many of Poe’s hypotheses were incorrect. Poe did not suggest a human was operating the machine, but that a mind was.

In 1841, Edgar Allen Poe wrote the short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” It was first published in Graham’s Magazine in 1841. It is considered the first detective story, making Poe the only American to ever invent a form of literature. Chess is mentioned several times in the story. Poe writes: “A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of
chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers.”

In 1848, Anne Bronte (1820-1849) wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It was her second and final novel. She wrote it under the pen name Acton Bell. Walter Hargrave and Helen Huntingdon play chess. Helen has no real interest in playing chess against Hargrave, but he persists by making her seem petty if she refuses. One of the quotes in the book is, “But chess-players are so unsociable. They are no company for any but themselves.” Hargrave says to Helen, “You are a good player, –but I am better. …in the end, I shall certainly win.”

In 1866, George Eliot (1819-1880), then pen name of Mary Ann Evans, wrote a social novel called Felix Holt, the Radical. She wrote: “Fancy what a game at chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and intellects, more or less small and cunning: if you were not only uncertain about your adversary’s men, but a little uncertain about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly; if your bishop, in disgust at your castling, could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deductive reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be especially likely to be beat, if you depended arrogantly on your mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with contempt. Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments. He thinks himself sagacious, perhaps, because he trusts no bond except that of self-interest: but the only self-interest he can safely rely on is what seems to be such to the mind he would use or govern. Can he ever be sure of knowing this?”

Charles Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, wrote Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There in 1871 with a many chess references. Alice observes that the chess pieces on the other side of the mirror have come to life, though they remain small enough for her to pick up. She meets the Red Queen who tells Alice that the entire countryside is laid out in squares, like a gigantic chessboard. The queen offers to make Alice a queen if she can move all the way to the 8th rank. Most of the main characters in the story are represented by chess pieces, with Alice starting out as a pawn. The novel was a sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865.

In 1872, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) wrote A Pair of Blue Eyes, which was serialized, then made into a novel in 1873. It was his first novel to bear his name on publication. The book describes the love triangle of Miss Elfride Swancourt, who plays chess, and her two suitors, Stephen Smith (who is just learning chess) and Henry Knight (who also plays chess and beats her).

In 1885, British explorer and Arabist Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) translated into English The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, subtitled A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainsments, better known as the “Arabian Nights.” Chess is frequently mentioned in the Arabian Nights. In The Second Qalandar’s Tale, the price transformed into a monkey makes his partners suspect his human nature by his proficiency in playing chess. In the Tale of the King, Umar ibn al-Nu’man has to play chess as part of the test to which Abriza subjects him. The love story of Masrur and Zayn al-Mawasif begins with a series of chess games. In the story of Tawaddud, the heroine beats the most proficient chess player of Baghdad. The story of Al-Ma’mun and Zubayda holds a game of chess for the procreation of the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. The book is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and fold tales compiled in Arabic from the8th through the 13th centuries.

In 1886, Paul Celiere wrote The Startling Exploits of Dr. J. B. Quies. It was translated into English in 1997. Doctor Quies is a great lover of the game of chess who competed with the best players in Europe. One humorous line was, “The world might fall into ruins around the Café de la Regeance, where the chess-players congregate, and not one of them would seem to be aware of the occurrence.

In 1893, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) wrote a short story called Moxon’s Master. It was first published in his 1893 short story collection Can Such Things Be? (and reprinted in 1909). It appeared in the San Francisco Examiner newspaper on April 16, 1899. It is one of the first descriptions of a robot in English literature. The story describes a chess-playing automaton or robot that murders its creator, Mr. Moxon. The unnamed narrator converses with Moxon at his house, who is playing chess with his robot. The narrator leaves, but later returns to the house and finds that Moxon wins the chess game with a checkmate and the automaton strangles him in an apparent fit of rage.

In 1897, Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916), the Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 1905, wrote the historical novel The Knights of the Cross or The Teutonic Knights. The book was first serialized by the magazine Tygodnik Illustrowany, then printed in book form in 1900. It was the first book to be printed in Poland at the end of World War II in 1945. The knights play chess.

Leonid Andreyev (1871-1919) was a Russian playwright, novelist and short-story writer. In 1908, he wrote a novel called The Seven Who Were Hanged, depicting the fates of seven people who received death sentences. One of the characters was a chess player who started playing chess on the first day of his imprisonment and continued it uninterruptedly. Even the sentence condemning him to death by hanging did not remove a single figure from his imaginary chessboard.

Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) wrote ‘The Three Sailors’ Gambit,’ which was published in The Smart Set in 1916 and The Last Book of Wonder (Boston, 1916). It is about three sailors who enter a tavern with a chess set and they complain that they could find no one who knew how to play chess. They finally meet an opponent who agrees to play chess for a pound, but it must be a consolation game on the part of the sailors, as they all three must play. They never lost a game. The short story was later published in CHESS, March 1942.

In 1922, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) wrote a science fantasy novel called The Chessmen of Mars. The first sentence is about chess (“Shea had just beaten me at chess”). A game on Mars is similar to chess called jetan. The board is 10×10 (black and orange) and has 20 pieces (black and orange) on each side. Burroughs began writing it in January, 1921. Captives are forced to fight to the death in an arena on a board game resembling chess; the living version uses people as the game pieces on a life-sized board, with each taking of a piece being a duel to the death. It was first published in Argosy All-Story Weekly as a 6-part serial from February 18 to Match 25, 1922. It was later published as a complete novel in November 1922.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, wrote the Waste Land in 1922. One of the chapters (chapter 2) is called “A Game of Chess.” The title comes from the plays of the early 17th-century playwright Thomas Middleton, in which the moves in a game of chess denote stages in seduction. Eliot portrays a wealthy, high-class woman planning for an excursion and a game of chess.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1972), the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, wrote Steppenwolf in 1926 and had it published in 1927. One of the chapters is called “The Chess Player.” The novel mentions a gifted chess player who offers to show Harry Haller how to assemble his life. The novel was translated into English in 1929.

In 1927, Agatha Christie (1890-1976) wrote a detective fiction novel The Big Four which included a chess problem and mentions Lasker, Capablanca, and Rubinstein. Inspector Japp informs detective Hercule Poirot of a mysterious death – the chess grandmasters Gilmour Wilson and Doctor Savaronoff were playing chess when Gilmour Wilson collapsed and died from heart failure. Japp suspects he was poisoned. The story has been anthologized in Chess in Literature by Marcelo Trutti in 1974 and Sinister Gambits by Richard Peyton in 1991.

Ilya Ilf (1897-1937) and Evgeny Petrov (1903-1942) wrote The Twelve Chairs in 1928. The story partially takes place in a chess club. It mentions Capablanca. Chapter 34 it titled “The Interplanetary Chess Tournament.” A grandmaster gives a simultaneous chess exhibition on 160 boards.

In 1928, S.S. Van Dine (1888-1939), the pen name of Willard Wright, wrote the Bishop Murder Case. It was his fourth in a series of mystery novels about fictional detective Philo Vance. The detective solves a mystery built around a nursery rhyme. This is the first nursery-rhyme mystery book. One of the characters is John Pardee, a mathematician and chess expert. His one passion was solving chess problems. Emanuel Lasker, Edward Lasker, Capablanca, Marshall, and Tartakower are mentioned in the story. A funny line in the story is “And I know a couple of chess masters who need nurses to dress and feed ‘em.”

In 1928, H. Russell Wakefield (1888-1964) wrote Professor Pownall’s Oversight, a chess ghost story. A man who doesn’t like to lose, challenges his old school rival to a game of chess. Soon, the man realizes that he is going to lose to his opponent when the game is continued the next day. To avoid defeat, he murders his rival that night, wins the match by default, and is sent on to an international chess competition. Every game in the new tournament is spoiled, however, when the ghost of his old “friend” stands behind his flesh-and-blood opponent and guides his hand to the one perfect move.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) wrote The Defense (Zashchita Luzhina or The Luzhin Defense) in 1929, his third novel, but under the pen name V. Sirin. It was first published in 1930 in the Russian émigré quarterly “Sovremennye Zapiski.” It was translated into English in 1964. The main character, Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin, suffers from mental problems because of his obsession with chess. As his obsession with chess grows, he becomes socially detached and physically unhealthy. He later has a nervous breakdown during his world championship chess match and committed suicide at the end of the novel by jumping out a bathroom window. The character of Luzhin is based on Curt von Bardeleben, a chess master Nabokov knew personally. Bardeleben committed suicide by jumping out a window. The book was also influenced by the Soviet film “Chess Fever” made in 1925. In 2000, the book was made into a movie, starring John Turturro.

In 1935, Nobel prize winner in Literature (1981) Elias Canetti (1905-1994) write Auto-da-Fe, his only work of fiction. The original title was Die Blendung, “The Blinding.” The title refers to the burning of heretics by the Inquisition. Canetti finished the manuscript in 1931 and had it published in his home town at that time, Vienna, 1935. It is Canetti’s first publication. It was published in English in 1946. The main character, Klein, meets a humbacked dwarf called Fischerle who fancies himself as a world chess champion. Fischerle spends his time fantasizing about becoming wealthy and winning the world chess championship in America, then building himself a palace. He then fantasizes that he will become an American citizen, drop the –le from his name, and become Fischer. How ironic that Canetti predicted the first official American world chess champion would be named Fischer before Fischer was born in 1943.

In 1935, Dorthy L. Sayers (1893-1957) wrote the mystery novel Gaudy Night. It is a classic British murder mystery with amateur detectives Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. A chess board plays a significant part in the book. A ghost invades Harriet’s room and crushes the ivory chess set, a beautiful collector’s set and recent gift from Peter. In the novel, Sayers writes that chess was the world’s most wearisome amusement.

In 1938, Nobel prize winner in literature (1969) Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) wrote Murphy, his first published novel. In the novel, the protagonist Murphy takes a job as a male nurse in a mental hospital (the Magdalen Mental Mercyseat) where he plays chess with Mr Endon, a schizophrenic patient there. All the moves are in the novel, which lasts 43 moves. Murphy was written at a time when Beckett was undergoing psychoanalysis in London and playing a lot of chess.

In 1939, Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) wrote a crime novel, The Big Sleep. It is the first novel to feature detective Philip Marlowe. The entire novel represents a game of chess. Each character is a piece, and the name of the game is survival. Chandler wrote, ““I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights.”

In 1941, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) published Nightfall. The story includes a piece about a chess game played on a multi-chess board with six players. In 1968, the Science Fiction Writers of America voted Nightfall as the best science fiction short story ever written. When the short story was expanded into a novel, multi-chess had been changed to stochastic chess.

In 1941, Robert Heinlein wrote Methuselah’s Children, which was serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in the July, August, and September 1941 issues. Andrew Jackson Libby and Captain Rufus King play a game of chess, which starts out 1.e4 Nf6 (the novel uses descriptive notation).

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) wrote The Royal Game (or Chess Story; Schachnovelle in the original German) in 1941. One of the passengers on a ship traveling from New York to Buenos Aires is the world chess champion Mirko Czentovic, who had just finished a coast-to-coast exhibition in the USA and was now going to Argentina for an exhibition. The other chess player is Dr. B. Earlier, Dr. B stole a chess book of past masters’ chess games while in prison and put in isolation. He plays over all the games constantly, learning each one until they overwhelm his imagination to such an extent that he becomes consumed by chess. While in the cruise, Dr. B. challenges the world champion in an off-hand game and beats him. The world champion immediately demands a return game to restore his honor. In the return match, the world champion plays as slowly as possible to irritate his opponent, driving Dr. B. mad as he gets more and more impatient. This culminates in an incorrect move and Dr. B quits the game and walks away, saying “…it is the last time that I yield to the temptation of chess.” Czentovic then says, “Too bad. The attack wasn’t at all badly conceived. The man certainly has lots of talent for an amateur.” The novella was published in 1942, after the author’s death by suicide. After Zweig edited the final draft in Brazil, his wife typed up the manuscript and sent it to New York with a letter to his publisher. Shortly afterwards, they were found dead, a double suicide. In 1960, the novella was made into a movie called Brainwashed.

In 1945, Julien Gracq (1910-2007) wrote Un Beau Tenebreux (A Beautiful Dark). Chess is a major theme in the novel. Alekhine, Botvinnik, Morphy, Rubinstein, and Breyer are all mentioned.

In 1946, Henry Kuttner (1915-1958), whose pen name was Lewis Padgett (along with his wife, C.L. Moore), wrote the novella The Fairy Chessmen, which was published in the January and February issues of “Astounding Science Fiction.” It was later published as Chessboard Planet and The Far Reality. In 1951, a collection of two of his science fiction novels was published, called Tomorrow and Tomorrow & The Fairy Chessmen. A mathematician, Eli Wood, whose research involves a type of chess played with variable rules (fairy chess) is the only one able to solve an equation from the future, based on fairy chess.

George Orwell (1903-1950), whose real name was Eric Blair, has several references of chess, chess problems, and a Chess Committee in his novel 1984, written in 1948 and published in 1949. The chess pieces symbolize the players in the great political game. Chess is used to sum up and illuminate many of the themes of the book. While regarding a position on a chessboard, the main character, Winston Smith, reflects on the powerlessness of the individual within a totalitarian regime. Orwell wrote, “He examined the chess problem and set out the pieces. It was a tricky ending, involving a couple of knights. ‘White to play and mate in two moves.’ Winston looked up at the portrait of Big Brother. White always mates, he thought with a sort of cloudy mysticism. Always, without exception, it is so arranged. In no chess problem since the beginning of the world has black ever won. Did it not symbolize the eternal, unvarying triumph of Good over Evil? The huge face gazed back at him, full of calm power. White always mates.”

In 1949, Lord Dunsany wrote “Jorkens’s Problem,” which was first published in CHESS magazine in January 1949. It was later published in The Ghosts of the Heaviside Layer, and Other Fantasms, a collection of stories by Lord Dunsany published in 1980.

In 1949, Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) published Hide and Seek. A man on Phobos was being sought for by guided missiles and the TV screen was compared to a chessboard, more men were on the chessboar now, and the game was a little deadlier.

In 1950, The Sack was published by William Morrison. The Sack was a creature that could answer any questions. The Sack found itself giving advice to bitter rivals, so that it seemed to be playing a game of Interplanetary Chess.

In 1950, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) wrote a science fiction novel called Pebble in the Sky. It was his first novel. He included a chess game based on a game by Boris Verlinsky and Grigory Levenfish, played in the 1924 USSR championship. In the novel, the protagonist Joseph Schwartz, who is hurled into the future from 1947 to 8,000 years later, plays a chess game with an elderly man named Grew. Asimov originally wrote the story in 1947 under the title “Grow Old With Me” for the magazine Startling Stories, but it was rejected. In Chapter 11, Asimov wrote: “Chess, somehow, hadn’t changed, except for the names of the pieces. It was as he remembered it, and therefore it was always a comfort to him. At least, in this one respect, his poor memory did not play him false. Grew told him of variations of chess. There was four-handed chess, in which each player had a board, touching each other at the corners, with a fifth board filling the hollow in the center as a common No Man’s Land. There were three- dimensional chess games in which eight transparent boards were placed one over the other and in which each piece moved in three dimensions as they formerly moved in two, and in which the number of pieces and pawns were doubled, the win coming only when simultaneous check of both enemy kings occurred. There were even the popular varieties, in which the original position of the chessmen were decided by throws of the dice, or where certain squares conferred advantages or disadvantages to the pieces upon them, or where new pieces with strange properties were introduced.”

In 1951, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) wrote the short story, All the King’s Horses. A prisoner, Colonel Bryan Kelly, is forced to play his Chinese captor a game of chess after his plane crashes in China. The prisoner’s family and companions (16 prisoners all together) are the actual pieces. Every piece that is captured will be immediately executed. If Kelly wins, he and his surviving pieces will be freed. The title comes from a line in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. The story can also be found in his collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House, first published in 1968.

Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) wrote a science fiction novel called The Rolling Stones in 1952. It was also published under the name Space Family Stone in England. A condensed version of the novel was published in Boys’ Life in 1952 under the title “Tramp Space Ship.” One of the characters, Lowell Stone (Buster), is only 4 years old but beats his grandmother at chess. He is also telepathic, which may explain his chess victories. He mentions that it is no fun playing chess by telephone since he can’t tell what the opponent is thinking. In the novel, there was an announcement of the Mars chess championship.

In 1953, Charles Harness (1915-2005) wrote The Chessplayers, which was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction in the October 1953 issue. It is a short story of a chess club (the K Street Chess Club) that runs across a professor, Dr. Schmidt, who claims he has a chess-playing rat named Zeno. Schmidt wants to have his pet rat play the whole chess club in a simultaneous exhibition. At the end of the story, the immigration officer who has to take away the professor says to the Club Treasurer, “There wasn’t really a rat playing chess in there [the chess club], was there?” The club treasurer responded, “No. There wasn’t any rat in there. And no human beings, either. Just chessplayers.”

In 1953, Jonathan Burke (John Frederick Burke) (1922- ) published Chessboard, which was his first science fiction story, published in New Worlds magazine.

In 1954, Poul Anderson (1926-2001) wrote a short story called The Immortal Game, published in the February 1954 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The computerized chess pieces don’t know they are merely acting out old moves and they later develop delusions of free will, loyalty, melodrama, and prose. The basis of this short story is based on the real immortal game between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritsky in 1851. It was later included in The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fourth Series, published in 1955 and Pawn to Infinity by Fred Saberhagen.

In 1954, Arthur C. Clarke published Armanents Race. The communist in the story peaceably studies a chess-board in the corner of a room.

William Golding (1911-1993), the 1983 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, wrote Lord of the Flies in 1954. One of the quotes from the novel is “The only trouble was that he would never be a very good chess player.”

In 1955, Roger Lee Vernon (1924-1980) wrote the short story “The Chess Civilization,” published in The Space Frontiers.

In 1955, Vladimir Nabokov wrote the novel Lolita where the main character Humbert Humbert plays three games of chess. In the novel, Humbert and Gaston play chess “two or three times weekly” and he links Lolita with the Queen in their game. The novel was made into a film in 1962, directed by Stanley Kubrick (a chess player) and starring James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers, and Sue Lyon.

In 1956, Asimov published The Dead Past, first published in the April 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Scientists were not expected to write or be grand masters of chess. That’s what specialists were for. Scholars were forbidden from working outside their narrow field of specialization.

In 1956, Ian Fleming (1908-1964) wrote From Russia, With Love, which was published in 1957. One of the villains, Tov Kronsteen, is a chess grandmaster. In the novel, Fleming wrote, “What did these people amount to? Bond remembered cold, dedicated, chess-playing Russians; brilliant, neurotic Germans; silent, deadly, anonymous men from Central Europe.” In another chapter, he wrote, “These Russians are great chess players. When they wish to execute a plot, they execute it brilliantly. The game is planned minutely, the gambits of the enemy are provided for. They are foreseen and countered…I have a feeling that you and I and this girl are pawns on a very big board – that we are being allowed our moves because they do not interfere with the Russian game.” In the novel, Ian Fleming opens chapter 7 by writing, “The two faces of the double clock in the shiny, domed case looked out across the chess-board like the eyes of some huge sea monster that had peered over the edge of the table to watch the game. The two faces of the chess clock showed different times.” In the novel, Colonel Tov Kronsteen, a chess grandmaster, is the Head of the Planning Department of SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, as head of the planning department. He helps devise a plan to trap James Bond by providing a SMERSH encryption machine, then killing him. In the novel, Kronsteen is champion of Moscow for two years in a row and is playing in the championship tournament for his third year. His opponent is Tov Makharov, chess champion of Soviet Georgia. In the novel, the chess game was described as a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Meran Variation. The novel says that Kronsteen waited for three minutes before accepting his opponent’s resignation. He later had to explain to his superior why he did not obey his order of returning to SMERSH at once and waited 3 minutes before accepting his opponent’s resignation. Kronsteen explained, “To the public, Comrade General, I am a professional chess player. If, with only three minutes to go, I had received a message that my wife was being murdered outside the door of the tournament hall, I would have not raised a finger to save her. My public knows that. They are dedicated to the game as myself. Tonight, if I had resigned the game and had come immediately upon receipt of that message (YOU ARE REQUIRED THIS INSTANT), 5,000 people would have known that it could only be on the orders of such a department as this. There would have been a storm of gossip. My future comings and goings would have been watched for clues. It would have been the end of my cover. In the interests of State Security, I waited three minutes before obeying the order. Even so, my hurried departure will be the subject of much comment.” In the novel, Kronsteen does not die as in the movie, and never encounters James Bond.

In 1957, Arthur C. Clarke published The Other Side of the Sky. On a space ship there was a microfilm library, a magnetic billiard table, lightweight chess sets, and other novelties for bored spacemen.

In 1957, Max Frisch (1911-1991) wrote a novel called Homo faber. Ein Bericht. The first English edition appeared in 1959. Walter Faber always has a pocket chess set and plays chess when he can. The novel was made into a 1991 film called Voyager, starring Sam Shepard and Julie Delpy.

In 1957, Gerald Vance wrote the short story Equation of Doom, published in Amazing Stories in February 1957. Margot Dennison had to play chess with proto-man.

In 1958, Charles De Vet (1911-1997) wrote the novelette Second Game, published in Astounding in March 1958. The novel was reissued in 1962 with Katherine Maclean as Cosmic Checkmate, and reissued again in 1981 as Second Game. An Earthman is sent to investigate a hostile planet (Velda) whose inhabitants all play a chess-like game, played on a 13×13 chessboard. Their social advancement depends on their proficiency in the game. The earthling narrator, a chess champion, is equipped with an “annotator” which is an artificial intelligence addition to his brain. He comes to Velda and challenges all comers saying that he can beat anyone in the second game. He probe’s the weakness of his opponents in the first game, then is able to always win the second game.

In 1959, Brian Aldiss (1925- ) wrote The Canopy of Time, previously known as Galaxies Like Grains of Sand. War was fought between planets as stylized as chess. War was being waged that was very complicated, like 3-D chess with obscure motivations and strict rules of chivalry.

In 1960, Peter Beagle (1939- ) wrote A Fine and Private Place. It has dozens of chess references. When Michael, a dead person (poisoned by his wife), wants to play a game of chess with Jonathan Rebeck in a mausoleum, Rebeck was surprised and thought Michael did not like to play chess. Michael responded sarcastically, “I like chess. I am very fond of chess. I’m crazy about chess. Let’s play chess.” A talking raven had stolen some of the chess pieces from department stores to make up the chess set.

Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885-1970) wrote The Chess Players – A Novel of New Orleans and Paris in 1960, centered around the life of Paul Morphy. In the 1950s, she purchased the historic Beauregard House in the New Orleans French Quarter. The house was the childhood home of Paul Morphy. The original manuscript was in 13 notebooks. The bibliography for the novel lists 78 sources. The novel is regarded as one of the most exhaustively researched books ever written about a chess player.

In 1961, Frederic Brown (1906-1972) published Recessional, where the protagonists are chessmen. The story portrays a battle that turns out to be a chess game.

In 1961, Cordwainer Smith published Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, which appeared in Galaxy Magazine. The Elders of the Guild of Thieves welcomed Benjacomin Bozart back to his planet comparing his work like the opening move in a brand new game of chess and that there had been a gambit like this before.

In 1962, Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) wrote The 64-Square Madhouse. It appeared in the May 1962 issue of If magazine. It is about a chess-playing computer that wins the World Chess Championship.

In 1963, Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) published A Rose for Eccleslasteswhich appeared in the November 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was nominated for the 1964 Hugo Award for Short Fiction. The protagonist, a poet named Gallinger, settled in Greenwich Village and learned to play chess before becoming the first human to learn the language of Martians.

In 1965, John Brunner (1934-1995) wrote a science fiction novel called The Squares of the City. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1966. It is a story of urban class warfare taking place in the fictional South American capital city of Vados. The people move in a structure based on a world championship chess game between William Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin in 1892. It is a scene of a flesh and blood game of chess where the unwitting pawns are real people. The action goes move for move with the Steinitz-Chigorin game, every piece on the board having a human counterpart. All the people in the book are chess-mad. Most of the characters are environmentally being manipulated as chess pieces. When they are exchanged, they are killed or jailed. The Forward was written by Edward Lasker.

In 1966, Woody Allen published a humorous chess story called The Gossage-Vardebedian Papers in the January 22, 1966 issue of New Yorker magazine. It was a short story written as a series of letters between Gossage and Vardebedian playing a game of correspondence chess. After the game, they decided to play correspondence Scrabble. In 1971, it was published in Getting Even, his first collection of humorous stores.

In 1966, Robert Heinlein wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He mentions the Luna City Chess Club.

In 1968, James Whitfield Ellison wrote Master Prim. The game in the novel was based on the game between Alekhine and Sterk, Budapest 1921. The character, Grandmaster Julian Prim, was based on Bobby Fischer. Ellison used Fischer quotes from intervies, almost without changing a word.

Anthony Glyn (1922-1998) wrote The Dragon Variation in 1969, which has a chess theme. A lady, Mrs. Joann Oppenheimer, the #2 ranked U.S. ladies player, trains a boy, Jeff Falkner, to become a chess champion after he beat a Soviet grandmaster in a simul, followed by beating the world champion the next day. Some of the action takes place at the Manhattan Chess Club.

In 1969, Frank Herbert (1920-1986) wrote Whipping Star. Miss Abnethe,a psychotic human female with immense power and wealth, is described as a person who castles in chess when she doesn’t have to.

In 1969, Dahlov Ipcar (1917- ) wrote a young adult novel called The Warlock of Night. It is based on a real chess game between two grandmasters.

Poul Anderson’s Circus of Hells, published in 1970, mentions chess. Dominic Flandy plays chess with a computer. The protagonists find themselves stranded on a planet where a bored computer has constructed machines in the shape of chess pieces, and spends its time playing out a gigantic game of chess on the surface of the planet.

In 1970, Asimov wrote Waterclap, which appeard in the May 1970 issue of If magazine. Demerest asks Bergen why he met so few people at Ocean-Deep. Bergen replies that they are either asleep , watching films, or playing chess.

In 1972, Gene Wolfe published The Fifth Head of Cerberus. He mentions holographic chessmen and the movement of a lady like an onyx chessman on a polished board that reminded the character of a Black Queen.

Alexander Cockburn wrote Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death in 1974.

In 1974, Schwartz Between the Galaxies was published by Robert Silverberg. Dr. Schwartz, an anthropologist, travels to Papua in a rocket. He compares his chosen profession as empty, foolish, and useless as playing a game of chess.

Isaac Asimov wrote The Winnowing, which was published in the February 1976 edition of Analog magazine. Peter Affare, chairman of the World Food Organization, came frequently to Dr. Aaron Rodman’s laboratories for chess. He wanted Rodman to add selective poisons to certain food shipments to over-populated areas to control the world population, which was suffering from acute famine.

In 1976, Patrick Alexander (1926-1997) wrote his first novel, Death of a Thin-Skinned Animal. It features a chess tournament that British organizer Stewart Patrick had organized. This novel won the Crime Writers’ Association “John Creasey Memorial Award.” In 1991 it was made into a move called Le Professionnel.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) mentioned chess in his very short story Quarantine, first published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, first issue, Vol 1, No. 1, Spring 1977. Clarke was challenged to write a story so short that it could fit on the back of a postcard. Earth’s flaming debris still filled half the sky when the question filtered up to Central from the Curiosity Generator. Here it is. “Why was it necessary? Even though they were organic, they had reached Third Order Intelligence.” “We had no choice: 5 earlier units became hopelessly infected when they made contact.” “Infected? How? The microseconds dragged slowly by, while Central tracked down the few fading memories that had leaked past the Censor Gate, when the heavily-buffered Reconnaissance Circuits had been ordered to self-destruct. “They encountered a – problem – that could not be fully analyzed within the lifetime of the Universe. Though it involved only 6 operators, they became totally obsessed by it.” “How is that possible?” “We do not know: we must never know. But if those 6 operators are ever re-discovered, all rational computing will end.” “How can they be recognized?” “That also we do not know; only the names leaked through before the Censor Gate closed. Of course, they mean nothing.” “Nevertheless, I must have them.” The Censor voltage started to rise; but it did not trigger the Gate. “Here they are: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn.”

In 1978, William Shepherd wrote The Chessmen, which was published in the November 1978 issue of Omni magazine. Dosiev, Andreievich, and Stalin play chess. Playing with particular chessmen makes you drowsy. Stalin then burns the pieces when he feels affected as his henchmen hurry out to tell the people of the city that Stalin won again.

In 1978, Ellen Raskin wrote the young adult books, The Westing Game. Chess is an overlaying theme throughout the story showing up in clues and character developments. The Judge, Theo, and Turtle play chess against Westing. The Judge calls herself a pawn. Otis calls himself a king. The Crow is called the queen.

Waldemar Lysiak wrote The Chess Player in 1980. It is centered on a game of chess between Napoleon Bonaparte and The Turk.

In 1981, Isaac Asimov wrote a science fiction short story called The Perfect Fit. He referred to a 3-dimensional chess game which was a game with 8 chessboards stacked upon each other, making the playing area cubic rather than square.

In 1981, Kent Smith wrote a novel, Incident at the Sicilian Dragon. It concerns a mythical chess club in San Francisco called The Sicilian Dragon where a grisly crime has been committed.

In 1982, John Caris wrote Reality Inspector. This may be the first computer-hacking novel. A world chess championship match played at the Cow Palace in San Francisco is the backdrop of this science fiction detective story. Actual chess games are being used while the main computer of the Federal Reserve is being hacked into. Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, and Viktor Korchnoi are mentioned. The challenger for the world championship match is a woman, Mary Rainbow, playing Sam Runner.

In 1982, Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard, wrote the short story Kokomu. It is mostly about the game of Go. It was published in Pawn to Infinity.

In 1982, Fred Saberhagen (1930-2007) published Pawn to Infinity with Joan Saberhagen. It is one of the greatest collection of fantasy and science fiction stories to involve chess or a chess-like game.

Walter Tevis wrote The Queen’s Gambit in 1983. The main protagonist, Beth Harmon, is a chess player. Heath Ledger was trying to get if filmed before he died.

Fernando Arrabal (1932- ) is a Spanish playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist, and poet. He is also a chess player and has written about chess. In 1983, he wrote The Tower Struck by Lightning. It is a novel that takes place during the course of a final world championship match in Paris.

In 1983, Tom Clancy (1947-2013), who was president of his university chess club at Loyola University, wrote his first novel, The Hunt for Red October, which was published in 1984. The only reference to chess was this line: “Ryan followed the two admirals out of the room. He spent two hours watching Painter move ships around the ocean like a chess master with his pieces.”

In 1984, Warren Murphy (1933- ) and Molly Cochrane wrote the novel Grandmaster. It is a story about a child chess prodigy who is raised by Tibetan monks and later works for the CIA. The book was the winner of the Edgar Award. After the completion of the novel, Warren Murphy and Molly Cochrane got married.

In 1986, Ian Watson wrote Queenmagic, Kingmagic. Two kingdoms have been locked in a war waged according to the strict rules of chess. Two opposing pawns fall in love and seek a way out of their world before its inevitable end.

In 1986, John Wheatcroft (1925- ) wrote a short story called, “The Forfeit,” published in his collection Slow Exposures. Military veterans in Honolulu play chess as they recuperate from war injuries. One man has to use a steel claw in place of a missing hand to move the pieces.

In 1987, David Gerrold (1944- ) wrote Chess With a Dragon. The title does not refer to an actual game. Humans have to negotiate with an alien creature from a race called the Dragons.

Katherine Neville (1945- ) wrote her first novel The Eight in 1988 with a chess theme. It is about a computer expert and accountant, Catherine Velis, searching for the chess pieces of the Montglane Service, a legendary chess set that belonged to Charlemagne. She is hired to recover the chess pieces. Anyone possessing all the chess pieces will have unlimited power. A sequel, The Fire, appeared in 2008.

In 1988, Asimov published Man as the Ultimate Gadget. It was later published as The Smile of the Chipper in the anthology Gold. Chippers were people whose natural mental abilities were augmented by computer chips. He compared chippers to chess grandmasters. Put them in the same room and they would automatically challenge each other.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982 Nobel Prize in Literature winner) mentions chess in several of his works. In Love in the Time of Cholera, written in 1989, the doctor and his friend plays chess until his friend commits suicide.

Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One in 1989, with references to chess. The doctor in the book is a chess player.

In 1989, Brad Leithauser (1953- ) wrote Hence, in which a chess genius named Timothy and plays against an MIT computer (ANNDY) for the world chess championship.

In 1989, John Bellairs (1938-1991) wrote The Chessmen of Doom. Johnny Dixon and his friends must unravel the riddle in Peregrine Childermass’s will. It was the 7th book in the Johnny Dixon series.

In 1990, Arturo Perez-Reverte (1951- ) wrote the novel La Table de Flandes (The Flanders Panel). It was translated into English in 1994. Julia, an art restorer tries to solve the riddle of a 15th-century painting, the “Game of Chess,” showing the Duke of Flanders and his knight playing a game of chess. She discovers a painted-over message on the 1471 painting which reads, “Who killed the knight?” Julia works with a local chess master to uncover a mystery of a 500-year-old murder.

In 1990, Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) published A Graveyard for Lunatics. Roy asks himself what kind of game is this and the only way to find out is by countermoving the chesspieces. He also published The Martian Chronicles in which humans left Earth to inhabit Mars. Starlight glitter on the spires of a little Martian town, no bigger than a game of chess, in the blue hills.

In 1991, Fernando Arrabel (1932- ) wrote his first novel, The Tower Struck by Lightning. Ex-Jesuit seminarian Elias Tarsis, an Andorran Spaniard, plays a world championship match with Marc Amary, a swiss physicist and Marxist terrorist. The title refers to a Tarot card depicting a column struck by lightning which denotes the danger to the human mind struck by excessive pride.

Chess is mentioned in Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick (1950- ), published in 1992. Gunther Weil works as a laborer on the moon and wants to play chess. But nobody plays chess anymore. It’s a game for computers.

In 1992, Greg Bear wrote Anvil of Stars. The Brothers or cords, worm-like creatures, discovered chess, and it became a release for them. They would play chess all day on a space ship without eating or sleeping. One of the cords died while playing chess.

Paolo Maurensig (1943 – ) wrote his first novel, La variante di Luneburg (The Luneberg Variation), in 1993, which has a chess theme. A murdered man, Dieter Frisch, was obsessed with chess.

In 1994, Salman Rushdie (1947- ) wrote “The Courter” which was published in his collection of his short stories, East, West. Rushdie uses the chess game in the story as a metaphor to depict the constant battle of balance that a character of two sides, or two cultures, must maintain. The narrator, the courter, Dodo, and Mary all play chess.

Isaac Singer (1978 Nobel Prize in Literature) had a chess prodigy character in his book Shadows of the Hudson, written in 1997.

Chess is mentioned in The Fleet of Stars, written by Poul Anderson in 1997. Kinna Ronay beat he father in two games out of three while on Mars.

In 1997, J.K. Rowling (1965- ) wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Ron teaches Harry wizard chess. Harry and Ron engage in a game of Wizard’s Chess. The wizards are later involved in a living chess match.

Kurt Vonnegut has a short story with a chess theme in the short story “All the King’s Horses,” from Welcome to the Monkey House, written in 1998.

Charles Yaffe wrote Alekhine’s Anguish: A Novel of the Chess World in 1999.

Poul Anderson’s Operation Luna, published in 1999, mentions chess a few times. Balawahdiwa watches animated chess pieces fighting the game out on a chessboard. One of the characters had a couple of bone chessmen from the middle ages.

In 2002, Tom Clancy wrote Red Rabbit. It has several references to chess. Zaitsev, the KGB man played and lost to Boris Spassky. Oleg plays chess. Ryan says he as an ex-marine, not a chess master.

In 2003, Stephen Baxter (1957- ) wrote Coalescent. In old Britain, the children of Regina played a fast-moving game like chess played only with rooks that were made of colored glass counters.

In 2003, Walter Tevis (1928-1984) wrote The Queen’s Gambit: A Novel. An 8-year-old orphan girl, Beth Harmon, turns out to be a chess genius. By the age of 16, she is competing for the U.S. Open championship.

Arturo Perez-Reverte wrote The Flanders Panel, written in 2004, with a chess theme.

In 2005, Darren Shan (1972- ) wrote Lord Loss, the first novel in the Demonata series. The novel is set in Ireland and is told in present tense first person through Grubbs Grady, a child whose family are all chess players.

In 2005, Jack McDevitt wrote Seeker. At the Museum of Alien Life there is a Hall of Humans. One of the displays was a chess game in progress.

In 2005, Paolo Bacigalupi published The Calorie Man in the October 2005 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Lalji of India plays chess in New Orleans.

Ronan Bennett (1956- ) is an Irish novelist and screenwriter. In 2006, he wrote a novel called Zugzwang. It takes place in St. Petersburg in 1914 during an international chess tournament. It was published week-by-week in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer. The book opens with the murder of a newspaper editor names Gulko.

In 2006, Catherine Asaro wrote Alpha. Alpha was a gorgeous, superintelligent android. The novel mentions modern forms of the Turing test and references the Gary Kasparov vs. Deep Blue computer match that had occurred decades ago.

In 2007, Michael Chabon (1963- ) wrote The Yiddish Poliecemen’s Union, which features a plot settled around chess, murder of a chess prodigy named Emanuel Lasker, and the position on the chess board at the murder scene. The novel won a number of science fiction awards: the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for Best Novel.

In 2008, David Benioff (1970- ) wrote a historical fiction novel called City of Thieves. The story takes place during the siege of Leningrad. Chess plays an important part of the story near the end. The character Lev is a chess master and plays a game of chess with a hated Nazi soldier.

In 2010, Benjamin Crowell published Petopia in the June 2010 issue of Asimovs. Raphael ignores his chores and spends the day at a chessboard with a chess book full of diagrams. He later plays chess with an artificial intelligence toy named Jelly, then with some others using a chess clock to play blitz chess. He starts hustling other people for money. Jelly was used as a paper-weight for the money on the chess table, but was Jelly helping Raphael cheat and win at chess?

In 2013, grandmaster Jesse Kraai (1972- ) published Lisa: A chess Novel. A teenage girl named Lisa, who has Asperger Syndrome, is taught chess by Russian émigré GM Igor Ivanov. Lisa goes from being self-absorbed with her personal journal to being obsessed with chess. She struggles in school and has attention deficits and behavioir problems. The only people Lisa repsects are her chess coaches, Ruth and Igor Ivanov. Kraii, who has a PhD in philosophy, took three years off of chess to write the novel.

– Bill Wall


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