F r den kultivierten Gro meister Dr B ist das Schachspiel mehr als eine geistige Besch ftigung Es wurde ihm einst zum berlebensmittel, denn in der zerm rbenden Einsamkeit seiner Gestapohaft hatte er aus dem strengen Regelwerk des Schachs seine Widerstandskraft gezogen Nun trifft er auf den Weltmeister Czentovic, einen stumpfen Charakter, der mit mechanischer Pr zision vorgeht Zwei Spielhaltungen prallen aufeinander und mit ihnen zwei Lebenswelten Die Schachnovelle Schach Novelle ist das eindrucksvolle Verm chtnis des schlie lich selbst am Leben verzweifelten Stefan Zweig nothing on earth exerts such pressure on the human soul as a void 19 Black White Which is it Which one is our nature We can be good, we can be cruel We praise ourselves saying being human entails being good We have daily proofs that is not necessary the case If we are meant to be good and we are not, our mind have lost the battle against a deviation Or against our true nature Now that is a depressing thought.I had this book on my to read shelf for months And I wasn t going to re nothing on earth exerts such pressure on the human soul as a void 19 Black White Which is it Which one is our nature We can be good, we can be cruel We praise ourselves saying being human entails being good We have daily proofs that is not necessary the case If we are meant to be good and we are not, our mind have lost the battle against a deviation Or against our true nature Now that is a depressing thought.I had this book on my to read shelf for months And I wasn t going to read it this soon A Goodreads group crossed my path and here I am I am so glad it did I was missing a brilliant, perceptive observer of the human condition Zweig had a keen eye to deal with the psychological aspects of human beings with the simplicity that characterizes great writers Humble erudition is what makes me love an author Complicated writing and pretentious words are fine if they are used properly otherwise, everything is forgettable I don t only need to know that you know let me learn too Black White The mind has to choose A million possibilities lying in a black and white board with sixty four little squares dividing A from B Day from night Good from evil A dichotomy present in every human life It is there, inside, waiting for a decision You are thinking Which path should I take Time Time is needed to decide And often it is not enough.Keep the pressure on, advance instead of defending 14 Zweig seems to be the kind of author that share the characters psyches without hesitation That help us understandEven while writing about how the mind is supposed to work, with the complexity that such a task entails But he succeeded and with a beautiful, simple and refreshing prose You feel what he wrote He tended to repeat keywords in order to emphasize a particular situation, thought, feeling, etc that embellishes the sentence with a unique melody.The novella starts with a recount of Mirko Czentovic s story, the world chess champion A young man whose ignorance was universal in all fields, but played chess like no one in the world and was now visiting my dear Buenos Aires As soon as Mirko had done his chores around the house, he sat stolidly in the living room with that vacant gaze seen in sheep out at pasture, paying not the least attention to what was going on around him 5 That was described as apathy To be able to switch off the inner processes that often haunt us, just for a minute, in order to subtract yourself from reality and dwell in reverie Or nothing To think nothing To want nothing To put the restless soul in a lethargic state without knowing what is going on around us WellAnyway, the boy learnt to play chess only by looking at some men playing it Hard to imagine, and I am not saying it because I tried that when I was younger But why on earth would I question that fact in literature Strangest things have happened Czentovic was a grotesque, simple minded boy lost in the world of the mind A boy that in a relatively short period of time, after tasting the bittersweet elixir of money and fame, became a cold, ostentatiously proud person Unfortunately, several times I had the unpleasant experience of seeing how a simple person that came from a humble background could turn into an arrogant figure after achieving some material success.Arrogance and confidence are two different things And that relies on the fact that despite his annoying pride, Czentovic was still insecure He never talked to well educated people because he feared he would say something stupid Behind that self absorbed body language, an overwhelming insecurity was hidden.There is psychological material in everyone, even in the apparently simplest man of all Black White A steppenwolf inside Which nature will defeat the other Does our opinion matter And, which one are we A B Both The reckless combination of light and darkness Always obsessively looking for a referent An answer A cure The permanence of sanity.You were left irredeemably alone with yourself, your body, and the four or five silent objects, table, bed, window, washbasin There was nothing to do, nothing to hear, nothing to see, you were surrounded everywhere, all the time, by the void, that entirely spaceless, timeless vacuum You walked up and down, and your thoughts went up and down with you, up and down, again and again But even thoughts, insubstantial as they may seem, need something to fix on, or they begin to rotate and circle aimlessly around themselves they can t tolerate a vacuum either You kept waiting for something from morning to evening, and nothing happened You waited again, and yet again Nothing happened You waited, waited, waited, you thought, you thought, you thought until your head was aching Nothing happened You were left alone Alone Alone 19 This novella was a delight to read All the characters amused me or disgusted me with the same intensity Zweig described them so vividly His writing reflects the characters mood with perfection I could almost hear the sneer coming from McConnor s rage after losing his first game I could almost see Czentovic s cold and defying eyes while playing his insensitive game Or Dr B predicting all the possible moves with ecstatic frenzy I suddenly became another eager witness in the middle of a growing excitement I could also feel the oppression of his soul while he was narrating his confinement in an empty room I read and absorbed it all His despair, his tedium, sorrow and fear I was to retch and retch on my own thoughts until they choked me 21 In conclusion, intriguing plot, interesting characters, situations described so vividly that you can almost touch them and a magnificent, accessible writing with the power to dazzle you until the end Yes and a thousand times yes Another writer to admire Black White And we are in the middle, surrounded by many combinations, many possibilities, paths and decisions Two sides of us coexisting in one body Perhaps, two people writing these rambling thoughts Thoughts andthoughts Questioning, torturing, haunting.We are in the middle No king has been defeated, yet Life ironically cries Checkmate.May 14, 14 Also on my blog Photo credit Photo 1 via schachzweig.dePhoto 2 via DataTracks I detect strong parallels between reading a novel and the game of chess there is the author sitting on one side, playing white, the reader on the other side, playing black instead of the chess board and chess pieces there is the novel the author s opening chapter is the chess player s opening, the middle of the novel is, of course, the middle game, and the closing chapter is the end game If both author and reader expand their literary horizons and deepen their appreciation of life s mysterie I detect strong parallels between reading a novel and the game of chess there is the author sitting on one side, playing white, the reader on the other side, playing black instead of the chess board and chess pieces there is the novel the author s opening chapter is the chess player s opening, the middle of the novel is, of course, the middle game, and the closing chapter is the end game If both author and reader expand their literary horizons and deepen their appreciation of life s mysteries, then both can declare checkmate.Stefan Zweig s Chess Story published by New York Review Books NYRB is 84 pages of literary counterpart to a master chess game of Capablanca or Kasparov, a novel where the first person narrator, an Austrian, just so happens to be on board a passenger steamer with a world chess champion by the name of Czentovic and also, as it turns out, a fellow Austrian referred to as Dr B, a man who tells the tale of how he came to play chess whilst a prisoner of the Gestapo If you tend to find novels by such giants as Proust, Joyce or Mann a bit intimidating but still would like to do a careful cover to cover read of a masterpiece, this is your book A special thanks to Joel Rotenberg for translating from the German to a most accessible and clear English And keeping in the spirit of a game of chess, below are several quotes from the novel SZ s moves as white paired with my comments countermoves as black Ruminating on what it takes to be a chess master, the narrator notes All my life I have been passionately interested in monomaniacs of any kind, people carried away by a single idea Theone limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world Zweig s novel takes place during the time of Nazi Germany and, of course, Hitler is considered one of the modern world s most notorious monomaniacs, combining gobbledygook notions of biology, race, history and national identity into his version of an unyielding jackboot philosophy of culture, a philosophy carried out in deadly practice by thousands of loyal Nazis, monomania crushing the lives of millions under its ideological hammer Parallels between Czentovic and the F hrer abound They did nothing other than subjecting us to complete nothingness For, as is well known, nothing on earth putspressure on the human mind than nothing you were hopelessly alone with yourself, with your body, and with these four or five mute objects, table, bed, window, washbasin you lived like a diver in a diving bell in the black sea of silence Confined to a hotel room by the Gestapo, cut off from the outside world, Dr B begins to go stir crazy in a world of silence and solitude, a conundrum touching on a major dilemma in the modern West the loss of the contemplative meditative dimension in life Silence and solitude could provide fertile ground for personal spiritual growth if one has the proper training but, alas, for most people, similar to Dr.B, silence and solitude is equated with a blank, a total nothingness I had not held a book in my hands, and there was something intoxicating and at the same time stupefying in the mere thought of a book, in which you could see words one after another, lines, paragraphs, pages, a book in which you could read, follow, take into your mind the new, different, diverting thoughts of another person Ah, isolation in silence and solitude heightens Dr B s appreciation for what many of us might take for granted the wonder of all the various levels of splendor in the simple pleasure of reading a book When we look closely, such simple pleasure contains infinite richness At first I played the games through quite mechanically yet gradually a pleasurable, aesthetic understanding awoke within me I grasped the fine points, the perils and rigors of attack and defense, the technique of thinking ahead, planning moves and countermoves, and soon I was able to recognize the personality and style of each of the chess masters as unmistakably as one knows a poet from only a few of his linesHow about that Beyond the bare mechanical lies the juice of the aesthetic dimension, that is, an experience of beauty, in this case, the beauty of chess s underlying structure on multiple levels each move, creative tactics and overarching strategy, especially the beauty of signature moves, tactics and strategies of individual chess masters My white self had no sooner made a move than my black self feverishly pushed forward On the level of chess, the white pieces vs the black pieces on the level of psychotherapy, we could consider two different aspects of the subconscious White Self vs Black Self Sidebar Too bad Dr B s chess book didn t contain chess problems constructed for one player When I was taken to be examined by a physician, in my derangement I had suddenly broken free, thrown myself at the window in the corridor and shattered the glass, cutting my hand you can still see the deep scar here At one point, Dr B notes how chess is a game of pure mental calculation, a game of pure reasoning with no element of chance Ironically, through pure chance, Dr B survives throwing himself at a window, since, in his derangement, he could easily have lost his life when the glass shattered So, in this sense, life is not a game of chess chance plays such a major part in everybody s life.During the chess game of Czentovic vs Dr.B, the narrator observes Suddenly there was something new between the two of them a dangerous tension, a passionate hatred They were no longer opponents testing their ability in a spirit of play, but enemies resolved to annihilate each other Czentovic delayed for a long time before making the first move It was clear to me that this was intentional Oh, how a game can so easily and quickly degenerate into a power play of egos bent on complete obliteration of the other how easily life can be brought down to the mindset of the Nazis.The narrator continues to watch he detects a profound change come over the ordinarily serene Dr B All the symptoms of abnormal excitation were clearly apparent I saw the perspiration appear on his brow while the scar on his hand became redder and stood outsharply than before Perhaps the author is reminding us that in our countering Nazi mentality we are continually prone to become no less brutal and one minded then a Nazi e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 An interesting short story that it s one of the most famous works by the writer Stefan Zweig that even sadly was published after his suicide d4 Bg4 When a story is presented in another language, some elements are lost in the translation, and I think that while Chess Story is a pretty good title, its original title was The Royal Game that I think it gives to the story an air of refinement, class and elegance dxe5 Bxf3 Besides my interest to try this author, I was intrig e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 An interesting short story that it s one of the most famous works by the writer Stefan Zweig that even sadly was published after his suicide d4 Bg4 When a story is presented in another language, some elements are lost in the translation, and I think that while Chess Story is a pretty good title, its original title was The Royal Game that I think it gives to the story an air of refinement, class and elegance dxe5 Bxf3 Besides my interest to try this author, I was intrigued about this short story that evidently was about the game of kings, chess I am not a good player of chess and I remember how an uncle of mine that he was the one who taught me, he always beat me, every single game, and only once I was able to beat him, I was still a little kid but I clearly remember still how I ran around the house celebrating my victory over my teacher Qxf3 dxe5 6 Bc4 Nf6 And interesting enough, I remember this time not so many long ago when I was on vacations in a jungle lodge along with my then girlfriend and meanwhile we were waiting for a lodge s boat for a river tour, quite early in the morning, we were on the lodge s game room and there was a chessboard She asked me if I was interested to play meanwhile the boat would be ready We play, she lost, and we never play chess any in the trip Qb3 Qe7 There is an odd effect when we lose on a chess game I think that anybody thinks that the victor is smarter than the loser Even, there is the odd custom to think that any chessplayer, and evena grandmaster must be a really intelligent person If someone is really good at poker, people can consider him her like a wiseguy and or a street smart , but in chess Oh, they must be intelligent Nc3 I remember a trivia about the movies of X Men that the production team had to look for a chess teacher for Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, since they needed to do some scenes playing chess, adn they didn t know how to play chess I couldn t believe it Two old BRITISH actors whom seemed so wise that didn t know how to play chess Again, the common preconception of society that intelligent people should know how to play chess Curiously enough, they didn t need to do any complicated moves and nevertheless they looked for a Chess Grandmaster to teach them c6 It was amusing how this short story reminded me about three TV episodes from the Star Trek franchise Let that be your Last Battlefield The Original Series, 1969 , where you have the last two surviving aliens after a terrible war between two races of a planet where ones had black on the left side of the body and white on the right side, and the others just the opposite positions of the same colors Peak Performance The Next Generation, 1989 , where a Federation strategist master, who is quite arrogant, sure of himself on his tactics knowledge, puts on test in war games to the Enterprise D s crew And finally Chain of Command Parts 1 2 The Next Generation, 1992 , where Captain Picard is captured and submitted to a cruel interrogation Since Chess Story was originally published on 1942, I wouldn t be surprised that the writers of those episodes took inspiration from several elements of this short story to develop their own scripts Bg5 b5 It s quite interesting that the narrator of this story, while he is present and even he interacts with the main characters, one doesn t know what is his name and even he is not really pivotal on the evolution of the events Nxb5 And commenting about that, it s quite odd to pick protagonist and antagonist in this story Sure, you can hasten on calling Czentovic as the antagonist and Dr B as the protagonist However, is that simple Both has complicated issues, both has conflictive personalities depending the situation Surely, you can sympathize easier with Dr B s past but is Czentovic really guilty of how he is now Or his own past is also kinda exculpatory of his current personality cxb5 Maybe Czentovic and Dr B are playing in black white boards but hardly they can be seen in so pragmatic absolutes, instead they have a lot of shades of gray Bxb5 Nbd7 0 0 0 Something that impacted me on the reading of this crafty short story is that both main characters, Czentovic and Dr B, they share an equal sad trait both lost the joy of playing chess Sure, both are masters on the royal game, but honestly, neither of them are enjoying to play it any Rd8 Rxd7 Rxd7 I couldn t dare to know for real what Stefan Zweig wanted to tell to his readers but at least to me, I got an important lesson You shouldn t never to get so obsessive while doing what you do for love, reaching a level where you don t enjoy any of doing it Rd1 Everybody has passions but when you get obssesed about it, you lose the joy of doing it The most important thing is to keep enjoying whatever you do for the fun of doing it Qe6 Life is too short Enjoy whatever you do And even something that it s considered as a hobby, an activity of relaxation, can be perverted if you don t enjoy any while doing it Bxd7 Nxd7 Commenting about something else, I can t avoid to tell how much amusent provoked me when the priest, who took care of Czentovic, exclaimed Balaam s ass Honestly, I don t what a priest usually says when he is shocked or when he needs to curse, but reading that exclamation was priceless So funny Qb8 I am truly glad of having read this short story and I hope to read somematerial by this author in the future Nxb8 17 Rd8 Checkmate Nuff said My pleasure in playing became a desire to play, a mania, a frenzy, which permeated not only my waking hours but gradually my sleep too Chess was all I could think about, chess moves, chess problems were the only form my thoughts could take sometimes I awoke with a sweaty brow and understood that I must have unconsciously gone on playing even while I slept, and if I dreamt of people, all they did was move like the bishop or the rook, or hopscotch like the knight We never are formally intr My pleasure in playing became a desire to play, a mania, a frenzy, which permeated not only my waking hours but gradually my sleep too Chess was all I could think about, chess moves, chess problems were the only form my thoughts could take sometimes I awoke with a sweaty brow and understood that I must have unconsciously gone on playing even while I slept, and if I dreamt of people, all they did was move like the bishop or the rook, or hopscotch like the knight We never are formally introduced to Dr B We meet him during a chess match aboard a ship bound for South America when our narrator and some acquaintances of his are taking on a grand champion, Mirko Czentovic They are being beaten handily until Dr B steps forward out of pity or probablylikely being pushed by his own mania for the game I m not a fan of chess or any game for that matter I ve played some hands of poker without becoming too jittery, but for the most part, participating in games I m told it is an essential part of being social is not my cup of tea I will be sitting there, moving domino tiles about, or fiddling with scrabble squares, or waiting to move the Scottie dog I won t play at all unless it is understood I m always the Scottie to Park Place or Ventnor Avenue, and be wistfully moping for some intersection to come along so I can return to reading my books Which is a nice segway into what really began this obsession for Dr B It was a book Incarcerated by the Nazis, battered mentally and physically, with no relief from the boredom and anxiety between bouts of interrogation, he gets an opportunity to steal a book He takes the bookMy knees began to shake a BOOK For four months I had not held a book in my hands, and there was something intoxicating and at the same time stupefying in the mere thought of a book, in which you could see words one after another, lines, paragraphs, pages, a book in which you could read, follow, take into your mind the new, different, diverting thoughts of another personOf course, he is disappointed it is a chess book He would give an appendage for a novel by one of the great ones A book he can escape into and take a mental vacation somewhere far, far away from his present circumstances Needless to say, chess proves to be equally, if not , diverting for his feverish brain I do understand the concept of playing chess in your sleep I often catch myself reading in my sleep I wake up the next morning and realize I m as mentally fatigued as when I went to bed because I am reading page after page all night long As far as I know, I don t retain anything from these hours of reading, but maybe it is locked away in my brain somewhere waiting for a good thump on the head to spill it out into useful memory Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte.Stefan Zweig was one of the most widely, internationally read authors at his death in 1942 He wrote these long, complex sentences and paragraphs, but with puffs of air beneath them I just read and kept reading It was impossible to stop It was as if I had a stiff headwind behind me that pushed me along I didn t intend to read this book in one sitting, but his writing certainly compelled me to continue reading After all, one can t stop in the middle of a waxed slippery slide Zweig was understandably soul sad at what was happening in Germany and across Europe It was simply too much for him to live with He and his wife had a suicide pact and died together He was a monumental loss to literature Take it from me, I m the last person to want to read a book about chess, but the compelling elements of understanding the mind of Dr B make the chess merely a backdrop for the real game being played for the sanctity of his sanity Simply Brilliant If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at