Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Wanting to play chess against yourself is a paradox, like jumping over your own shadow.”

But what fun is life if words like manic, insanity, paradox and contradiction are not put to test once in a while? Even at the cost of years of discipline and rationality?

Stefan Zweig surely put his own constructs up the wall when he created this ingenious piece of art. Yes, it was pure art; outright splendid form of art that overwhelms the realms of conventional thinking and forces the mind to stretch itself.

A World Chess Champion, heralded as one of the best ever to play the game, in his casual quest of pocketing a few dollars, enroute to a tournament, encounters a sudden change of fortune, when a remarkable twist of moves from a rather ordinary looking, albeit a tad hysterical, middle-aged man, hands him his first defeat in many years.

Shocked, quietly brazen and visibly inquisitive, he challenges his unknown victor to another game. Nothing more worthwhile to regain lost blood. On the insistence of the vociferous enthusiasts on the cruise, our unknown hero accepts the challenge.

Thus begins the artistic assembly of this man’s life, Dr.B as we come to call him. Zweig lends Dr.B an ordinary mind, with an extraordinary resilience. The human desire to overcome his limitations despite their crippling, almost strangling nature, is beautifully depicted in the little cell where Dr.B draws the most intelligent game, all within the confines of his mind. In the stunning recollection of the bygone era, Dr.B casts a dreamy net which holds layers of frantic moves, with the kings and pawns running helter-skelter, but never away from the shrewd line of sight of their master.

What happens when one genius meets another in the climax, of course, is as mind-boggling as your mind can make of it! But I wish I held a front-line ticket with a power to hop onto the thought train while it passed through these masterminds’ terrain.


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