de-en  Stefan Zweig: Schachnovelle - Kapitel 1
On the big passenger steamship which was supposed to depart from New York for Buenos Aires at midnight, the usual bustle and commotion of the last hour held sway. Guests from shore pushed confusedly in order to escort their friends. Telegraph boys with crooked hats shot through the saloons calling out names. Suitcases and flowers were dragged. Children ran curiously up and down the stairs, while the orchestra played imperturbably to the show on deck. I was in a conversation with an acquaintance, somewhat away from this turmoil on the promenade deck, when camera flashes sprayed harshly two or three times next to us – apparently some celebrity had been quickly interviewed and photographed by reporters just before departure. My friend looked and smiled. "You've got a rare bird there on board, Czentovic" And as my face obviously showed a blank expression in response to this information, he added as explanation, "Mirko Czentovic, the world chess champion. He has toured across America from east to west in tournament matches and is now traveling to Argentina for new triumphs." In fact, I now remembered this young world champion and even some details in connection with his spectacular career. My friend, a more attentive newspaper reader than I, could add a series of anecdotes to it. About a year ago, Czentovic was suddenly on par with the most established past masters of chess, such as Aljechin, Capablanca, Tartakower, Lasker, Bogoljubow. Not since the appearance of the seven year-old prodigy Rzecewski at the chess tournament in 1922 in New York had the entrance of a completely unknown person into the glorious guild caused such universal excitement. Because Czentovic's intellectual qualities did not seem to predict such a brilliant career from the outset. Soon the secret leaked out that this chess master was unable in his private life to write a sentence without orthographic error in any language, and as one of his angry peers wrathfully sneered, "his lack of education was equally universal in all areas." Son of an anemic South Slavic Danube river boatman whose tiny barge was run over one night by a grain steamer, the then twelve year-old had been taken in out of pity after his father's death by the priest of the remote village, and the good priest made a real effort with home tutoring to make up for what the closed-mouth, dull, broad-foreheaded child was unable to learn in the village school.

But the efforts were in vain. Mirko stared at the letters explained to him a hundred times; even for the simplest teaching objects, his clumsy brain lacked any holding power. When he was fourteen years old, he had to use his fingers every time he had to do calculations, and reading a book or a newspaper meant a special effort for the already adolescent boy. Yet Mirko could by no means be called unwilling or unruly. He did obediently what was asked of him, fetched water, split wood, worked in the fields, cleaned up the kitchen and reliably carried out, although with annoying slowness, every required service. What irritated the priest most about the pig-headed boy was his total indifference. He did nothing without special prompting, never asked a question, did not play with other boys and did not busy himself with anything unless someone expressly ordered it. As soon as Mirko had finished performing the household chores, he sat around rigidly in the room with that blank expression, like sheep have in the pasture, without taking the slightest notice in the events around him. Evenings, while the priest, puffing on a long peasant's pipe, played his usual three chess matches with the head gendarmerie, the stringy blond-haired boy sat silently nearby and stared with his heavy eyelids, seemingly drowsy and indifferent, at the checkered board.

One winter evening, while the two partners were absorbed in their daily game, the sound of a sleigh bells showed that it was coming closer and still closer from the village road. A peasant, his cap powdered with snow, hastily stomped in. His old mother was dying and the priest might hurry to give her the Last Rites in time. Without hesitation the priest followed him. The gendarmerie guard, who hadn't finished his glass of beer yet, lit a new pipe to say goodbye and was just preparing to put on the heavy shaft boots when he noticed how constantly Micko's gaze was fixed on the chessboard with the game that had been started. ...

"Well, do you want to finish the game?" he jested, totally convinced that the drowsy boy would not understand how to move a single piece on the board correctly. The boy stared shyly up, then nodded and sat down in the priest's seat. After fourteen moves, the chief constable was defeated and moreover had to admit that in no way had an accidentally careless move been the cause of his defeat. The second match was not any different.

"Balaam's Donkey!" the priest exclaimed in astonishment upon his return, explaining to the less biblically-versed head gendarmerie that already two thousand years before, a similar miracle had happened in that a dumb creature suddenly found the language of wisdom. Despite the late hour, the priest could not refrain from challenging his half-illiterate assistant to a duel. Mirko defeated him with ease as well. He played determinedly, slowly, imperturbably, without once lifting up his lowered broad forehead from the board. But he played with irrefutable self-confidence; neither the chief constable nor the priest was able to win one match against him over the next few days. The priest, better qualified than anyone to judge the otherwise backwardness of his pupil, now became really curious about how far this strange limited talent would stand up in a sterner test. After he had Mirko's shaggy, straw-colored hair cut at the village barbershop in order to make him somewhat presentable, he took him in his sleigh to the small neighboring village where in the cafe on the main square he knew of a corner where impassioned chess players played, to whom, based on experience, he did not measure up. It did not cause the slightest surprise with the group of local people when the priest pushed the flaxen-haired and rosy-cheeked fifteen year-old boy in his inwardly worn sheepskin and heavy, high jackboots into the coffeehouse, where the boy stood still in a corner, disconcerted with shy downcast eyes, until he was called over to one of the chess tables. In the first match Mirko was defeated because he had never seen the so-called Sicilian opening at the good priest's home. In the second match he played to a draw against the best player. From the third and fourth match on, he defeated all of them, one after another.

Now, exciting things happen extremely infrequently in a small south Slavic provincial village; so, the first appearance of this rural champion immediately became a sensation for the assembled notables. It was unanimously decided that the boy wonder would absolutely have to stay in the village until the next day so that they could call together the other members of the chess club and most of all notify the old Count Simczic, a chess fanatic, at his mansion. The priest, who looked at his ward with a completely new pride but did not want to miss his obligatory Sunday service over his joy of discovery, agreed to leave Mirko behind for a further test. The young Czentovic was given lodgings in the hotel at the expense of the chess corner and saw that evening a water closet for the first time. The chess room was overflowing the following Sunday afternoon. Mirko, sitting motionless for four hours in front of the board, defeated one player after another without speaking a word or even looking up. Finally, a simultaneous chess match was proposed. It took a while before they could make it understandable to the unschooled Mirko that in a simultaneous chess match he would have to play alone against different players. But as soon as Mirko understood this convention, he quickly went to work, going slowly from table to table in his heavy, creaky shoes and in the end won seven of the eight matches.

Now big consultations began. Although this new champion did not belong to the village in the strict sense, the local national pride was still vividly ignited. Perhaps the small village, whose existence on the map hardly anyone noticed, could finally for the first time acquire the honor of sending a famous man into the world. An agent by the name of Koller, who usually arranged only chansonettes and singers for the cabaret of the garrison, agreed to have the young man professionally trained in Vienna by a distinguished little master known to him, if a stipend was granted for a year. Count Simczic, who had never encountered such a strange opponent in sixty years of playing chess daily, agreed to pay the stipend right way. With this day the astonishing career of the boatman's son began.

After half a year Mirko had mastered all the secrets of the art of playing chess but with one odd limitation that was later much observed and ridiculed in the professional circles. For Czentovic never succeeded in playing even a single chess match from memory – or as the professionals say – play "blind." He completely lacked the ability to place the battlefield in the unlimited space of his imagination. He always had to have the black-and-white square with the sixty-four squares and thirty-two chess pieces clearly in front of him. Even at the time of his international fame he always carried a foldable pocket chess set with himself in order to visualize the situation if he wanted to reconstruct a master game or solve a problem for himself. This in itself insignificant defect revealed a lack of imaginative power and was spiritedly discussed as well within the inner circle, as if among musicians an outstanding virtuoso or conductor had shown himself incapable of playing or conducting without opened sheet music. But this peculiar idiosyncracy in no way slowed down Mirko's amazing ascent. At age seventeen he had already won a dozen chess prizes, at eighteen the Hungarian championship, and finally at age twenty he captured the world championship. The most audacious champions, every single one vastly superior to him in intellectual aptitude, in imagination and daring, similarly succumbed to his tenacious and cold logic, like Napoleon to the plodding Kutozov, like Hannibal to Fabius, of whom Livy reports that he likewise in his childhood had exhibited such conspicuous traits of phlegm and mental retardation. So it happened that into the illustrious gallery of chess masters, which combines within its ranks the most diverse types of intellectual superiority, philosophers, mathematicians, calculating, imaginative and often creative natures, intruded for the first time a complete outsider to the intellectual world, a ponderous, uncommunicative peasant boy, from whom not even the most cunning journalists ever succeeded in eliciting a single journalistically useful word. Indeed, what Czentovic deprived the newspapers of in polished sentences, he soon amply replaced with anecdotes about his person. For when he stood up from the chessboard, where he was the champion without equal, Czentovic became a hopelessly ludicrous and almost comical figure within seconds; despite his formal black suit, his pretentious tie with the somewhat garish pearl tie pin and his painstakingly manicured fingers, he remained in his demeanor and his manners the same dense peasant boy who swept the parlor of the priest in the village. Awkward and downright clumsy, to the amusement and anger of his colleagues, he sought with a churlish and even often vulgar avarice to get out of his talent and his fame what could be gotten in money. He traveled from city to city, always staying in the cheapest hotels. He let himself be depicted in soap advertisements if his fee was agreed to, and, without paying any attention to the derision of his competitors who knew exactly that he was unable to write three sentences correctly, sold his name for a "Philosophy of Chess" that in reality a short Galician student had written for the enterprising publisher. Like all tenacious characters, he lacked any sense of the ridiculous. Ever since his victory in the world championship he considered himself to be the most important man in the world, and the awareness of having defeated all these brainy intellectuals and brilliant speakers and writers in their own field, plus the clear fact of earning more than them, transformed the original insecurity into a cold and most awkwardly displayed pride.

"But how could such sudden fame not go to an empty head like his?" concluded my friend, who had just confided to me some classic examples of Czentovic's childish presumptuousness. "How ought a twenty-one year old peasant boy from Banat not fly into a rage of vanity when he suddenly earns more in a week by pushing around figures on a wooden board than his whole village at home does in a whole year by woodcutting and the bitterest toil? And then, isn't it damn easy to think of oneself as a great man if one is not burdened in the least with the idea that a Rembrandt, a Beethoven, a Dante, a Napoleon have ever lived? This lad knows only one thing in his walled up brain: that he hasn't lost a single game of chess in months, and since he doesn't even realize that there are other values on our earth besides chess and money, he has every reason to be enthusiastic about himself." These messages from my friend did not fail to arouse my particular curiosity. All types of monomaniac people cast into a single idea have fascinated me all my life, for the more someone limits himself, the closer he is otherwise to the infinite; such people who seem especially apart from the world build themselves, like termites, a strange and perfectly unique abbreviation of the world in their particular image. So I made no secret of my intention to take a closer look at this strange specimen of intellectual single-mindedness on my twelve day journey to Rio.

However, my friend warned, "You won't have much luck there. "As far as I know, no one has ever managed to get the least psychological material out of Czentovic. Behind all his abysmal stupidity, this cunning peasant conceals the great wisdom of not revealing any weaknesses, thanks to the simple technique of avoiding any conversation except with countrymen of his own sphere, with whom he gathers together in small inns. Whenever he senses an educated man, he crawls into his shell; so no one can boast of ever having heard a stupid word from him or of having measured the allegedly unlimited depth of his illiteracy." My friend was right indeed. During the first days of the trip, it proved completely impossible to get close to Czentovic without coarse intrusiveness, which, after all, is not my way of doing things. Sometimes he stepped across the promenade deck, but then always folded his hands behind his back, with a certain pride in himself submerged in his posture, like Napoleon in the well-known picture; in addition, he always so hurriedly and stubbornly completed his peripatetic deck rounds so that one would have had to run after him in a trot to be able to address him. He never showed himself in the common rooms, in the bar or in the smoking room; as the steward told me when I asked confidentially, he spent most of the day in his cabin to practice or recapitulate chess games on a huge board.

After three days, I actually began to get angry that his tenacious defensive technique was more skillful than my will to reach him. I had never had the opportunity in my life to make the personal acquaintance of a chess master, and the more I tried to personify such a type now, the more unimaginable a brain activity seemed to me that revolved exclusively around a space of sixty-four black and white fields for a whole lifetime. I knew from my own experience about the mysterious attraction of the "royal game", the only one of all games invented by man, which escapes any tyranny of chance in a sovereign fashion and assigns its victory palms solely to the spirit or rather to a certain form of spiritual ability. But doesn't calling it a game make chess already guilty of an insulting limitation? Is it not even a science, an art, floating between these categories like the coffin of Muhammad between heaven and earth, a unique bond of all pairs of opposites; ancient and yet eternally new, mechanical in design and yet only effective through imagination, limited in geometrically rigid space and yet unlimited in its combinations, constantly evolving and yet sterile, a thinking that leads to nothing, a mathematics that calculates nothing, an art without works, an architecture without substance and nonetheless proven to be more lasting in its being and existence than all the books and works, the only game that belongs to all peoples and all times, and about which nobody knows which God brought it to earth to kill boredom, to sharpen the senses, to excite the soul. Where is the beginning and where is the end with it: every child can learn its first rules, every bungler can try it out himself, and yet within this unalterable narrow square, it is able to create a special species of masters, incomparably to all others, people with a talent dedicated solely to chess, specific geniuses, in which vision, patience and technique are equally effective in a precisely determined arrangement as with the mathematician, the poet, the musician, and only in other stratification and connection. In earlier times of physiognomic passion, a Gall might have dissected the brains of such chess masters to determine whether such chess geniuses had a special convolution in the gray matter of the brain, a kind of chess muscle or chess hump more intensely delineated than found in other skulls. And how would such a physiognomist have been stimulated by the case of a Czentovic, where this specific genius seems sprinkled into an absolute intellectual lassitude like a single thread of gold in a hundredweight of barren rock. In principle, I have always understood the fact that such a unique, such an ingenious game had to create specific matadors, but how difficult, how impossible it was to imagine the life of a spiritually active man, who is reduced to the narrow one-way between black and white, who seeks his life triumphs in a mere back and forth, forward and backward of thirty-two figures, a man, to whom at a new opening, to prefer the knight over the pawn, already a great feat, and his wretched corner means immortality in the corner of a chess book - a man, a spiritual man, who, without going insane, for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years over and over again applies the full force of his thinking to the ridiculous effort to push a wooden king on a wooden board into the corner!

And now such a phenomenon, such a strange genius or such an enigmatic fool, was spatially very close to me for the first time, six cabins away on the same ship, and I, an unfortunate, for whom curiosity in spiritual things always degenerates into a kind of passion, should not be capable of approaching him. I began to think up the most absurd ploys: for example, appealing to his vanity by pretending to give him an alleged interview for an important newspaper, or pandering to his greed by proposing a lucrative tournament for him in Scotland. But ultimately, I remembered that the most tried and true technique that hunters use to lure the wood grouse is by imitating its courtship cry; what could actually be more effective in attracting the attention of a chess master than by playing chess yourself?

Well, I have never been a serious chess artist in all my life for the simple reason that I have always dealt with chess only carelessly and exclusively for my pleasure; when I sit in front of the board for an hour, this does not take place in order to exert myself, but on the contrary, to relieve myself of mental tension. I 'play' chess in the truest sense of the word, whereas the others, the real chess players 'ernsten' chess ; to introduce a daring new word into the German language. For chess, as for love, a partner is now indispensable, and I did not know at the moment yet whether there were other chess lovers on board besides us. In order to lure them out of their caves, I set a primitive trap in the smoking room by situating myself in front of a chessboard with my wife, although she is an even weaker player than I. And actually, we hadn't made six moves yet, then someone already paused in passing, a second asked permission to watch; finally the desired partner was found who challenged me to a game. His name was McConnor, and he was a Scottish civil engineer who I heard had made a great fortune in drilling oil wells in California, a stout man from the external aspect with strong, almost square-jawed cheeks, strong teeth and a rich facial color, its pronounced redness was probably, at least in part, due to an ample enjoyment of whisky. Unfortunately, his strikingly broad, almost athletically vehement shoulders also made themselves felt in the character of the game, for this Mr. McConnor belonged to the kind of self-obsessed successful people, who, even in the most insignificant game, perceives defeat as a reduction of their personal perception of character. Being used to asserting himself ruthlessly in life and spoiled by de facto success, this massive self-made man was permeated by his superiority so unshakably that any resistance provoked him as an improper revolt and almost an insult. When he lost the first game, he became surly and began to explain intricately and dictatorially that this could only have happened through momentary inattention, with the third he blamed the noise in the neighboring room for his failure; he was never willing to lose a game without immediately demanding a return match. At first I was amused by this ambitious determination; after all, I accepted it only as an inevitable accompaniment to my real intention of luring the world champion to our table.

On the third day he succeeded, and he was only half successful. Whether Czentovic was watching us from the promenade deck through the window in front of the chessboard or just coincidentally honoring the smoking room with his presence - in any case, as soon as he saw that we unprofessionals were practicing his art, he involuntarily stepped one step closer and from this measured distance cast an examining glance at our board. McConnor was just about to make a chess move. And even this one move seemed sufficient to inform Czentovic how little further pursuit of our amateurish efforts was worthy of his masterly interest. With the same obvious gesture, with which we put away a proffered bad detective novel in a bookstore without even leafing through it, he stepped away from our table and left the smoking room. "Weighed and found wanting", I thought, a little angry by this cool, contemptuous look, and to vent my displeasure somehow, I said to McConnor, "Your move doesn't seem to have thrilled the master very much." "Which master?" I explained to him that the gentleman who had just passed by us and looked at our game with disapproving eyes was the chess master Czentovic. Well, I added, we both would get through it and resign ourselves to his illustrious contempt without heartache; beggars can't be choosers. But to my surprise, my casual remark exercised a completely unexpected effect on McConnor. He was immediately excited, forgetting our game, and his ambition began to thump audibly. He had no idea that Czentovic was on board and Czentovic absolutely had to play against him. He had never played against a world champion in his life except once in a simultaneous game with forty others; even that had been terribly exciting, and he had almost won at the time. Whether I know the chess master personally? I negated. Whether I want to ask him to come to us. I refused on the grounds that to my knowledge Czentovic was not very accessible to new acquaintances. Besides, what appeal should it offer a world champion to be with us third-class players?

Well, I shouldn't have said that about third-rate players to such an ambitious man like McConnor. He leaned back angrily and abruptly declared that for his part he could not believe that Czentovic would refuse a gentleman's polite request; he would see to that. At his request I gave him a short personal description of the world champion, and already, he stormed on that promenade deck after Czentovic in more unrestrained impatience, indifferently disregarding our chessboard. Again I felt that the owner of these broad shoulders could not be stopped as soon as he made up his mind to do something.

I waited quite anxiously. Ten minutes later, McConnor returned, not very jovial, it seemed to me.

"Well?" I asked.

"You were right," he responded a little upset. "Not a very agreeable gentleman. I introduced myself, explaining who I was. He didn't even shake hands with me. I tried to tell him how proud and honored all of us on board would be if he wanted to play a simultaneous match against us. But he kept his back cursedly stiff; he would be sorry, but he had contractual obligations to his agent, which expressly forbade him from playing without payment during his entire tour. His minimum would be two hundred and fifty dollars per game." I laughed. "I would never have thought that pushing pieces from black to white could be such a profitable business. Well, I hope you were just as polite." But McConnor remained completely serious. "The chess match is set for three o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Here in the smoking room. I hope we will not be beaten to a pulp so easily." "What? You gave him the two hundred and fifty dollars?" I exclaimed, completely shocked.

"Why not? That's his profession. If I were a dentist on board, I wouldn't ask him to extract my tooth for nothing. The man is quite right to set big prices; in every field the real experts are also the best businessmen. And as far as I'm concerned, the clearer a deal, the better. I'd rather pay in cash than have Mr. Czentovic bestow his graces on me and have to thank him in the end. After all, I've lost more than two hundred and fifty dollars in one evening in our club and I haven't played with a world champion. For "third-rate" players, there's no shame in being bumped off by a Czentovic." It amused me to realize how deeply I had offended McConnor's self-esteem with the one innocent word "third-rate" player. But since he was willing to pay for the expensive fun, I had no objection to his misplaced ambition, which ultimately should make me acquainted with my curiosity. We hurriedly informed the four or five gentlemen who had previously declared themselves to be chess players of the upcoming event, and, in order to be disturbed by passers-by as little as possible, had not only our table reserved in advance, but also the neighboring tables for the upcoming match.

The next day our little group appeared completely to the scheduled time. The middle seat in opposite of the master remained obviously assigned to Mc Connor, who discharged his nervousness, lighting one big cigar after another one and looking nervously again and again at his watch. But the world champion - as I had already guessed from my friend's stories - kept us waiting a good ten minutes, but by so doing, his appearance then received heightened aplomb. Calmly and quietly he went towards the table. Without introducing himself - "You know who I am, and I don't care who you are," this rudeness seemed to imply - he began the factual orders with professional dryness. Since here on board a simultaneous game was impossible due to the lack of available chess boards, he suggested that we should all play against him together. After each chess move, he will have himself moved to another table at the end of the room so as not to disturb our discussion. As soon as we have made our countermove, we are to tap a spoon against a glass since, unfortunately, there is no table bell at hand. He suggests ten minutes as the maximum time to make a move, if we had no other preferred arrangement. Like shy pupils we obviously agreed with every proposal. The color choice of black was allocated to Czentovic; while he was still standing, he made the first countermove and then immediately turned to the waiting area suggested by him where he casually reclined, leafing through an illustrated magazine.

There is little sense to report on the game. Obviously, it finished as it had to finish, with a total defeat, in fact already on the 24th move. That now a world chess champion swept down half a dozen middling or less than middling players with his left hand was in itself not surprising; the only really annoying thing for all of us was the arrogant way in which Czentovic let us know all too clearly that he finished us off with his left hand. Each time, he threw a seemingly fleeting glance at the board, looking past us as casually as if we were dead wooden figures ourselves, and this impertinent gesture instinctively reminded us of the look with which one throws a crumb to a mangy dog. With some sensitivity, I think he could in my opinion have drawn our attention to mistakes or cheered us up with a friendly word. But even after the game was over, this inhuman chess machine did not utter a syllable, but waited motionless in front of the table after saying "checkmate" to see if anyone desired a second game from him. I had already gotten up to indicate being helpless, as one is always rendered from thick-skinned rudeness, as a gesture that with this dollar enterprise completed, for my part the pleasure of our acquaintance was at least ended when, to my annoyance, McConnor next to me said in a very hoarse voice, "revenge!" I was downright shocked by his challenging tone; in fact, at that moment, McConnor gave the impression of a boxer before landing a punch rather than a polite gentleman. Was it the unpleasant nature of the treatment that Czentovic had given us or just his pathologically irritable ambition - at least McConnor's nature was completely changed. Red in the face up to the hair on his forehead, his nostrils were strongly stretched out from internal pressure, he was perspiring visibly, and from his obstinate lips a crease cut sharply against his combatively protruding chin. I was worried to see the flickering of unrestrained passion in his eyes that usually only grips people at the roulette table when, after the sixth or seventh time with bets always doubled up, the right color does not appear. At that moment I knew that this fanatically ambitious man would, even if it were to cost him his entire fortune, play again and again against Czentovic until he at least once won a game. If Czentovic could endure it, he'd found a gold mine in McConnor from which he could shovel a few thousand dollars till Buenos Aires.

Czentovic remained motionless. "Please," he answered politely. "The gentlemen are playing black." The second game did not offer a different picture either, except that our circle had become not only larger but also livelier due to some curious people. McConnor stared at the board as if he wanted to hypnotize the chess pieces by his will to win; I sensed in him that he had also sacrificed a thousand dollars enthusiastically for the cry of "checkmate" against the cold-blooded opponent. Strangely enough, something of his dogged excitement passed unconsciously over into us. Every single chess move was discussed much more passionately than before, we always held one back from the other at the last moment before we agreed to give the signal that Czentovic be called back to our table. Gradually we had reached the thirty-seventh chess move, and to our own surprise a constellation had occurred that seemed surprisingly advantageous because we had managed to bring the pawn of the c - line to the penultimate square c2; we only needed to move it forward to c1 to win a new queen. Of course, we were not entirely comfortable with this all too obvious opportunity; we were unanimous in our suspicions that this advantage, which we had apparently gained, must have been deliberately pushed to us as bait by Czentovic, who, after all, oversaw the situation from a much wider perspective. But in spite of strenuous searching and discussing together, we were not able to perceive the hidden feint. Finally, just before the end of the period of reflection, we decided to make the next chess move. 1 McConnor already touched the pawn figure to push it to the last field, when he was felt suddenly grabbed at the arm and someone whispered quietly and vehemently: "For God's sake! Don't!" We all turned around instinctively. A gentleman about forty-five years old, whose narrow, sharp face I had already noticed before on the promenade deck by his strange, almost chalky pallor, must have joined us in the last minutes while we were all turning our attention to the problem. Sensing our gaze, he hastily added: "If you take the queen now, he will immediately strike her with the c1 bishop, you take it back with the knight. But in the meantime, he goes to d7 with his pawn, threatens your rook, and even if you say "check" with your knight, you will lose it and will be finished after nine or ten moves. It is almost the same constellation as Aljechin initiated against Bogoljubov in the 1922 Pistyan Grand Tournament." Astonished, McConnor released his hand from the piece and stared no less surprised than we all were staring at the man who came helping like an unexpected angel from heaven. Someone who could calculate a checkmate nine moves in advance had to be a top ranking professional, possibly even an opponent in the championship, who was traveling to the same tournament, and his sudden arrival and intervening at just such a critical moment was all but supernatural. McConnor was the first to compose himself.

"What would you advise?" he whispered excitedly.

"Don't bring it forward right away, but dodge it first! Especially move away with the king from the endangered line g8 onto h7. He'll probably throw the attack over to the other flank. But you parry it with rook c8 - c4; it costs him two tempos, a pawn and thus the superiority. Then passed pawn against passed pawn, and if you are really defensive, you still come to a draw. There's nothing more to be achieved." We were astonished again. The precision was no less confusing than the speed of his calculation; it was as if he were reading the moves from a printed book. At least the unexpected chance of bringing our game to a draw against a world champion, thanks to his intervention, seemed magical. Unanimously we moved aside to give him a clearer view of the board. McConnor asked again: "So king g8 on h7?" "Yes! Dodge it all!" McConnor obeyed, and we knocked on the glass. Czentovic came to our table with his usual steady step and measured the countermove with a single glance. Then he pulled the pawn h2 - h4 on the king's wing, just as our unknown helper predicted. And he whispered excitedly: "Rook forward, rook forward, c8 on c4, he must first cover the pawn. But that's not going to help him! You strike with the knight d3 - e5, without worrying about his passed pawn, and the balance is restored. ... All the pressure forward instead of defending!" We didn't understand what he meant. What he said was all Greek to us. But already under his spell, McConnor moved, without considering whether it was advisable. ... We hit the glass again to call Czentovic back. For the first time he did not make a quick decision, but looked curiously at the board. His eyebrows squeezed involuntarily. Then he made the move that the stranger announced to us and turned to go. However, before he walked back, something new and unexpected happened. ... Czentovic raised his eyes and looked at our ranks - obviously he wanted to find out who suddenly offered him such vigorous resistance.

From that moment on, our excitement grew into the immeasurable. Until then we had played without serious hope, but now the thought of breaking Czentovic's cold arrogance drove us to hot flashes. But our new friend had already arranged the next move and we could call Czentovic back - my fingers trembled when I hit the spoon on the glass. And now our first triumph came. Czentovic, who had always played standing up, hesitated, hesitated and finally sat down. He sat down slowly and cumbersomely, but with that the arrogance between him and us was already lifted physically. We had forced him to at least move spatially on the same level with us. He thought for a long time with his eyes motionlessly lowered to the board so that one could hardly perceive his pupils under the black eyelids, and in his intense thinking his mouth gradually opened, which gave his round face a somewhat simple-minded appearance. Czentovic deliberated for a few minutes, then he made a move and got up. And already our friend was whispering: A delaying tactic! Good thought! But don't respond to it! Force an exchange, absolutely an exchange, then we can stalemate, and no god can help him." McConnor obeyed. In the next moves between the two - the rest of us had long since sunk down to be empty extras - an incomprehensible to and fro began. After about seven moves, Czentovic looked up after a long period of reflection and declared: "Stalemate." For a moment there was total silence. One could suddenly hear the waves rushing and the radio from the salon playing jazz, one could hear every step on the promenade deck and the soft, fine rushing of the wind going through the gaps of the windows. None of us was breathing, it had come too suddenly, and we were all still absolutely shocked by the improbability that this unknown player should have forced his will on the world champion in a game that was already half lost. McConnor leaned back with a jerk, the breath he held back issued from him audibly in a happy "Ah!" from his lips. ... I, in turn, observed Czentovic. Even with the last moves it seemed to me as if he had become pale. But he know how to get a grip himself. He remained in his seemingly indifferent rigidity and asked only in the most casual way while he was pushing the pieces off the board with a steady hand: "Would you gentlemen like a third game?" He asked the question purely factually, purely in a businesslike manner. But the strange thing was: in so doing, he hadn't looked at McConnor, but sharply raised his eyes and looked straight at our savior. Like a horse with a new, a better rider in a tighter saddle, he must have recognized his real, his actual opponent in the last moves. We involuntarily followed his gaze and looked eagerly at the stranger. However, before he could reflect or even answer, McConnor, in his ambitious excitement, had already triumphantly shouted to him: "Obviously! But now you have to play alone against him! ... You alone against Czentovic!" But now something unforeseen happened. The stranger, who strangely enough was still staring at the chessboard that had already been cleared, started to wince because he felt all eyes on him and was being so enthusiastically addressed. His moves became confused.

"In no case, gentlemen," he stammered visibly affected. "That's completely out of the question... I'm not at all in consideration ... I haven't sat in front of a chessboard for twenty, no, twenty-five years... and I see only now how unseemly I have behaved by interfering in your game without your permission... Please excuse my urgency... I certainly don't want to disturb you any longer." And even before we found our way out of our surprise, he had already withdrawn and left the room.

"But that's impossible!" rumbled the spirited McConnor, pounding his fist. "Entirely excluded, that this man hasn't played chess for 25 years! He predicted every move, every counterpoint on five, on six moves. No one can such a thing offhand. But that's entirely impossible, isn't it?" McConnor had involuntarily addressed his last question to Czentovic. ... But the world champion remained unshakeable cool.

" I am not able to give a judgement about it. Anyway, the gentleman played a little outlandishly and interestingly, so I deliberately gave him a chance." Standing up casually at the same time, he added in his factual manner: "If the gentleman or the gentlemen wish another game tomorrow, I will be available after three o'clock." We couldn't suppress a faint smile. Each of us knew that Czentovic by no means generously gave our unknown helper a chance and that this remark was nothing more than a naive excuse to mask his own failure. Our desire to see such unshakable arrogance humiliated grew all the stronger. Suddenly, peaceful, casual inhabitants on board had come upon us with a wild, ambitious lust for battle, for the thought that just on our ship in the middle of the ocean, the palm tree could be stolen from the chess master - a record that would then be flashed by all telegraph offices all over the world - fascinated us in the most provocative way. Added to this was the charm of the mysterious, which emanated from the unexpected intervention of our savior just at the critical moment, and the contrast of his almost fearful modesty with the unshakable self-confidence of the professional. Who was this stranger? Had chance brought to light an undiscovered chess genius? Or did a famous master hide his name for an inscrutable reason? We discussed all these possibilities in an excited way, even the most daring hypotheses were not bold enough for us to reconcile the mysterious shyness and the surprising confession of the stranger with his unmistakable art of playing. However, we all agreed on one point: not to give up the spectacle of another fight. We decided to try everything to get our helper to play a game against Czentovic the next day, McConnor committed himself to pay for the material risk. As it had turned out in the meantime by questioning the steward, in that the stranger was an Austrian, as his compatriot, I was assigned the task of submitting our request to him.

It did not take me long to find the one who so hastily escaped on the promenade deck. He was lying on his deckchair and he was reading. Before I walked up to him, I took the opportunity to look at him. His sharply angular head rested on the pillow in a position of slight weariness - but once again I noticed the strange pallor of his relatively young face, his hair framed his temples in glaring white; I had the impression, I don't know why, that this man must have aged suddenly. No sooner than I approached him, he stood up politely and introduced himself with a name that was immediately familiar to me as that of a highly respected old Austrian family. I remembered that one of Schubert's closest friends bore this name and that one of the old emperor's personal physicians also came from this family. When I asked Dr. B. to accept Czentovic's challenge, he was visibly perplexed. It turned out that he had no idea that he had prevailed against a world champion, and even the most successful renowned player at this time. For some reason this information seemed to make an unusual impression on him because he asked me again and again if I was certain that his opponent really was an accredited world champion. I soon realized that this facilitated my mission, and only felt it advisable, sensing his sensitivity, not to tell him that the material risk of possible defeat would be at McConnor's expense. After long hesitation, Dr B. finally declared himself willing to play a match, not however without expressly asking that the other gentlemen be warned not to set too much hope on his prowess.

"Because," he added with a pensive smile, "I really don't know if I'm capable of playing a game of chess correctly according to all the rules. Please believe me that it was far from false modesty when I said that I haven't touched a chess piece since I went to high school, that is to say for more than twenty years. "And even at that time, I was considered a player with no particular talent." He said this in such a natural way that I could not have the slightest doubt about his sincerity. Nevertheless, I could not help but be amazed at exactly how he could remember every single combination of the most diverse masters; after all, at least theoretically, he must have occupied himself a lot with chess. Dr. B. smiled again in that strangely dream-like manner.

„ Very busy! - God knows, you can probably say that I have been occupied with chess a lot myself. But this happened under quite special indeed, completely singular circumstances. It was a rather complicated story, and it might be seen at best as a small contribution to our lovely great time. If you can be patient for half an hour..."
unit 4
Mein Freund blickte hin und lächelte.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 11
Aber die Anstrengungen blieben vergeblich.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 14
Dabei konnte man Mirko keineswegs unwillig oder widerspenstig nennen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 21
Ohne zu zögern folgte ihm der Priester.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 24
Der Knabe starrte scheu auf, nickte dann und setzte sich auf den Platz des Pfarrers.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 26
Die zweite Partie fiel nicht anders aus.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 7 months ago
unit 29
Mirko schlug auch ihn mit Leichtigkeit.
1 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 36
In der zweiten Partie kam er schon gegen den besten Spieler auf Remis.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 37
Von der dritten und vierten an schlug er sie alle, einen nach dem andern.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 42
Am folgenden Sonntagnachmittag war der Schachraum überfüllt.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 46
Nun begannen große Beratungen.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 51
Mit diesem Tage begann die erstaunliche Karriere des Schiffersohnes.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 57
Aber diese merkwürdige Eigenheit verzögerte keineswegs Mirkos stupenden Aufstieg.
1 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 72
Jedoch: »Da werden Sie wenig Glück haben«, warnte mein Freund.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 101
Am dritten Tag gelang es und gelang doch nur halb.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 103
McConnor war gerade am Zuge.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 109
Er wurde sofort erregt, vergaß unsere Partie, und sein Ehrgeiz begann geradezu hörbar zu pochen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 112
Ob ich den Schachmeister persönlich kenne?
3 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 113
Ich verneinte.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 114
Ob ich ihn nicht ansprechen wolle und zu uns bitten?
3 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 121
Ich wartete ziemlich gespannt.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 122
Nach zehn Minuten kehrte McConnor zurück, nicht sehr aufgeräumt, wie mir schien.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 123
»Nun?« fragte ich.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 124
»Sie haben recht gehabt«, antwortete er etwas verärgert.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 125
»Kein sehr angenehmer Herr.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 126
Ich stellte mich vor, erklärte ihm, wer ich sei.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 127
Er reichte mir nicht einmal die Hand.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 130
Sein Minimum sei zweihundertfünfzig Dollar pro Partie.« Ich lachte.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 132
Nun, ich hoffe, Sie haben sich ebenso höflich empfohlen.« Aber McConnor blieb vollkommen ernst.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 133
»Die Partie ist für morgen nachmittags drei Uhr angesetzt.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 134
Hier im Rauchsalon.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 135
Ich hoffe, wir werden uns nicht so leicht zu Brei schlagen lassen.« »Wie?
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 136
Sie haben ihm die zweihundertfünfzig Dollar bewilligt?« rief ich ganz betroffen aus.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 137
»Warum nicht?
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 138
C' est son métier.
4 Translations, 4 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 139
unit 141
Und was mich betrifft: je klarer ein Geschäft, um so besser.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 147
Am nächsten Tage war unsere kleine Gruppe zur vereinbarten Stunde vollzählig erschienen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 150
Er trat ruhig und gelassen auf den Tisch zu.
3 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 155
Als maximale Zugzeit schlage er zehn Minuten vor, falls wir keine andere Einteilung wünschten.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 156
Wir pflichteten selbstverständlich wie schüchterne Schüler jedem Vorschlage bei.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 158
Es hat wenig Sinn, über die Partie zu berichten.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 170
Czentovic blieb unbewegt.
3 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 171
»Bitte«, antwortete er höflich.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 174
Merkwürdigerweise ging etwas von seiner verbissenen Erregung unbewußt in uns über.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 181
Nicht!« Unwillkürlich wandten wir uns alle um.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 187
Als erster faßte sich McConnor.
4 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 188
»Was würden Sie raten?« flüsterte er aufgeregt.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 189
»Nicht gleich vorziehen, sondern zunächst ausweichen!
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 190
Vor allem mit dem König abrücken aus der gefährdeten Linie von g8 auf h7.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 191
Er wird wahrscheinlich den Angriff dann auf die andere Flanke hinüberwerfen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 194
Mehr ist nicht herauszuholen.« Wir staunten abermals.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 197
Einmütig rückten wir zur Seite, um ihm freieren Blick auf das Brett zu gewähren.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 198
Noch einmal fragte McConnor: »Also König g8 auf h7?« »Jawohl!
3 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 199
Ausweichen vor allem!« McConnor gehorchte, und wir klopften an das Glas.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 203
Aber das wird ihm nichts helfen!
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 205
Den ganzen Druck vorwärts, statt zu verteidigen!« Wir verstanden nicht, was er meinte.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 206
Für uns war, was er sagte, Chinesisch.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 207
Aber schon einmal in seinem Bann, zog McConnor, ohne zu überlegen, wie jener geboten.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 208
Wir schlugen abermals an das Glas, um Czentovic zurückzurufen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 209
Zum ersten Male entschied er sich nicht rasch, sondern blickte gespannt auf das Brett.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 210
Unwillkürlich schoben sich seine Brauen zusammen.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 211
unit 212
Jedoch ehe er zurücktrat, geschah etwas Neues und Unerwartetes.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 214
Von diesem Augenblick an wuchs unsere Erregung ins Ungemessene.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 217
Und nun kam unser erster Triumph.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 220
unit 222
Czentovic überlegte einige Minuten, dann tat er seinen Zug und stand auf.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 223
Und schon flüsterte unser Freund: »Ein Hinhaltezug!
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 224
Gut gedacht!
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 225
Aber nicht darauf eingehen!
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 232
Ich wiederum beobachtete Czentovic.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 233
Schon bei den letzten Zügen hatte mir geschienen, als ob er blässer geworden sei.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 234
Aber er verstand sich gut zusammenzuhalten.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 238
Unwillkürlich folgten wir seinem Blick und sahen gespannt auf den Fremden.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 240
Aber jetzt müssen Sie allein gegen ihn spielen!
3 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 241
Sie allein gegen Czentovic!« Doch nun ereignete sich etwas Unvorhergesehenes.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 243
Seine Züge verwirrten sich.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 244
»Auf keinen Fall, meine Herren«, stammelte er sichtlich betroffen.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 248
Er hat doch jeden Zug, jede Gegenpointe auf fünf, auf sechs Züge vorausberechnet.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 249
So etwas kann niemand aus dem Handgelenk.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 251
Aber der Weltmeister blieb unerschütterlich kühl.
1 Translations, 0 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 252
»Ich vermag darüber kein Urteil abzugeben.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 255
unit 258
Wer war dieser Unbekannte?
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 259
Hatte hier der Zufall ein noch unentdecktes Schachgenie zutage gefördert?
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 260
Oder verbarg uns aus einem unerforschlichen Grunde ein berühmter Meister seinen Namen?
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 265
Ich benötigte nicht lange, um auf dem Promenadendeck den so eilig Entflüchteten aufzufinden.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 266
Er lag auf seinem Deckchair und las.
3 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 267
Ehe ich auf ihn zutrat, nahm ich die Gelegenheit wahr, ihn zu betrachten.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 280
Dr. B. lächelte abermals in jener merkwürdig traumhaften Art.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
unit 281
»Viel beschäftigt!
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 282
unit 283
Aber das geschah unter ganz besonderen, ja völlig einmaligen Umständen.
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months ago
unit 285
Wenn Sie eine halbe Stunde Geduld haben...«
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 6 months, 1 week ago
DrWho • 8447  commented on  unit 178  6 months, 1 week ago
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bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 51  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 48  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 47  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 44  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 42  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 40  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 39  6 months, 3 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 38  6 months, 4 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 34  6 months, 4 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 31  6 months, 4 weeks ago
bf2010 • 4794  commented on  unit 32  6 months, 4 weeks ago