In the most astute sleuthing of Pale Fire yet, James Ramey, winding his way through the index to Pale Fire, discovered that Nabokov slyly hid the crown jewels on the title page in the form of a notation of a black chess queen crown. (James Ramey, PALE FIRE’S BLACK CROWN, NOJ, VOL VI (2012) http://www.nabokovonline.com/uploads/2/3/7/7/23779748/22_ramey_pdff.pdf)
Disguised to look like part of the Putnam logo, the ruse unfortunately has not been carried forward in later editions, such as my Knopf 1992.
Ramey asks the question,
But why a black queen? Why not the Hastings font of the black king’s crown, which in
chess problems represents the composer’s sine qua non? Closer inspection of the other chess pieces we have seen in the Index reveals multilingual chess wordplay: Zule Bretwit’s first name is a heraldic term for the chess rook, and Ferz Bretwit’s first name is the Russian word for “pawn.” I would be delighted if other scholars can detect an actual chess problem in these piquant encodings, but whatever the case, it seems very likely that they culminate in the black queen on the title page, that she is the final “move” in the series.
I am not a chess player, so I can’t provide any information on that level, however this fits perfectly into my theory that Sybil is the key player in this “game of worlds”. My question would be, is she the Black Queen or the Red Queen? I have thought the Red Queen because of the “Through the Looking Glass” association and because of her “ruby ring” and her maid, “Ruby”.and ultimately because of her actually being John Shade’s real nemesis.
Then again, I see her as the black widow at the center of the web. I believe there are Tarot and cartomancy clues that suggest she is the Queen of Spades. Pushkin wrote a ghost story titled “The Queen of Spades” featuring the revenge of an elderly sharp opinionated woman upon an avaricial man who made a diabolic deal with her. Here are some typical description of the Queen of Spades:
The Queen of spades evokes a hostile, lonely and negative woman. In cartomancy, she stands next to the King of spades as she also announces conflicts. Excited by negative urges, the Queen of spades will deliberately block the consultant’s path in order to harm him/her. She is jealous and mean.
Queen of Spades
An ambitious, skillful, intelligent woman. Divorced or widowed, lonely, an older woman, may be from a foreign country, a leader, lawyer, health specialist, clever, capable of conniving and plotting, spiteful and catty, deceptive, cold, calculating, emotionally controlled or detached, a gossip, a rival in love or business.
Queen of Spades Widowed or divorced woman; or a woman with Air predominating in her chart. Unscrupulous. Malicious. Cruelty. Betrayal of close friends. Being used for someone's gain. Seduction. Treachery.