Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023666, Wed, 13 Feb 2013 15:17:11 -0800

Re: Chess and the asymetric universe
I was thinking of Lewis Carroll of course (the Red Queen and theRed King) and
you are right - something I never seem to get correct is that the Queen is on
her own color - so the two queens do oppose each other. The King is a McGuffin

I rarely play chess - learned by watching my father play. But got quite good at
it while hospitalized with nothing else to do. But I do think the asymmetry of
the board/pieces is of greater importance than Stan admits. Too bad we haven't
Dmitri to consult. Perhaps Martin Gardener in his Ambidextrous Universe
discusses chess.

There is always confusion about this amongst us casual players - I for example
just learned that the white square must be to the player's right. And few casual
players know that it is possible to castle on both the king's (short) side and
the queen's (long) side.


p.s I do happen to recall that in Martin Gardener's Annotated Alice, he does
mention that if the universe were not asymmetrical it wouldn't exist. In other
words, matter and anti-matter would cancel each other out.

From: "stan@bootle.biz" <stan@BOOTLE.BIZ>
Sent: Tue, February 12, 2013 4:35:57 PM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Ada

Re: [NABOKV-L] Ada CK’s reported ‘King & Queen asymmetry’ will come as a
surprise to ALL chess players, both the skilled amateur (like Nabokov/Sirin,
author of "Защита Лужина," the ‘worst chess novel ever written!’), and first-day

See http://chess.about.com/od/rulesofchess/ss/Boardsetup.htm

You’ll see that the White Queen, initially at d1, ‘faces/looks-at’ the Red (aka
Black) Queen, initially on d8, separated by pawns at d2 and d7. Likewise the two
Kings initially ‘face/look-at’ each other along the e-column, from e1 and e8,
with pawns at e2 and e7. Both the board and piece-settings are positively
dripping with symmetries. These make the game the fairest of all, and ‘boredom’
doesn’t enter into it!

Perhaps the confusion arises because ‘colour’ is assigned to both squares and
pieces? But, of course, the White Queen remains White even if she moves to a
Red/Black square.

Incidentally, regardless of the arbitrary, physical colours of the pieces,
official English ‘chess-speak’ calls the opponents White (making the first move)
and Black (responding). This White ‘initiative-ADVANTAGE’ is, in fact, the ONLY
GENUINE ASYMMETRY in Chess! Hence, the choice of colour for Game 1 is
traditionally a 50-50 random ‘coin-toss.’ Subsequent games, in most tournaments,
then alternate who starts so that the ‘White-advantage’ is evened out.

On 11/02/2013 15:45, "Jansy" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

Carolyn described* the asymmetry of how the King and Queen are displayed in a
chessboard, with white kings staring at the red queens, aso. Indeed, this must
have tickled VN's sense of plot and humor, in particular!

>* {...} As a player of chess, Nabokov is of course intrigued by the play of
>symmetry (the chess board) and asymmetry (the position of the pieces on the
>board - in other words, the white king looks at the red queen, not at the red
>king). If this were not so, the game of chess would be boring indeed.[ ]
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