18 February 2011

Through the Looking-Glass

Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. You can find the complete text here. By the way, many of the illustrations in the German version of Dickins' A Guide to Fairy Chess are taken from that book.

The book is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters are represented by a chess piece, with Alice herself being a pawn, becoming a queen by the end of the story.

The book opens with the following chess diagram and text:

White Pawn (Alice) to play, and win in eleven moves
1.Alice meets R.Q.1.R.Q. to K.R. 4th
2.Alice through Q.'s 3d (by railway)
to Q.'s 4th (Tweedledum
and Tweedledee)
2.W.Q. to Q.B.'s 4th (after shawl)
3.Alice meets W.Q. (with shawl)3.W.Q. to Q.B.'s 5th (becomes sheep)
4.Alice to Q.'s 5th (shop, river, shop)4.W.Q. to K.B.'s 8th (leaves egg on
5.Alice to Q.'s 6th (Humpty Dumpty)5.W.Q. to Q.B.'s 8th (flying from R.
6.Alice to Q.'s 7th (forest)6.R. Kt. to K.'s 2nd (ch.)
7.W. Kt. takes R. Kt.7.W. Kt. to K.B.'s 5th
8.Alice to Q.'s 8th (coronation)8.R.Q. to K.'s sq (examination)
9.Alice become Queen9.Queen's castle
10.Alice castles (feast)10.W.Q. to Q. R. 6th (soup)
11.Alice takes R.Q. and wins

In the preface of the 1896 edition, Carroll writes:
As the chess-problem, given on a previous page, has puzzled some of my readers, it may be well to explain that it is correctly worked out, so far as the moves are concerned. The alternation of Red and White is perhaps not so strictly observed as it might be, and the ‘castling’ of the three Queens is merely a way of saying that they entered the palace; but the ‘check’ of the White King at move 6, the capture of the Red Knight at move 7, and the final ‘check-mate’ of the Red King, will be found, by any one who will take the trouble to set the pieces and play the moves as directed, to be strictly in accordance with the laws of the game.

So, can the puzzle be solved? What a question! Here is the "translation" into chess moves:
Qe2-h5 d2-d4 Qc1-c4 Qc4-c5 d4-d5 Qc5-f8 d5-d6 Qf8-c8 d6-d7 Ng8-e7+ Nf5xe7 Ne7-f5 d8=Q Qh5-e8 Qc8-a6 Qd8xe8#.

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