Thursday, September 19, 2013

@ Games & Playing @ Literature #2

"It was therefore with a heavy heart that he set out on round two. The first cell to be revisited, that at the south-westernmost corner of the nave, contained Mr. Endon, voted by one and all the most biddable little gaga in the entire institution, his preoccupation with apnoea notwithstanding. Murphy switched on the thousand candles, shot back the judas shutter and looked in. A strange sight met his eye.

Mr. Endon, an impeccable and brilliant figurine in his scarlet gown, his crest a gush of vivid white against the black shag, squatted tailor-fashion on the head of his bed, holding his left foot in his right hand and in his left hand his right foot. The purple poulaines were on his feet and the rings were on his fingers. The light spurted off Mr. Endon north, south, east, west and in fiftysix other directions. The sheet stretched away before him, as smooth and taut as a groaning wife’s belly, and on it a game of chess was set up. The little blue and olive face, wearing an expression of winsome fiat, was up-turned to the judas.

Murphy resumed his round, gratified in no small measure. Mr. Endon had recognised the feel of his friend’s eye upon him and made his preparations accordingly. Friend’s eye? Say rather, Murphy’s eye. Mr. Endon had felt Murphy’s eye upon him. Mr. Endon would have been less than Mr. Endon if he had known what it was to have a friend; and Murphy more than Murphy if he had not hoped against his better judgment that his feeling for Mr. Endon was in some small degree reciprocated. Whereas the sad truth was, that while Mr. Endon for Murphy was no less than bliss, Murphy for Mr. Endon was no more than chess. Murphy’s eye? Say rather, the chessy eye. Mr. Endon had vibrated to the chessy eye upon him and made his preparations accordingly.

Murphy completed his round, an Irish virgin. (Finished on time a round was called a virgin; ahead of time, an Irish virgin.) The hypomanic it is true, in pad since morning with a big attack blowing up, had tried to come at his tormentor through the judas. This distressed Murphy, though he rather disliked the hypomanic. But it did not delay him. Quite the reverse.

He hastened back westward down the nave with his master key at the ready. He stopped short of the wreck, switched on Mr. Endon’s light and entered bodily into his cell. Mr. Endon was in the same position all but his head, which was now bowed, whether over the board or merely on his chest it was hard to say. Murphy sank down on his elbow on the foot of the bed and the game began.

Murphy’s functions were scarcely affected by this break with the tradition of night duty. All it meant was that he took his pauses with Mr. Endon instead of in the wreck. Every ten minutes he left the cell, pressed the indicator with heartfelt conviction and did a round. Every ten minutes and sometimes even sooner, for never in the history of the M.M.M. had there been such a run of virgins and Irish virgins as on this Murphy’s maiden night, he returned to the cell and resumed the game. Sometimes an entire pause would pass without any change having been made in the position; and at other times the board would be in an uproar, a torrent of moves.

The game, an Endon’s Affence, or Zweispringerspott, was as follows:

14. B–K2                  14. Q–Q2
15. P–Q3                  15. K–Q1 (f)
16. Q–Q2                 16. Q–K1
17. K–Q1                 17. Kt–Q2
18. Kt–QB3 (g)        18. R–QKt1
19. R–QKt1              19. Kt–QKt3
20. Kt–QR4              20. B–Q2
21. P–QKt3               21. R–KKt1
22. R–KKt1               22. K–QB1 (h)
23. B–QKt2               23. Q–KB1
24. K–QB1                24. B–K1
25. B–QB3 (i)           25. Kt–KR1
26. P–QKt4               26. B–Q1
27. Q–KR6 (j)           27. Kt–QR1 (k)
28. Q–KB6                28. Kt–KKt3
29. B–K5                   29. B–K2
30. Kt–QB5 (l)          30. K–Q1 (m)
31. Kt–KR1 (n)         31. B–Q2
32. K–QKt2!!            32. R–KR1
33. K–QKt3               33. B–QB1
34. K–QR4                34. Q–K1 (o)
35. K–R5                   35. Kt–QKt3
36. B–KB4                36. Kt–Q2
37. Q–QB3                37. R–QR1
38. Kt–QR6 (p)         38. B–KB1
39. K–QKt5               39. Kt–K2
40. K–QR5                40. Kt–QKt1
41. Q–QB6                41. Kt–KKt1
42. K–QKt5               42. K–K2 (q)
43. K–R5                   43. Q–Q1 (r)

And White surrenders.

(a) Mr. Endon always played Black. If presented with White he would fade, without the least trace of annoyance, away into a light stupor.
(b) The primary cause of all White’s subsequent difficulties.
(c) Apparently nothing better, bad as this is.
(d) An ingenious and beautiful début, sometimes called the Pipe-opener.
(e) Ill-judged.
(f) Never seen in the Café de la Régence, seldom in Simpson’s Divan.
(g) The flag of distress.
(h) Exquisitely played.
(i) It is difficult to imagine a more deplorable situation than poor White’s at this point.
(j) The ingenuity of despair.
(k) Black has now an irresistible game.
(l) High praise is due to White for the pertinacity with which he struggles to lose a piece.
(m) At this point Mr. Endon, without as much as ‘j’adoube’, turned his King and Queen’s Rook upside down, in which position they remained for the rest of the game.
(n) A coup de repos long overdue.
(o) Mr. Endon not crying ‘Check!’, nor otherwise giving the slightest indication that he was alive to having attacked the King of his opponent, or rather vis-à-vis, Murphy was absolved, in accordance with Law 18, from attending to it. But this would have been to admit that the salute was adventitious.
(p) No words can express the torment of mind that goaded White to this abject offensive.
(q) The termination of this solitaire is very beautifully played by Mr. Endon.
(r) Further solicitation would be frivolous and vexatious, and Murphy, with fool’s mate in his soul, retires.

Following Mr. Endon’s forty-third move Murphy gazed for a long time at the board before laying his Shah on his side, and again for a long time after that act of submission. But little by little his eyes were captured by the brilliant swallow-tail of Mr. Endon’s arms and legs, purple, scarlet, black and glitter, till they saw nothing else, and that in a short time only as a vivid blur, Neary’s big blooming buzzing confusion or ground, mercifully free of figure. Wearying soon of this he dropped his head on his arms in the midst of the chessmen, which scattered with a terrible noise. Mr. Endon’s finery persisted for a little in an after-image scarcely inferior to the original. Then this also faded and Murphy began to see nothing, that colourlessness which is such a rare postnatal treat, being the absence (to abuse a nice distinction) not of percipere but of percipi. His other senses also found themselves at peace, an unexpected pleasure. Not the numb peace of their own suspension, but the positive peace that comes when the somethings give way, or perhaps simply add up, to the Nothing, than which in the guffaw of the Abderite naught is more real. Time did not cease, that would be asking too much, but the wheel of rounds and pauses did, as Murphy with his head among the armies continued to suck in, through all the posterns of his withered soul, the accidentless One-and-Only, conveniently called Nothing. Then this also vanished, or perhaps simply came asunder, in the familiar variety of stenches, asperities, ear-splitters and eye-closers, and Murphy saw that Mr. Endon was missing."

Samuel Beckett

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