Gustavus Selenus, i. e. August II., Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg: Das Schach- oder König-Spiel

Das Schach oder Königspiel

Eines der schönsten Bücher über das Schachspiel

Gustavus Selenus, i. e. August II., Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg:

Das Schach- oder König-Spiel. Von Gustavo Seleno, In vier unterschiedene Bücher/ mit besonderm fleiß/ gründ- und ordentlich abgefasset Auch mit dienlichen Kupfer-Stichen/ gezieret: Desgleichen vorhin nicht außgangen. Diesem ist zu ende/ angefüget/ ein sehr altes Spiel/ genandt/ Rythmo-Machia.

Leipzig: Lorenz Kober für Henning Groß den Jüngern, 1617 [in fine: 1616].

Folio. 309 × 180 mm. [24] Seiten, [1] gefaltetes Blatt, [1], [1 weiße], 495, [2], [1 weiße] Seiten. – Lagenkollation: ()4, ):(4, 02, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Hhh4, Iii6, Kkk-Qqq4.
Mit gestochenem Haupttitel, gestochenem Zwischentitel zum ersten Buch, motividentischen Holzschnittrahmen zu den Zwischentiteln der anderen drei Bücher, doppelblattgroßem Kupfer, gestochen von Jacob ab Heyden (cf. Thieme/Becker XVII,17-19) nach Seite 216, gestochenem Titel zur „Rythmomachia“, zwei ungezählten gestochenen Tafeln nach Seite 462 & 464; sowie 83, davon 28 ganzseitigen Textkupfern, Holzschnittsignet.

Handgebundener Pergamentband um 1920 um den alten Buchblock mit fünf echten, erhabenen Bünden, Rückenvergoldung aus dem Titel im zweiten Feld, Ornamentstempeln in den anderen, die Bünde durch dreifache goldgeprägte Linien abgesetzt, auf den Deckeln Randrahmen aus drei vergoldeten Linien, auf den Eckpunkten fleurale Ornamente. Ursprüngliche handgestochene Kapitale belassen, der ebenfalls ursprüngliche Goldschnitt nahe den Kapitalen und Kanten gepunzt.

Gustavus Selenus ist das Pseudonym von Herzog August dem Jüngeren von Wolfenbüttel (1579-1666): „Duke August of Brunswick was not only the most learned prince of his time but also the one most interested in spiritual affairs. He was not blessed with the man-of-the-world brilliance and the poetic talent of his son Anton Ulrich, but in solid learning he was certainly superior. The library at Wolffenbüttel owes its existence to him and not to his son“ (Faber du Faur, p. 315).
 Mit Beiträgen von G. Remus, Filippus Hainhofer, Joannes Schwartz und Matthias Börtius; beigefügt ab Seite 443 ist die „Rythmomachia“ des Francesco Barozzi (1537-1604), ein Art pythagoreisches Zahlenspiel des Mittelalters, cf. Smith: Rara Arithmetica pp. 62-64, 271 & 340.
 Titelauflage des ersten Schachlehrbuches in deutscher Sprache, erstmals 1616; 1722 erschien zu Ulm eine gekürzte Version, cf. Graesse VI,344 Anmerkung & Ebert 20818 Anm. Hauptteil ist die Übertragung des - nach neuzeitlichen Maßstäben - ersten Lehrbuchs des Schachs überhaupt „Il giuoco degli scacchi“, verfaßt 1561 von Ruy Lopez, das 1584 von Tarsia ins Italienische übersetzt wurde, in welcher Fassung es dann Herzog August vorlag. Enthält ein Verzeichnis der verwendeten Literatur. Im vorliegenden Werk wird ebenfalls erstmals in deutscher Sprache Matteo Riccis Hinweis auf das chinesische ’Go’ angeführt. Die Kupfer zeigen die einzelnen Schachfiguren sowie die im Text behandelten Spielstellungen. Das doppelblattgroße Kupfer zeigt den Herzog selbst beim Schachspiel.
Diesem Exemplar am Ende beigebunden sind sechs Seiten handschriftliche Annotationen des 18. Jh., davon zwei in deutscher sowie vier in französischer Sprache, u. a. über das ‚chinesische Schach’.

VD17 39:125792Z – Van der Linde 2937 – Schmid: Literatur des Schachspiels 118 – Galland: Cryptology 167 (Ausg. 1616) – Graesse VI,344 – Ebert 20818 Anm. – Holzmann/Bohatta: Pseud. 256 – Faber du Faur II,422a & Clodius 134 (Ausg. 1616) – Paisey A1048 (Ausg. 1616, inkomplett!) – cf. P. R. von Bilguer: Handbuch des Schachspiels, 1874, pp. 40-41; & Zedler XXXIV,684-686 – Bibliographien.


Thomas More: Utopia

“They know nothing about gambling with dice or other such foolish and ruinous games. They play two games not unlike our chess. One is a battle of numbers, in which one number plumbers another. The other is a game in which the vice battles against the virtues.”


Vladimir Nabokov: Speak, Memory

“In the course of my twenty years of exile I devoted a prodigious amount of time to the composing of chess problems. A certain position is elaborated on the board, and the problem to be solved is how to mate Black in a given number of moves, generally two or three. It is a beautiful, complex and sterile art related to the ordinary form of the game only insofar as, say, the properties of a sphere are made use of both by a juggler in weaving a new act and by a tennis player in winning a tournament. Most chess players, in fact, amateurs and masters alike, are only mildly interested in these highly specialized, fanciful, stylish riddles, and though appreciative of a catchy problem would be utterly baffled if asked to compose one.

Inspiration of a quasi-musical, quasi-poetical, or to be quite exact, poetico-mathematical type, attends the process of thinking up a chess composition of that sort. Frequently, in the friendly middle of the day, on the fringe of some trivial occupation, in the idle wake of a passing thought, I would experience, without warning, a twinge of mental pleasure as the bud of a chess problem burst open in my brain, promising me a night of labor and felicity. It might be a new way of blending an unusual strategic device with an unusual line of defense; it might be a glimpse of the actual configuration of men that would render at last, with humor and grace, a difficult theme that I had despaired of expressing before; or it might be a mere gesture made in the mist of my mind by the various units of force represented by chessmen—a kind of swift dumb show, suggesting new harmonies and new conflicts; whatever it was, it belonged to an especially exhilarating order of sensation, and my only quarrel with it today is that the maniacal manipulation of carved figures, or of their mental counterparts, during my most ebullient and prolific years engulfed so much of the time I could have devoted to verbal adventure.

Experts distinguish several schools of the chess-problem art: the Anglo-American one that combines accurate construction with dazzling thematic patterns, and refuses to be bound by any conventional rules; the rugged splendor of the Teutonic school; the highly finished but unpleasantly slick and insipid products of the Czech style with its strict adherence to certain artificial conditions; the old Russian end-game studies, which attain the sparkling summits of the art, and the mechanical Soviet problem of the so-called “task” type, which replaces artistic strategy by the ponderous working of themes to their utmost capacity. Themes in chess, it may be explained, are such devices as forelaying, withdrawing, pinning, unpinning and so forth; but it is only when they are combined in a certain way that a problem is satisfying. Deceit, to the point of diabolism, and originality, verging upon the grotesque, were my notions of strategy; and although in matters of construction I tried to conform, whenever possible, to classical rules, such as economy of force, unity, weeding out of loose ends, I was always ready to sacrifice purity of form to the exigencies of fantastic content, causing form to bulge and burst like a sponge-bag containing a small furious devil.

It is one thing to conceive the main play of a composition and another to construct it. The strain on the mind is formidable; the element of time drops out of one’s consciousness altogether: the building hand gropes for a pawn in the box, holds it, while the mind still ponders the need for a foil or a stopgap, and when the fist opens, a whole hour, perhaps, has gone by, has burned to ashes in the incandescent cerebration of the schemer. The chessboard before him is a magnetic field, a system of stresses and abysses, a starry firmament. The bishops move over it like searchlights. This or that knight is a lever adjusted and tried, and readjusted and tried again, till the problem is tuned up to the necessary level of beauty and surprise. How often I have struggled to bind the terrible force of White’s queen so as to avoid a dual solution! It should be understood that competition in chess problems is not really between White and Black but between the composer and the hypothetical solver (just as in a first-rate work of fiction the real clash is not between the characters but between the author and the world), so that a great part of a problem’s value is due to the number of “tries”—delusive opening moves, false scents, specious lines of play, astutely and lovingly prepared to lead the would-be solver astray. But whatever I can say about this matter of problem composing, I do not seem to convey sufficiently the ecstatic core of the process and its points of connection with various other, more overt and fruitful, operations of the creative mind, from the charting of dangerous seas to the writing of one of those incredible novels where the author, in a fit of lucid madness, has set himself certain unique rules that he observes, certain nightmare obstacles that he surmounts, with the zest of a deity building a live world from the most unlikely ingredients—rocks, and carbon, and blind throbbings. In the case of problem composition, the event is accompanied by a mellow physical satisfaction, especially when the chessmen are beginning to enact adequately, in a penultimate rehearsal, the composer’s dream. There is a feeling of snugness (which goes back to one’s childhood, to play-planning in bed, with parts of toys fitting into corners of one’s brain); there is the nice way one piece is ambushed behind another, within the comfort and warmth of an out-of-the-way square; and there is the smooth motion of a well-oiled and polished machine that runs sweetly at the touch of two forked fingers lightly lifting and lightly lowering a piece.

I remember one particular problem I had been trying to compose for months. There came a night when I managed at last to express that particular theme. It was meant for the delectation of the very expert solver. The unsophisticated might miss the point of the problem entirely, and discover its fairly simple, “thetic” solution without having passed through the pleasurable torments prepared for the sophisticated one. The latter would start by falling for an illusory pattern of play based on a fashionable avant-garde theme (exposing White’s King to checks), which the composer had taken the greatest pains to “plant” (with only one obscure little move by an inconspicuous pawn to upset it). Having passed through this “antithetic” inferno the by now ultrasophisticated solver would reach the simple key move (bishop to c2) as somebody on a wild goose chase might go from Albany to New York by way of Vancouver, Eurasia and the Azores. The pleasant experience of the roundabout route (strange landscapes, gongs, tigers, exotic customs, the thrice-repeated circuit of a newly married couple around the sacred fire of an earthen brazier) would amply reward him for the misery of the deceit, and after that, his arrival at the simple key move would provide him with a synthesis of poignant artistic delight.

I remember slowly emerging from a swoon of concentrated chess thought, and there, on a great English board of cream and cardinal leather, the flawless position was at last balanced like a constellation. It worked. It lived. My Staunton chessmen (a twenty-year-old set given to me by my father’s Englished brother, Konstantin), splendidly massive pieces, of tawny or black wood, up to four and a quarter inches tall, displayed their shiny contours as if conscious of the part they played. Alas, if examined closely, some of the men were seen to be chipped (after traveling in their box through the fifty or sixty lodgings I had changed during those years); but the top of the king’s rook and the brow of the king’s knight still showed a small crimson crown painted upon them, recalling the round mark on a happy Hindu’s forehead.

A brooklet of time in comparison to its frozen lake on the chessboard, my watch showed half-past three. The season was May—mid-May, 1940. The day before, after months of soliciting and cursing, the emetic of a bribe had been administered to the right rat at the right office and had resulted finally in a visa de sortie which, in its turn, conditioned the permission to cross the Atlantic. All of a sudden, I felt that with the completion of my chess problem a whole period of my life had come to a satisfactory close. Everything around was very quiet; faintly dimpled, as it were, by the quality of my relief. Sleeping in the next room were you and our child. The lamp on my table was bonneted with blue sugarloaf paper (an amusing military precaution) and the resulting light lent a lunar tinge to the voluted air heavy with tobacco smoke. Opaque curtains separated me from blacked-out Paris. The headline of a newspaper drooping from the seat of a chair spoke of Hitler’s striking at the Low Countries.

I have before me the sheet of paper upon which, that night in Paris, I drew the diagram of the problem’s position. White: King on a7 (meaning first file, seventh rank), Queen on b6, Rooks on f4 and h5, Bishops on e4 and h8, Knights on d8 and e6, Pawns on b7 and g3; Black: King on e5, Rook on g7, Bishop on h6, Knights on e2 and g5, Pawns on c3, c6 and d7. White begins and mates in two moves. The false scent, the irresistible “try” is: Pawn to b8, becoming a knight, with three beautiful mates following in answer to disclosed checks by Black; but Black can defeat the whole brilliant affair by not checking White and making instead a modest dilatory move elsewhere on the board. In one corner of the sheet with the diagram, I notice a certain stamped mark that also adorns other papers and books I took out of France to America in May 1940. It is a circular imprint, in the ultimate tint of the spectrum—violet de bureau. In its center there are two capital letters of pica size, R.F., meaning of course République Française. Other letters in lesser type, running peripherally, spell Contrôle des Informations. However, it is only now, many years later, that the information concealed in my chess symbols, which that control permitted to pass, may be, and in fact is, divulged.”


Jorge Luis Borges: Ajedrez

En su grave rincón, los jugadores
Rigen las lentas piezas. El tablero
Los demora hasta el alba en su severo
Ámbito en que se odian dos colores.
Adentro irradian mágicos rigores
Las formas: torre homérica, ligero
Caballo, armada reina, rey postrero,
Oblicuo alfil y peones agresores.
Cuando los jugadores se hayan ido,
Cuando el tiempo los haya consumido,
Ciertamente no habrá cesado el rito.
En el Oriente se encendió esta guerra
Cuyo anfiteatro es hoy toda la Tierra.
Como el otro, este juego es infinito.
Tenue rey, sesgo alfil, encarnizada
Reina, torre directa y peón ladino
Sobre lo negro y blanco del camino
Buscan y libran su batalla armada.
No saben que la mano señalada
Del jugador gobierna su destino,
No saben que un rigor adamantino
Sujeta su albedrío y su jornada.
También el jugador es prisionero
(La sentencia es de Omar) de otro tablero
De negras noches y de blancos días.
Dios mueve al jugador, y éste, la pieza.
¿Qué Dios detrás de Dios la trama empieza
De polvo y tiempo y sueño y agonía?
El hacedor. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1960.

Die Spieler in ihrem ernsten Winkel
Lenken die sachten Figuren. Das Brett
Hält sie bis früh in seinem strengen
Umkreis, in dem zwei Farben sich befehden.
Magische Zwänge verstrahlen darinnen die
Formen: homerischer Turm, flinker
Springer, gewappnete Königin, versetzter
König, Schrägläufer und Angriffsbauern.
Wenn die Spieler gegangen sind,
Wenn die Zeit sie verzehrt hat,
Wird der Ritus gewiß nicht geendet haben.
Im Osten flammte dieser Krieg auf,
Dessen Schauplatz heute die gesamte Erde ist.
Wie das andere ist dieses Spiel unendlich.
Schmächtiger König, schräger Läufer, ergrimmte
Königin, frontaler Turm und verschmitzter Bauer
Suchen und entfesseln auf dem Schwarz und Weiß
Des Wegs ihre erbitterte Schlacht.
Sie wissen nicht, daß die beauftragte
Hand des Spielers ihr Schicksal regiert.
Sie wissen nicht, daß diamantene Härte
Ihre Willensfreiheit und den Zug ihres Daseins beugt.
Auch der Spieler ist Gefangener
(Der Ausspruch stammt von Omar) eines anderen Bretts
Schwarzer Nächte und weißer Tage.
Gott rückt den Spieler und dieser: den Stein.
Welcher Gott im Rücken Gottes beginnt die Partie
Aus Staub und Zeit und Schlaf und Agonie?
— Übersetzt von Karl August Horst: Borges und Ich.
München: Hanser, 1963. pp: 55-57.


Francesco Barozzi

Francesco Barozzi
Il nobilissimo et antiquissimo giuoco Pythagoreo nominato Rythmomachia, cioè Battaglia de consonantie de numeri, ritrovato per utilità et solazzo delli studiosi, et al presente per Francesco Barozzi gentilhuomo Venetiano in lingua volgare in modo di paraphrasi composto.
Venedig: G. Perchacino, 1572.
Quarto. 24 Blatt.

Dieses Werk beschreibt das mittelalterliche Zahlenspiel Rithmomachia, das häufig Pythagoras zugeschrieben wurde, wahrscheinlich aber erst im elften Jahrhundert entstand. Das Spiel wurde auf einem Brett mit acht Feldern auf der einen und sechzehn auf der anderen Seite gespielt, mit Spielsteinen, die als Kreise, Dreiecke, Quadrate und Pyramiden bezeichnet sind und jeweils einen unterschiedlichen Wert besitzen. Dies Buch ist eine von drei Standardabhandlungen über das antike Spiel Rythmomachia, die früheste stammt von Guillielmus de Shireswode oder Faber Stapulensis, abgedruckt in einer Boethius-Ausgabe des Jahres 1496, gefolgt von einem Werk Claude de Bossières, das 1556 veröffentlicht wurde. — Digitales FaksimilePeter Mebben: Rithmomachia, the Philosophers’ Game, a Mediaeval Battle of Numbers


Eine Schach-Bibliographie

Heinrich Jonathan Clodius:
Primae lineae Bibliothecae Lusoriae sive notitia scriptorum de ludis.
Leipzig: ZA, 1971. Nachdruck der Ausgabe: Leipzig, 1761.
Octavo. [2], 166 Seiten. Original-Leinwandband.

Bibliographie nicht nur des Schachspiels, sondern auch anderer Spiele der Antike, des Mittelalters und der Renaissance. Besterman zufolge die erste kritische Bibliographie des Schachspiels überhaupt, mit ca. 500 Nachweisen. Auch Petzholdt lobt das Werk. Fast neuwertig.
Cf. Besterman 2408 - Petzholdt 764 - V. d. Linde 556 (falsch 1766).