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Tales of the Arabian Knights: Retro Print E-mail
By Rick Kennedy   
August 6, 2008
Scheherazade. Art by Pamela Key.
“What ever happened to the beggar outside the gates,”
the King asked one day. “Did he continue his swindling ways?” She smiled and began to tell a tale…

The day had been long, hot and tiring, but the rewards had been plenty. The beggar wiped the sweat from his brow and looked again at the weary merchant sitting across the chess board. Such a fine blend of riches, good humor and lack of chess talent!

Yet the beggar had become bored in his task of lightening the merchant’s purse, and as a result found himself in a lost position with the white pieces.


Before giving up the game, he tried one last trick.


That is right—he moved his pawn backwards!

His opponent grew puzzled and then began to think long and hard. This was not something he had expected. Was the game slipping away? Finally he moved.

1. …               h5

Backwards as well! But it was not enough to save the game.

2.a2              h6


And the merchant resigned. Still puzzled by the collapse of his game he said, “For a moment I thought that I would be able to advance my pawn and make it a queen one step before you. Maybe I moved it the wrong way?”

The beggar bravely answered, “No, good sir. Even if you had moved your pawn the other way it would have been to no avail: 1.a3 h3 2.a2 h2 3.a1=Q+ Kg2 4.Qg7+ Kh1 5.Qb2 Kg1 6.Ke3 h1=Q* 7.Qf2 mate."

The merchant nodded enthusiastically. Such chess this beggar played!  “So I was lost, after all. How easily a man can be fooled!”

*Author’s note: Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed that the merchant could have put off the checkmate a couple of moves by promoting his pawn to a Knight: 6. … h1=N 7.Kf3 Nf2 8.Qxf2+ Kh1 9.Qg2 checkmate.

[This story is based on a reported swindle played by Hans Fahrni during an exhibition game against a very weak player.]