Tuesday, March 06, 2007
This Thursday the Streatham & Brixton second team are heading off to play Metropolitan 3. Hopefully we'll get revenge for our recent loss to their second team.
Metropolitan’s venue, just off Middlesex Street in East London, is an interesting location for students of criminology. Modern geographical profiling techniques suggest Jack the Ripper may have lived (or at least had a base to which he could return) in that very road. The juxtaposition of chess, the ultimate impenetrable game, and a location associated with the definitive unsolvable murder mystery seems very appropriate somehow.
Fictional detectives are often portrayed as having a keen interest in chess. I’m not sure why exactly. Perhaps it’s seen as a shorthand way of implying a logical or analytical mind.
The trouble is chess and crime detection are direct opposites. Chess is a puzzle that moves forward. The question a player asks is, ‘If I do this … he does that … then I do the other … where do we end up?’ Crime analysis, on the other hand, works in reverse. Instead of, ‘where are we going?’ the mystery to be unravelled becomes, ‘how did we get here?’
Years ago I found Raymond Smullyan’s “The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes” in some second hand book shop or other. It’s a collection of problems that require retrograde analysis to find the solution. Retrograde analysis is simply the art of working backwards on the chessboard – and thus Smullyan’s book is unique (as far as I know) in creating a true parallel between our game and amateur sleuthing.
The position at the top of this blog entry is pinched from the early pages of Smullyan’s book. The question is simple –
On what square was the White Queen captured?
You’ll need to provide proof of course. This is crime scene analysis after all.
If you need a hint, Holmes advises, “One of the main things in solving these problems is to think of the right questions to ask oneself.”
Find the right questions and I think you’ll find the answer elementary …
Posted by Jonathan B at 1:35 pm