NABOKV-L post 0003362, Thu, 17 Sep 1998 19:35:28 -0700

Re: Query (fwd)
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Brian Boyd <>

> Somewhere, I am reasonably sure, VN talks about a chess problem where the
> white queen blocks the solution. Nabokov says, as I recall it, "such a
> powerful piece--and in the way!" Source, anyone?

"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 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 have I struggled to bind the terrible force of
White's queen so as to avoid a dual solution!" (Speak, Memory 290, Vintage

The lyrical ascent proceeds for another two-thirds of a paragraph or so.

Brian Walter
6016 Washington
St. Louis, MO 63112-1410