Jansy: I’m not sure if VN’s pun is obvious to all readers? And, of course, there’s no reason why the pun should work in all languages. Anglophone Chess players will know that ‘combination’ has a technical meaning beyond the everyday sense of ‘mixture/compound/amalgam.’ In chess, it’s a brilliantly unexpected sequence of moves, often involving apparently suicidal material sacrifices. Annotated games indicate a beautiful and surprising move with one or more exclamation signs, e.g.,
35 Q x P!! P x Q?? 36 B-Kt5++ (?? means that accepting White’s queen sacrifice is a very, very poor move by Black, instantly punished by checkmate, indicated by ++.)
VN’s statement that ‘a good combination should always contain a certain element of deception’ is damned near tautological for a Chess combination! So I find his ‘as in art’ rather teasing. Not that perfect Nabokovians, comme nous, would ever object to  being teased! Part of entrance fee. Whichever of the many meanings you attach to ‘deception,’ there are clear differences between the sneaky deceptions of a Chess master (ALL subject to FIDE’s documented, implacable, unambiguous Règle du Jeu), and those of artists,  free creative spirits (we hope) able to invent their own, seldom publicly-enumerated, ‘rules.’ Indeed, are free to change their ‘rules’ between, and even during works.

In Chess, all games end with win/draw/loss (occasional suspensions!): however devious the play, we can later examine the recorded moves, and mechanically check their legality (note, no undetectable human deception here.) And with those artificial positions created by Chess Problemists, such as VN, however devious, either solutions exist or they don’t. Two flaws do occasionally surface: the problem has no solution (maybe a printing error), or even more embarrassing, there are two or more solutions.

All problems puzzle, but not all that puzzles us can be cast in the form of a ‘soluble’ problem © Harry Stottle.
(By ‘soluble’ we mean either solutions are found, or can be proved not to exist.)

In particular, whatever puzzles we encounter in Pale Fire, whether through deliberate deceptions, missed allusions, inadequate dictionaries, &/or simply because the themes themselves are eternally challenging (I meantersay, Madness, Poetry, Life and Death!), I can’t, pace Brian Boyd, pace Nabokov, find any useful analogy between improving my understanding/enjoyment by re-...re-reading Pale Fire (and BB’s latest guide), and trying to solve a Chess Problem, however fiendish. As a last resort, I can always CHEAT using IBM’s Deep Azure ... Er Deep Blue.

Stan Kelly-Bootle

On 14/12/2010 16:12, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

Don Stanley [JM: How could we describe "deception" in music?] "As far as music being deceptive, I suppose you could look at it that way...."
JM:  But I don't!    (I only mentioned it because Nabokov wrote that  "deception in chess, as in art, is...part of the combination. I think a good combination should always contain a certain element of deception.") One shouldn't confuse Nabokov's manoeuvers of "deception" in art, with "fiction", "reality" or "illusion."
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