“Say, professor,” Oppenheimer tapped to me one day. “When you was spieling that Adam Strang yarn, I remember you mentioned playing chess with that royal souse of an emperor’s brother. Now is that chess like our kind of chess?”
Of course I had to reply that I did not know, that I did not remember the details after I returned to my normal state. And of course he laughed good-naturedly at what he called my foolery. Yet I could distinctly remember that in my Adam Strang adventure I had frequently played chess. The trouble was that whenever I came back to consciousness in solitary, unessential and intricate details faded from my memory.
It must be remembered that for convenience I have assembled my intermittent and repetitional jacket experiences into coherent and consecutive narratives. I never knew in advance where my journeys in time would take me. For instance, I have a score of different times returned to Jesse Fancher in the wagon-circle at Mountain Meadows. In a single ten-days’ bout in the jacket I have gone back and back, from life to life, and often skipping whole series of lives that at other times I have covered, back to prehistoric time, and back of that to days ere civilization began.
So I resolved, on my next return from Adam Strang’s experiences, whenever it might be, that I should, immediately, I on resuming consciousness, concentrate upon what visions and memories. I had brought back of chess playing. As luck would have it, I had to endure Oppenheimer’s chaffing for a full month ere it happened. And then, no sooner out of jacket and circulation restored, than I started knuckle-rapping the information.
Further, I taught Oppenheimer the chess Adam Strang had played in Cho-Sen centuries agone. It was different from Western chess, and yet could not but be fundamentally the same, tracing back to a common origin, probably India. In place of our sixty-four squares there are eighty-one squares. We have eight pawns on a side; they have nine; and though limited similarly, the principle of moving is different.
Also, in the Cho-Sen game, there are twenty pieces and pawns against our sixteen, and they are arrayed in three rows instead of two. Thus, the nine pawns are in the front row; in the middle row are two pieces resembling our castles; and in the back row, midway, stands the king, flanked in order on either side by “gold money,” “silver money,” “knight,” and “spear.” It will be observed that in the Cho-Sen game there is no queen. A further radical variation is that a captured piece or pawn is not removed from the board. It becomes the property of the captor and is thereafter played by him.
Well, I taught Oppenheimer this game—a far more difficult achievement than our own game, as will be admitted, when the capturing and recapturing and continued playing of pawns and pieces is considered. Solitary is not heated. It would be a wickedness to ease a convict from any spite of the elements. And many a dreary day of biting cold did Oppenheimer and I forget that and the following winter in the absorption of Cho-Sen chess.