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My copy is only 84 pages long so I suppose you could say that this was a short story.  I'm not usually fond of short stories but oh, my goodness, does this one pack a punch.


Joel Rotenberg translated from the german in my copy.


Passengers on a cruise liner to Buenos Zaires discover the world champion of chess on board. He is a highly unpleasant fellow and they challenge him to a game.  One at a time they are all roundly beaten until a stranger intervenes halfway through the last match and succeeds in getting a draw.  He is, of course, implored to play and initially refuses. One of the passengers seeks him out and asks why and the bulk of the book is taken up with the reason. I won't spoil it but it's more horrific than you would imagine and isn't, as at first thought, just selfishness. I'll also leave you wondering if the stranger plays or not.


This is a stunning piece of work.  Zweig manages to convey not only that which the stranger suffers and why he should not play chess ever but the character of the world chess champion, which suggests why he is so unpleasant, in a very few pages. Absolutely incredible.


Highly recommended. 

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