Looking Glass

Wizard Card  -  Volume 1  -  Mr. Wizard Number 1  -  Fri, July 1, 1988 8:29 PM

Welcome to the first installment of Mr. Wizard. As it says on the title card, Mr. Wizard will be a regular feature of Archipelago in which I present a HyperCard stack of no apparent redeeming value.

Future installments will include the Dr. Nim Marble Computer, the Hampton Court Rat Maze, the Ptolemaic Epicycle Generator, the Mandelbrot Explorer, the Meaning of Life, the Starmaze Puzzle, Solver, and Map (a three part series), the Blind Watchmaker Taxonomy Textbook, and the Rune Bag. When these topics are exhausted I shall delve into the mathematical recreations column of Scientific American for further inspiration.

My first offering, the chess game from Through The Looking Glass, is quite simple but I hope you will find it amusing as well. As you probably know, Lewis Carroll's sequel to Alice in Wonderland is based on a chess game. That is, the events of the book are directly tied to the movement of pieces on a chess-board. As we shall see, the game is every bit as nonsensical as the story it engenders. (If you are not already familiar with the story, RUSH to the nearest library and remedy the situation!)

Observers of Carroll's work have already noted that "hardly a move has a sane purpose, from the point of view of chess." Martin Gardner, the editor of The Annotated Alice, adds that "the most serious violation of chess rules occurs near the end of the problem, when the White King is placed in check by the Red Queen without either side taking account of the fact. It is true that both sides play an exceedingly careless game, but what else could one expect from the mad creatures behind the mirror? At one point the White Queen passes up a chance to checkmate and on another occasion she flees from the Red Knight when she could have captured him. Both oversights, however, are in keeping with her absent-mindedness ... It is amusing to note that it is the Red Queen who persuades Alice to advance along her file to the eighth square. The queen is protecting herself with this advice, for white has at the outset an easy, though inelegant, checkmate in three moves." [I leave this for you to find.]

In his preface to the 1896 edition, Carroll admits that the alternation of moves between the red and white pieces "is perhaps not so strictly observed as it might be," but he insists that "the final checkmate of the Red King, will be found, by any one who will take the trouble to set the pieces and play the moves as directed, to be strictly in accordance with the laws of the game."

This is exactly what I hope to show with the help of this HyperCard Stack. Each movement of a piece is shown on the chessboard display one move at a time, and the corresponding story events are revealed, aided by the original John Tenniel illustrations. For those members who wish to create their own chess related HyperStacks, I have also provided a set of chess icons which can be found in the current issue of the Hyper-Talk Programmer's Library.

Simply push the "Push Me" button to begin. Enjoy!