The "Discovery" of America
COLUMBIA CHESS CHRONICLE. VOL.I. No.13 SEPTEMBER 17, 1887.
HOW A GREAT GAME OF CHESS HELPED TO DISCOVER AMERICA.
IT WAS THROUGH a game of chess that America was discovered.
Columbus had wearied the patience of Ferdinand of Spain by his request for aid Isabella stuck closely to the Columbian theory and believed in it, but even her ardent advocacy could not move Ferdinand to any further investment. It was at this juncture that a game of chess decided the matter. The honor has been claimed for the famous egg trick, but so grand a scheme deserves a more impressive pedestal. The egg trick was probably a lie, like the story of Washington and the hatchet. If it were true that a suspected character like Columbus, who wan generally looked upon as a poor pirate in an ill-paying business and plastered with debt for his plant, tried such an ancient trick on a council of solemn and thick-headed Spanish ministers, breaking the end of the egg and thus standing it on end, as if that were a grand achievement, when half the kitchen help in the land does more than that every day, it would have been more probable that the Ministerial Council would have had him bounced out as an impudent tramp and blatherskite. It was the chess game that saved Columbus and led to his equipment for the discovery of the new world. And it was the noble, beautiful and brilliant Isabella who consummated the chess triumph.
When Columbus came with his final request to the Queen, King Ferdinand was playing a game of chess with Fonseca, one of the experts of his day in chess. The game had progressed towards the end and Ferdinand was at a critical juncture. That he would be checkmated by Fonseca seemed inevitable. The following was the position on the board, the whites belonging to Ferdinand and the blacks to Fonseca :
It was Ferdinand's move. If chessplayers will arrange their pieces according to this diagram they will see the importance of his making the correct move all the time. He could not experiment. It was an impressive movement. The odds, even the great odds of a queen on the board were against the king And then, which was not considered at the time, the discovery of America depended on his winning. For it may be said to those not accustomed to playing chess, no monarch of however bountiful a soul or beautiful a disposition will help even the most deserving subject or brother to discover anything if that monarch has just blundered in a move in a game of chess.
It was at this crisis that Queen Isabella interested herself in the absorbing game. She pressed her suit for Columbus. Ferdinand was about to lift a piece preparatory to moving, and the move he proposed would have been fatal.
"Nay, sire,'' said the astute Isabella, who was a fine chess champion herself, "Stay your hand. You cannot win the game except as you pursue the course which I urge upon you toward our friend Columbus in his project to the unveiling of a new world."
Queen Isabella, of course, could not under the rules or politeness or under the rules of chess tell her husband which moves he should make in the game. But which her mind being full of Columbus' project she diverted her language so that it might apply to the game also, and thus she gave Ferdinand directions as to move after move until he compelled the checkmate of Fonsecas king. Ferdinand was so delighted that he gave Columbus the aid required; declaring the Queen to be the noblest of her sex, taunted Fonseca with inability to play any game very well, and of course, claimed that he had intended to move just that way all the time. —Albany Times.