A Renaissance-era book on chess recently resurfaced in the long-lost library of an Italian count. The book, called De Ludo Schaccorum (Of the Game of Chess), is by Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli.
Pacioli wrote the book around 1500, and research by a Milan scholar suggests he may have received assistance from a friend. That friend is none other than Leonardo da Vinci, one of Western civilization's greatest artists and thinkers.
Pacioli's book contains more than 100 chess puzzles, each illustrated with a diagram showing the position of the pieces, such as the one you see accompanying this column. But Pacioli's diagrams are all hand drawn, and experts have detected some amazing similarities between the artwork and da Vinci's style.
The proportionality of the pieces suggests the hand of da Vinci, who produced numerous sketches on everything from birds in flight to imaginative mechanical inventions. Most amazing of all is the suggestion that the illustration of the Queen is similar to a sketch da Vinci created elsewhere for a fountain.
No one has offered conclusive proof of the claim yet, and some think it may be a tactic on the part of the book's owners to increase its value. There is an even more tantalizing suggestion. Da Vinci may have even composed some of the puzzles.
The diagram accompanying this column is from Pacioli's book, with a slight modification suggested by British grandmaster Raymond Keene. Black is already in check, so it is obviously Black's move, but the problem is to see how White ends up mating Black. It's complicated. But so was the enigma of Mona Lisa's smile.
There is still time to re-arrange your plans for tonight to attend an active chess tournament at the McPhillips Street Station Casino. The event is open to anyone aged 18 and older, and there are $500 in prizes.
The five-round event allows 20 minutes per player per game. Entry fee is $20. To register, sign up at the casino anytime from 6 to 6:50 tonight. Play is expected to begin at 7 p.m. and will wrap up before 11 p.m.
Should you win one of those healthy cash prizes, just remember to head straight for the exit without any stopovers at the slot machines. Chess is a game of skill. Slots are not.
This week's problem (Leonardo da Vinci?): Black, already in check, to move, but White to demonstrate a mating attack. Solution to last problem: 1.Rh1.