02 avril 2007
In the section on elementary mates in his Bréviaire des échecs (page numbers vary according to the edition) Tartakower mentioned Raymond Roussel’s work on setting out a formula for winning the king, bishop and knight versus king endgame. A detailed explanation of the system had previously been supplied by Tartakower in L’Echiquier, 28 November 1932 (pages 1892-1895) and 28 January 1933 (pages 1950-1951).
We have found no full game-scores involving Roussel, but on page 52 of the 23 March 1933 issue of the Belgian magazine Tartakower annotated the ‘fin d’une partie analytique’ (Paris, January 1933) between Romih and Roussel.
Tartakower also wrote an article entitled ‘Raymond Roussel et les Echecs dans la littérature’ on pages 11-14 of the January-February 1933 issue of Les Cahiers de l’Echiquier Français.
It might be an exaggeration to call Roussel, who was born in Paris in 1877, a prominent literary figure, but long after his death his renown as a novelist, playwright and poet grew again, after publication of a biography by François Caradec. The English edition (London, 2001) recently came our way, and we note that the bishop and knight endgame matter is discussed in much detail on pages 324-327. ‘Roussel-worshipper’ is how page 326 describes the late chess author François Le Lionnais, who is acknowledged by Caradec for assisting with the book.
Pages 299-300 relate that in September 1931 Roussel ‘decided to acquire a grave in Père-Lachaise cemetery’ in Paris and that the undertakers ‘designed a vault with sides measuring 11.6m, containing 32 cells (eight rows of four cells)’. Caradec adds:
‘The dimensions of the vault that Roussel was to occupy alone are astounding: 32 cells. Was he thinking of a chess board? Doubtless so, when he found out that the word case is the French term for a sub-division in a vault, the same as the word for a square on a chess board. So what are these 32 squares? The 32 empty squares at the start of a game, or the 32 occupied ones?’
Roussel died in Palermo in mid-July 1933, and page 348 reports that he ‘was buried on 26 July in one of the upper cells of his vault in Père-Lachaise cemetery’.