Paulo Boi and the Devil

This is a loose translation of a story which appeared in Les Cahiers de l'Echiquier Français (november-december 1936). Story, problem and drawing are by V. Barthe

Paulo Boï was the greatest chess player of the 16th Century as well as a poet, soldier and sailor. Legend has it that in the course of a long and eventfull life he once played the devil. The story goes as follows:

In front of the church of Santa Maria de C..... in the small town of C..... in Calabria, on a lovely morning in the year1570, Paulo Boi, who was very religious and attended all the services, met a young woman of startling beauty whose penetrating and enigmatic eyes burnt with a feverish flame. The conversation they so quickly fell into soon turned into friendship and Paulo Boi learnt to his astonishment that the young lady played chess. His astonishment was even greater when, having started a game, he realised that his opponent was unusualy strong. The game was long and hard fought but soon Paulo Boi believed that he had won and was about to announce mate in two in the position below

But to his stupefaction at that moment he suddenly saw his white queen turn into a black queen and the beautifull woman said to him - "Ah Paulo, you will not win as now I have a queen and you have none."

However as she said these words he noticed that he could still win the game, it was still mate in two!

The young woman had also realised and frowning left the room and disappeared without another word. Paulo Boi realised that he had been playing against the devil.

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Last modified may 1997.