Eliot Hearst and John Knott blog about blindfold chess
Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Saccheri, Omar Khayyam, Chess, and Mathematics

In chapter one of Blindfold Chess, we tell of the chess exploits of the Jesuit priest Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733), who played three or four simultaneous blindfold games decades before Philidor. Joseph Sucher, of the University of Maryland’s Department of Physics, wrote in with some interesting details about Saccheri’s non-chess accomplishments:

In connection with your remarks on the Jesuit Priest Saccheri’s prowess in blindfold chess, if there is a second printing of your book you might want to note that Fr. Saccheri was not just a “public lecturer on mathematics at Pavia”, as described in your quote from a British journalist. As a result of his investigation of Euclid’s parallel postulate he has a permanent place in the history of mathematics. Indeed, he and Omar Khayyam are regarded as the two founders of non-Euclidean geometry. It is therefore amusing to note that both these gentlemen also have an enduring connection with chess: Saccheri because of his early accomplishments in blindfold chess and Omar Khayyam because of his immortal lines in the Rubaiyat, in Fitzgerald’s translation:

Tis all a Checkerboard of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and stays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.


Permalink  |  Posted by Eliot Hearst at 02:05 PM


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