Aside from the "Knight's Tour" there are other swindles concerning the game of Chess that are of use to the Mentalist. The next two items are extracts from my publication "Chess Trickery" which has been on sale for some years now. Neither of the items require any skilled knowledge of the game of chess.
The origin of this principle is somewhat remote and subject to argument. I know that the effect was used by a little girl playing against Dr. A. Alekhine (ex-World Champion) and another player of good strength—and the little girl forced a draw. However, having published the effect and used it as part material for my "Chess Trickery" it then appears that the effect is credited to a magician. I discussed the subject with Dai Vernon on one occasion and he told me that Martin Gardiner had worked on it some time ag<3. Although magicians may have improved the presentation. I do not think they can claim the right of invention in this case.
The Effect. The mentalist is able to play as many games of chess simultaneously as he likes, and although having no knowledge whatsoever of the game, is able to guarantee a draw on the complete match.
This must have a profound impact on chess-players because:—
First, since they must know the game in order to play you, they will appreciate the difficulty of playing several games at once.
Second, it makes little difference what strength of play or opposition you meet—in other words, you could play against a panel of twenty people—all international champions—and still draw. Under these circumstances, a draw is a notable accomplishment and in the game of chess, the title holder is considered 'the winner in the event of a draw—since his opponent must do better than to equalise the tournament.
The Method i
To simplify the explanation we shall describe the technique of playing just two games at once. Later we shall deal with more than two.
It is very easy; to play two people at once, you would have two chessboards, two tables and two sets of chessmen. On one board (which we shall call "A") you are supposed to play with the WHITE PIECES. On the other board ("B") you play with the BLACK. Both opponents sit opposite you.
Now the rules of Chess demand that the player holding the WHITE pieces ("A") must always make the first move. So when you are ready to commence the malch, you wait until your opponent on board t4B" (playing the white against you) makes his move. As soon as he has made it—you make exactly the same move on board "A". After a while the opponent on this board makes a reply, and this reply you duplicate on board "B". In effect, instead of playing the opponents yourself—you have turned the tables on them—and set them playing against each other! Now, if you consider for a moment, you will realise that the outcome of this match can only be three possibilities:—
(1) "A" wins. (So 44 B" must lose, you win on one board and lose on another therefor it is a DRAW).
(2) <4B" wins. (So "A" must lose and the same as above occurs).
(3) "A" and "B" draw. (You draw on both boards which equals a DRAW as tournament result).
There can be no other possibilities. Even if one player resigns the outcome would equal a draw—hence you cannot lose.
It is practically out of the question that the players will discover this ruse as first and foremost, there is no suspicion of trickery. Second, the players are, or should be seated quite a way apart. Third, the position on one board is in reverse to the position in the other—and it takes a chessmaster to glance at a board from white's point of view—then again from black's and say immediately—they are the same on both boards. Fourth, you must remember that chess is a gruelling game—and takes the undivided attention of the players. Fifth—you may say that it will be obvious in the opening stages of the games as only one or two pieces will be moved out of position. It will not because chess-players more often than not resort to standard openings and gambits and similarity in the opening play between several games is commonplace. (I have looked up the Hastings Chess Matches of 1947 and find that out of some two hundred games the opening P-K4 or P-Q4 took place 87% of the time).
If you have more than two opponents (multiples of two are required) you seat them in a long row and mentally number the boards from one onwards. Now instead of playing two opponents sitting next door to each other against themselves, you play them against another person some boards down the row—which makes it quite out of the question that they can see what's going on. The system I used to use was this:—
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Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.