Agatha Christie and Chess

Edward Winter



writer

Illustrated London News, 16 February 1929, page 280



Agatha Christie’s 1927 book The Big Four included ‘A Chess Problem’, which mentioned Lasker, Capablanca and Rubinstein. A murder mystery solved by Hercule Poirot, it has often been anthologized as a short story, two instances in the chess world being pages 184-195 of Chess in Literature by Marcello Trutti (New York, 1974) and pages 222-233 of Sinister Gambits by Richard Peyton (London, 1991).

Did Agatha Christie refer to chess anywhere else in her writings?

(4083)



When The Big Four was brought out by Planet Three Publishing Network Ltd. (no date given) the front cover had a chess illustration:

christie

(4105)



Alexander Kotov’s assessment of Agatha Christie was reported by Harry Golombek in The Times Saturday Review, 25 April 1981, page 9:

golombek

Below is the remark about ‘even a Russian’ (which was addressed to Hercule Poirot) in ‘A Chess Problem’, as published in the edition of Agatha Christie’s book The Big Four referred to in C.N. 4105:

christie

(8272)



Mike Salter (Sydney, Australia) quotes from page 219 of Sinister Gambits edited by Richard Peyton (London, 1991):

‘[“A Chess Problem”] reveals its author’s knowledge of the game, for she played from her childhood, and to the end of her life continued to enjoy games with her husband, Sir Max Mallowan, as relaxation after a day’s hard plotting.’

Peyton specified no source for this information.

peyton

Below is a passage from page 102 of the book shown in C.N. 4105 (in ‘A Chess Problem’, which is Chapter 11 of The Big Four):

christie

(8371)

There is a reference to the Wallace murder case in Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (first published in 1941). The passage, at the start of chapter five part five, is shown below from page 71 of a Christie anthology published by Hamlyn, London in 1970. The two police officers and Hercule Poirot have just questioned Kenneth Marshall, the murder victim’s husband:

christie wallace

An on-line search reveals a mention of Wallace in Agatha Christie’s posthumous novel featuring Miss Marple, Sleeping Murder:

‘And Wallace, a quiet man whom the jury insisted did kill his wife, though the sentence was quashed on appeal.’

(10996)

Books by which chess author appear in both Endeavour (Shaun Evans) and Poirot (David Suchet)?

The answer is below. (The episodes of these ITV programmes were entitled, respectively, ‘Game’ and ‘The Big Four’.)

christie

The answer is E.E. Cunnington (1852-1942).

Near the beginning of the Endeavour episode, the eponymous detective briefly handled a copy of Chess Lessons for Beginners:

cunnington

‘The Big Four’ has a short scene, also early on, in which Hercule Poirot was researching the Ruy López in a large-format book with a fictitious cover and title (The 50 Greatest Chess Problems – author’s name indistinct). The content fleetingly shown is identifiable as being from Cunnington’s Chess Traps and Stratagems.

cunnington

Below are the pages from which fragments of text and diagrams can be seen, just about, in ‘The Big Four’, although the lay-out was altered:

cunnington

cunnington

(11057)



Latest update: 18 October 2018.

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