Calculation of Chances no. 2


He played at chess? What string of his soul was not touched by this idle and childish game? I hate and avoid it, because it is not play enough, that it is too grave and serious a diversion, and I am ashamed to lay out as much thought and study upon it as would serve to much better uses.




09:10 h: How for god’s sake is this possible? The gods will know. This is not possible, yet it happens to me.

An unfortunate manoeuvre of the arm made the side of my hand touch the White Kinglet and push it from the magnetic chessboard on which, every morning and almost every night, I play a chess problem. Now the little bastard is untraceable.

A full half hour I remove everything from its spot and, even though it is broad daylight, a flashlight floods its beam all over the carpet and over the rest of the floor. Then I cast my light into every nook, cranny and slit.



Undetectable! Only Sierksma can perform this trick… It looks like no house cleaning anymore from fear of vacuuming the little man into nonexistence. I am sure now that the White Sovereign has slipped exactly in that one cavity which can be found in the area around my chair. Looking for it down there would mean breaking up the elevated wooden floor which protects me from the chilly tiles underneath.



With all risks involved I check this hypothesis by trying to gently push his black opposite number halfway into that little hole behind the chair. A tricky manoeuvre, but it can be done and I can recover at least this piece. Yet, it seems quite unlikely that the white variant vanished by worming its way down there without any help. What is ‘probability’ meaning in this situation, anyway?

In a split second the whole échiquier has become useless. What, after all, is a chess game with only one King? It is a gift from my by now 100 year old neighbour Mémé, so long my pleasure because the pieces stick nicely to the surface and I can, without risking to push the pieces, move around and take my coffee bowl from its little table.

I love the game and disagree with Montaigne completely. He felt ashamed to lay out as much thought and study upon it as would serve to much better uses. Then again, his thought may have been more elevated and more intense than mine, and I may not have ‘better uses’ for the bit of intelligence which I possess. So chess it was, it is and it will be! The loss of my little White King feels as devastation.

10.40h: Once more I scoured the floor with the flashlight; I simply cannot accept my own stupidity. Like some psychiatric patients I ignore the Reality Principle. Yet, it is not to be found.

11.30h: My decision is made. To save the chess board and with it my fun, I’m going to edit one of the white pawns and promote it to a King. That move is ruled out in real chess. However, a bricoleur like me is free to make it if he plays chess against Fate – like the travelling farmer in Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal had to play against the Devil in order to save his family.

What chance is there that a creator of chess problems will ever confront me with a composition using all eight white pawns!



11.45h: The new White King looks terrible. Crowned by a plastic plug, edited by a Stanley knife, the pawn is at least a little taller than his brothers. This bitch will surely distract me in the beginning. So be it, at least I can play again.

23.35h: In the middle of the night, like an incredulous priest I decide to celebrate a resurrection. I get out of bed. In my half sleep the penny dropped. Eureka! – perhaps.

In each bottom of those blasted little pieces there is a tiny magnet! The little White King may not have fallen on the floor at all, may never have been anywhere near that damned hole. My 50’s chair has a tubular steel frame, even equipped with a hydraulic system if steel steel, to change the position of the backrest.

It flashed like lightning through my mind: Could my piece in its fall have glued itself to such a tube? Once more in my dressing gown, all room lamps on, I also use the flashlight in a search of the little bastard, this time in the dark of night.



Verily, I bring it you good tidings: There he is! Crucified onto the steel frame with his magnet. INRI – hanging on. My White Rex resurrected.

Sierksma, 2.10 / 2015 La Roche


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s