An extract from the novel “Murphy” by Samuel Beckett featuring an unusual chess game

The following extract is from Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy, set in an asylum, featuring a rather unusual chess game:

… Murphy resumed his round, gratified in no small measure. Mr. Endon had recognized the feel of his friend’s eye upon him and made his preparations accordingly. Friend’s eye? Say rather, Murphy’s eye. Mr. Endon had felt Murphy’s eye upon him. Mr. Endon would have been less than Mr. Endon if he had known what it was to have a friend; and Murphy more than Murphy if he had not hoped against his better judgment that his feeling for Mr. Endon was in some small degree reciprocated.

Whereas the sad truth was, that while Mr. Endon for Murphy was no less than bliss, Murphy for Mr. Endon was no more than chess. Murphy’s eye? Say rather, the chessy eye. Mr. Endon had vibrated to the chessy eye upon him and made his preparations accordingly.

Murphy completed his round, an Irish virgin. (Finished on time a round was called a virgin; ahead of time, an Irish virgin.) The hypomanic it is true, in pad since morning with a big attack blowing up, had tried to come at his tormentor through the judas. This distressed Murphy, though he rather disliked the hypomanic. But it did not delay him. Quite the reverse.

He hastened back westward down the nave with his master key at the ready. He stopped short of the wreck, switched on Mr. Endon’s light and entered bodily into his cell. Mr. Endon was in the same position all but his head, which was now bowed, whether over the board or merely on his chest it was hard to say. Murphy sank down on his elbow on the foot of the bed and the game began.

Murphy’s functions were scarcely affected by this break with the tradition of night duty. All it meant was that he took his pauses with Mr. Endon instead of in the wreck. Every ten minutes he left the cell, pressed the indicator with heartfelt conviction and did a round. Every ten minutes and sometimes even sooner, for never in the history of the M.M.M. had there been such a run of virgins and Irish virgins as on this Murphy’s maiden night, he  returned to the cell and resumed the game. Sometimes an entire pause would pass without any change having been made in the position; and at other times the board would be in an uproar, a torrent of moves.

The game, an Endon’s Affence, or Zweispringerspott, was as follows:



White (MURPHY)            Black (MR. ENDON)       (a)

1. P-K4 (b)             1. Kt-KR3
2. Kt-KR3               2. R-KKt1
3. R-KKt1               3. Kt-QB3
4. Kt-QB3               4. Kt-K4
5. Kt-Q5 (c)            5. R-KR1
6. R-KR1                6. Kt-QB3
7. Kt-QB3               7. Kt-KKt1
8. Kt-QKt1              8. Kt-QKt1 (d)
9. Kt-KKt1              9. P-K3
10. P-KKt3 (e)          10. Kt-K2
11. Kt-K2               11. Kt-KKt3
12. P-KKt4              12. B-K2
13. Kt-KKt3             13. P-Q3
14. B-K2                14. Q-Q2
15. P-Q3                15. K-Q1 (f)
16. Q-Q2                16. Q-K1
17. K-Q1                17. Kt-Q2
18. Kt-QB3 (g)          18. R-QKt1
19. R-QKt1              19. Kt-QKt3
20. Kt-QR4              20. B-Q2
21. P-QKt3              21. R-KKt1
22. R-KKt1              22. K-QB1 (h)
23. B-QKt2              23. Q-KB1
24. K-QB1               24. B-K1
25. B-QB3 (i)           25. Kt-KR1
26. P-QKt4              26. B-Q1
27. Q-KR6 (j)           27. Kt-QR1 (k)
28. Q-KB6               28. Kt-KKt3
29. B-K5                29. B-K2
30. Kt-QB5 (l)          30. K-Q1 (m)
31. Kt-KR1 (n)          31. B-Q2
32. K-QKt2!!            32. R-KR1
33. K-QKt3              33. B-QB1
34. K-QR4               34. Q-K1 (o)
35. K-R5                35. Kt-QKt3
36. B-KB4               36. Kt-Q2
37. Q-QB3               37. R-QR1
38. Kt-QR6 (p)          38. B-KB1
39. K-QKt5              39. Kt-K2
40. K-QR5               40. Kt-QKt1
41. Q-QB6               41. Kt-KKt1
42. K-QKt5              42. K-Q2 (q)
43. K-R5                43. Q-Q1 (r)
And White surrenders.


(a)      Mr. Endon always played Black. If presented with White he would fade, without the least trace of annoyance,  away into a light stupor.
(b)      The primary cause of all White’s subsequent difficulties.
(c)      Apparently nothing better, bad as this is.
(d)      An ingenious and beautiful début, sometimes called the Pipe-opener.
(e)      Ill-judged.
(f)      Never seen in the Café de la Régence, seldom in Simpson’s Divan.
(g)      The flag of distress.
(h)      Exquisitely played.
(i)      It is difficult to imagine a more deplorable situation than poor White’s at this point.
(j)      The ingenuity of despair.
(k)      Black has now an irresistible game.
(l)      High praise is due to White for the pertinacity with which he struggles to lose a piece.
(m)      At this point Mr. Endon, without as much as “j’adoube”, turned his King and Queen’s Rook upside down, in which position they remained for the rest of the game.
(n)      A coup de repos long overdue.
(o)      Mr. Endon not crying “Check!”, nor otherwise giving the slightest indication that he was alive to having attacked the King of his opponent, or rather vis-à-vis, Murphy was absolved, in accordance with Law 18, from attending to it. But this would have been to admit that the salute was adventitious.
(p)      No words can express the torment of mind that goaded White to this abject offensive.
(q)      The termination of this solitaire is very beautifully played by Mr. Endon.
(r)      Further solicitation would be frivolous and vexatious, and Murphy, with fool’s mate in his soul, retires.

Following Mr. Endon’s forty-third move Murphy gazed for a long time at the board before laying his Shah on his side, and again for a long time after that act of submission.


From Samul Beckett’s novel Murphy; chapter 11. The game can be played over:-