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The Broken Chessboard


There is a story of Prince Henry, son of William the Conqueror, afterwards Henry I., that is so frequently recorded in the old chronicles that it is doubtless authentic. The following version of the incident is taken from Hayward's Life of William the Conqueror, published in 1613—

"Towards the end of his reigne he appointed his two sonnes Robert and Henry, with joynt authoritie, governours of Normandie; the one to suppresse either the insolence or levitie of the other. These went together to visit the French king lying at Constance: where, entertaining the time with varietie of disports, Henry played with Louis, then Daulphine of France, at chesse, and did win of him very much.

"Hereat Louis beganne to growe warme in words, and was therein little respected by Henry. The great impatience of the one and the small forbearance of the other did strike in the end such a heat between them that Louis threw the chessmen at Henry's face.

"Henry again stroke Louis with the chessboard, drew blood with the blowe, and had presently slain him upon the place had he not been stayed by his brother Robert.

"Hereupon they presently went to horse, and their spurres claimed so good haste as they recovered Pontoise, albeit they were sharply pursued by the French."

Now, tradition—on this point not trustworthy—says that the chessboard broke into the thirteen fragments shown in our illustration. It will be seen that there are twelve pieces, all different in shape, each containing five squares, and one little piece of four squares only.

We thus have all the sixty-four squares of the chess-board, and the puzzle is simply to cut them out and fit them together, so as to make a perfect board properly chequered. The pieces may be easily cut out of a sheet of "squared" paper, and, if mounted on cardboard, they will form a source of perpetual amusement in the home.

If you succeed in constructing the chessboard, but do not record the arrangement, you will find it just as puzzling the next time you feel disposed to attack it.

Prince Henry himself, with all his skill and learning, would have found it an amusing pastime.

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