The Royal Game Book Summary – Stefan Zweig

The Royal Game Book Summary - Stefan Zweig
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The Royal Game is one of Stefan Zweig’s most renowned story, written during his exile in Brazil. The first edition, consisting of 250 copies, was published in 1942 in Buenos Aires. The English translation of the story was released in 1944 in New York.

Summary of The Royal Game Book

The story begins with an anonymous narrator boarding a passenger ship from New York to Buenos Aires. Among the passengers is world chess champion Mirko Czentovic, a limited genius with no remarkable talent outside of chess. The narrator, hoping to capture Czentovic’s attention and play a game with him, engages in a chess match with his wife. The narrator’s actions attract the notice of a businessman named McConnor, who offers to pay Czentovic’s fee.

A group of passengers, including the narrator and McConnor, plays a consultation game against Czentovic, and Czentovic emerges victorious. In the midst of losing a second game, they are interrupted by Dr. B. Dr. B. intervenes, guiding them through the game, preventing mistakes, and securing a draw.

Dr. B., turning to the narrator to share his story, reveals that he was a lawyer managing the assets of Austrian nobility and the church. Arrested by the Gestapo, Dr. B. is completely isolated in a hotel, hoping to extract information from him to steal the assets. Dr. B., in an attempt to maintain his sanity, steals a book containing games of old masters and learns every move in it. After absorbing every move in the book, he starts playing against himself, developing the ability to split his psyche into two personalities.

As Dr. B. spends more time in his cell, he becomes increasingly obsessed and detached from reality. His mental state deteriorates into an increasingly obsessive and manic condition, losing touch with reality. At one point, he accidentally injures himself and is taken to a hospital. A doctor, aware of his condition, declares him mentally ill to prevent him from being imprisoned again by the Nazis, securing his release.

Passengers convince Dr. B. to play against Czentovic on his own. Dr. B. agrees, wanting to find out if his chess ability is real, but he warns against allowing a second game. With imagination and combinational skills, Dr. B. astonishingly defeats the world champion. Czentovic, seeking to reclaim his honor, suggests another game, and Dr. B. immediately agrees. However, this time Dr. B. tries to unsettle his opponent by making deliberate, long-lasting moves, applying psychological pressure.

As the game progresses, Dr. B. becomes increasingly restless, repeating and playing out imaginary matches in his mind, pacing around the room manically. The narrator worries as he sees the return of Dr. B.’s old obsession. Dr. B. eventually confesses that he would accidentally checkmate in his mind, realizing that the game in his mind and the actual game are different. The narrator encourages Dr. B. to stop playing, reminding him of the doctor’s advice, and Dr. B. snaps out of his madness. Dr. B. apologizes and withdraws from the board. As Dr. B. leaves, Czentovic acknowledges that the outburst was justified.

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