To an unsophisticated 13- year old “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe was terrifying, both in its denouement but also in its delivery. Reading the story again after so long was a strange experience; I remembered the solution to the murders (it was indelibly imprinted on my mind) but I had completely forgotten a number of the elements, including the lengthy and lofty preamble which compares the “strong man’s” physical prowess with the mental agility of the “analyst.” Poe goes on to extol the “disentangling” virtues of the analyst (as portrayed by his reclusive pal, Dupin, when we get to the meat of the story). But he sets the scene by telling us that what makes a great detective is the quality of his observational powers; knowing what to consider and what to discard. And he supports his views by suggesting that the draughts player is in many ways more skilful than the chess champion. Draughts is certainly the simpler game, in terms of the permitted moves, he accepts, but, as a result, it is not concentration which will win the game but superior acumen. The argument “chess or checkers?” is alive and kicking today.
Chess or checkers?