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阿城 棋王 一三 translation: Chess King, by Ah Cheng, Chp 1 pt 3

This is the third part of a translation of the first chapter of the 1984 novel 棋王 (‘Chess King’) by the Chinese author 阿城 (Ah Cheng).

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棋王

一三

后来运动起来,忽然有一天大家传说棋呆子在串连时犯了事儿,被人押回学校了。 Afterwards when the movement started, suddenly there was a day when everyone started gossiping that when the chess geek was 'making links', he'd done something wrong, and was escorted back to the school.

我对棋呆子能出去串连表示怀疑,因为以前大家对他的描述说明他不可能解决串连时的吃喝问题。 I expressed some doubts as to whether the chess geek could take part in 'making links', because everyone's description of him said that he wouldn't be able to deal with the problem of eating and drinking whilst 'making links'.

可大家说呆子确实去串连了,因为老下棋,被人瞄中,就同他各处走,常常送他一点儿钱,他也不问,只是收下。 Everyone said that actually the geek had gone 'making links', and that because he was always playing chess, somebody spotted him, and then accompanied him everywhere, and often gave him a little bit of money; he didn't ask, he just accepted it.

后来才知道,每到一处,呆子必要挤地头看下棋。 Afterwards it turned out that everywhere he went, the geek had to push his way through crowds to watch chess being played.

看上一盘,必要把输家挤开,与赢家杀一盘。 He would watch a game, then push everyone aside and play a game with the winner.

初时大家见他其貌不扬,不与他下。 At first everyone would see his plainness and not play with him.

他执意要杀,于是就杀。 But he was determined to play, and then they did.

几步下来,对方出了小汗,嘴却不软。 They'd make a few moves, and his opponent would start to sweat; the opponent would be yelling.

呆子也不说话,只是出手极快,像是连想都不想。 The chess geek didn't speak, he just made his moves extremely quickly, as if he wasn't even thinking about it.

待到对方终于闭了嘴,连一圈儿观棋的人也要慢慢思索棋路而不再支招儿的时候,与呆子同行的人就开始摸包儿。 By the time his opponent finally shut up, even the people gathered around watching would begin to slowly consider the moves and would no longer call them out, and the person who came with the chess geek would start feeling people's bags.

大家正看得紧张,哪里想到钱包已经易主? Everyone would watch very intently - how would it occur to them that their purses had already changed owners?

待三盘下来,众人都摸头。 By the third game, the audience would all be scratching their heads.

这时呆子倒成了棋主,连问可有谁还要杀? At that time the chess geek would already have become the chess master, and would ask repeatedly if anyone else wanted to play.

有那不服的,就坐下来杀,最后仍是无一盘得利。 Whoever was unconvinced would sit and play; in the end they wouldn't win a single game.

后来常常是众人齐做一方,七嘴八舌与呆子对手。 Afterwards there would often be a group of people who formed a team, all talking at once to face the chess geek.

呆子也不忙,反倒促众人快走,因为师傅多了,常为一步棋如何走自家争吵起来。 But the chess geek was not in a hurry, despite being urged on by the crowd to play faster; when there were too many players they would often argue about how to take one single move.

就这样,在一处呆子可以连杀上一天。 That's how it was, and the chess geek could play all day.

后来有那观棋的人发觉钱包丢了,闹嚷起来。 Afterwards the audience would discover they had lost their wallets and would kick up a fuss.

慢慢有几个有心计的人暗中观察,看见有人掏包,也不响,之后见那人晚上来邀呆子走,就发一声喊,将扒手与呆子一齐绑了,由造反队审。 Slowly a few people who had their wits about them who were silently watching would see the person taking the wallets but didn't call out; later they saw that person in the evening and invite the chess geek to go with him, and then they let out a shout, joined forces and tied up the pickpocket and the chess geek so that they could be interrogated by the rebel red guards.

呆子糊糊涂涂,只说别人常给他钱,大约是可怜他,也不知钱如何来,自己只是喜欢下棋。 The chess geek was totally confused, and could only say that other people had given him the money, most likely out of pity, and he didn't know where it had come from - he just liked playing chess.

审主看他呆像,就命人押了回来,一时各校传为逸事。 The chief investigator saw how silly he looked, and had someone escort him back, and the whole story spread through all the neighbouring schools.

后来听说呆子认为外省马路棋手高手不多,不能长进,就托人找城里名手近战。 Afterwards I heard that the chess geek believed that outside of the county roads [?] there weren't any chess experts; as he couldn't make any progress, he had someone find a famous chess

有个同学就带他去见自己的父亲,据说是国内名手。 A fellow student took him to see his own father, who was said to be a nationally famous chess player.

名手见了呆子,也不多说,只摆一副据说是宋时留下的残局,要呆子走。 The famous chess player looked at the geek, didn't say much, and just set out an end-game that was left over from the Song Dynasty, and told the geek to make a move.

呆子看了半晌,一五一十道来,替古人赢了。 The geek looked for quite a while, then played it in minute detail [?], and won it for the ancients.

名手很惊讶,要收呆子为徒。 The famous chess player was amazed and wanted to take the geek on as an apprentice.

不料呆子却问:“这残局你可走通了?” Unexpectedly the geek asked him: "Could you beat this endgame?"

名手没反应过来,就说:“还未通。” The famous chess played didn't respond, then said: "Not yet."

呆子说:“那我为什么要做你的徒弟?” Then the geek said: "Then why would I want to be your disciple?"

名手只好请呆子开路,事后对自己的儿子说:“你这同学倨傲不逊,棋品连着人品,照这样下去,棋品必劣。” The famous chess player bade the geek farewell, and afterwards said to his son: "That classmate of yours is stubborn, arrogant and impertinent; the playing of chess is connected to one's character - if he continues in this way, his chess will be inferior."

又举了一些最新指示,说若能好好学习,棋锋必健。 Again he brought up some of the newest directives, and said that if you can study diligently, the sharpness of your chess will be honed.

后来呆子认识了一个捡烂纸的老头儿,被老头儿连杀三天而仅赢一盘。 Later the geek met an old man who collected waste paper, and played the old man for three days but only won one game.

呆子就执意要替老头儿去撕大字报纸,不要老头儿劳动。 The chess geek immediately insisted that he wanted to tear down posters for the old man, and he didn't want the old man to labour anymore.

不料有一天撕了某造反团刚贴的“檄文”,被人拿获,又被这造反团栽诬于对立派,说对方“施阴谋,弄诡计”,必讨之,而且是可忍,孰不可忍! He didn't expect that one day he would tear down the war proclamation of a rebel group (which they had just put up), that he would be captured by them, and that he would be framed as an opponent, and that they would say the opponents had "carried out schemes and plots", and that this must be punished; moreover, if this was acceptable, then what couldn't be?

对立派又阴使人偷出呆子,用了呆子的名义,对先前的造反团反戈一击。

一时呆子的大名“王一生”贴得满街都是,许多外省来取经的革命战士许久才明白王一生原来是个棋呆子,就有人请了去外省会一些江湖名手。 For a while the chess geek's great name "Wang Yisheng" was plastered all over the street, and many soldiers who came from other counties to get their revolutionary orders would all know that Wang Yisheng was originally chess geek, and someone invited a traveling master from elsewhere. [?]

交手之后,各有胜负,不过呆子的棋据说是越下越精了。 After they'd played, they both had victories and defeats, but according to rumours, the more the chess geek played the better he got.

只可惜全国忙于革命,否则呆子不知会有什么造就。 It was a shame that the whole country was busy having a revolution, otherwise who knows what the geek would have achieved.

← Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 →

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

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