Has anybody tried to verify the retrograde analysis of a game from the book "The Flanders Panel" by Pérez-Reverte? So far, I have found only a board reconstruction in a post on The Bibliographic Night Owl.
I hope to one day find time to analyze the game with Reverte's book in my hands. I wonder if anybody has analyzed it already. If so, what are the findings? Does the description of the game in the book make sense?
[title "The position in Van Huys's painting"] [fen "1nb5/pp1p4/PRP5/pR6/k1K1P3/2P5/2qP1P2/1NrnQB2 w - - 0 1"]
Here is the analysis as described in the book.
"IT'S A REAL GAME," said Muñoz. "A bit strange, but perfectly logical. Black was the last to move." ... "The tricky question is: Who took the knight?" "You mean the white knight," said Muñoz. "There's only one left on the board." ... "Now, we've looked at the pieces actually on the board, but in order to analyse the game, it's essential to know which ones are off the board too, the pieces that have already been taken." He looked at the picture. "What's the player on the left called?" "Ferdinand of Ostenburg." "Well, Ferdinand of Ostenburg, who's playing Black, has taken the following white pieces."
"That is: a bishop, a knight and two pawns. For his part, Roger de Arras has taken the following pieces from his rival."
"That's four pawns, one rook and a bishop." Muñoz looked thoughtfully at the sketch. "When you look at the game from that point of view, White would seem to have an advantage over his opponent. But, if I've understood correctly, that's not the problem. The question is who took the white knight. Clearly it must have been one of the black pieces, which may seem to be stating the obvious, but we have to go step by step here, right from the beginning."
"This morning I reconstructed the two previous moves," he said, without a trace of boastfulness. "Then I ran into a problem. Something to do with the unusual position of the pawns." He pointed to the chess pieces in the picture. "We're not dealing with a conventional game here."
"According to the way the pieces are distributed," Muñoz went on, "and bearing in mind that Black has just moved, the first thing to find out is which of the black pieces made that last move."
"The easiest way to do that is to discount the black pieces that could not have been moved because they're blocked or because of the particular position they're in. It's clear that none of the three black pawns, on a7, b7 or d7 could have moved, because they're all in the position they occupied at the start of the game. The fourth and last pawn, on a5, couldn't have moved either, because it's between a white pawn and its own black king. We can also discount the black bishop on c8, still in its initial position, because the bishop moves diagonally and both of his two possible diagonal paths are blocked by the black pawns that have not as yet been moved. As for the black knight on b8, that wasn't moved either, because it could only have got there from a6, c6 or d7 and those three squares are already occupied by other pieces. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," said Julia, who was leaning over the board following his explanation. "That means that six out of the ten pieces could not have moved." "More than six. The black rook on cl couldn't move, since it only moves in a straight line and its three surrounding squares are all blocked. So none of those seven black pieces could have made the last move. And we can also discount the black knight on dl." "Why?" asked César. "It could have come from squares b2 or e3." "No, it couldn't. On either of those squares, that knight would have had the white king on c4 in check; in retrograde chess that's what we might call an imaginary check. And no knight, or any other chess piece for that matter, with a king in check is going to abandon that position voluntarily; that's simply impossible. Instead of withdrawing, it would capture the enemy king, thus ending the game. Since such a situation is impossible, we can deduce that the knight on dl could not have moved either." "That," said Julia, who had kept her eyes glued to the board, "reduces the possibilities to two pieces then, doesn't it?" She put a finger on each of them. "The king and the queen." "Right. That last move could have been made only by the king or the queen." Muñoz studied the board and gestured in the direction of the black king, without actually touching it. "First, let's analyse the position of the king, which can move one square in any direction. That means he could have arrived at his present position on a4 from b4, b3 or a3 ... in theory." "Even I can see what you mean about b4 and b3," remarked César. "No king can be on a square next to another king. Isn't that right?" "Right. On b4 the black king would have been in check to the white rook, king and pawn. And on b3, he'd have been in check to rook and king. Both of which are impossible positions." "Couldn't he have come from below, from a3?" "No, never. It would then be in check to the white knight on bl, which, given its position, is clearly not a recent arrival, but must have got there several moves ago." Muñoz looked at them both. "So it's another case of imaginary check showing us that it wasn't the king that moved." "Therefore the last move," said Julia, "was made by the black queen."