Paging through the October 2005 issue of MAGIC magazine, one ad in particular caught my eye. It was the Hocus-Pocus ad for Knight's Tour Excalibur by Devin Knight.
Please keep in mind that I haven't had a chance to work with the routine or the props, so I will be limiting this column to my first impressions about it from the advertising.
In the magazine ad (I haven't found this picture online), Mike Giusti is shown next to a fully set-up chess board. This was confusing at first, as when I think of the Knight's Tour, I think of a single piece, but this is explained by further reading.
The second thing I noticed through my inherent geekiness was that the board was set up wrong. Regular chess players know that the board is set-up so that the rightmost square nearest them on the board is white, and that the queen is always set on the square of her own color. While the board is oriented correctly, the sides are set-up backwards. The lighter-colored pieces should have been at the bottom, so that the light-colored queen could be set on her light-colored square, and the darker pieces should have been set at the top, so the dark-colored queen could be on the dark-colored square.
This may seem like a minor point, but a mistake like this in performance will quickly tell any regular chess player in the audience that you're less knowledgable than you're claiming. For a feat like this, you don't want to sacrifice conviction.
Moving on to the internet ad, we find out that the spare pieces are supplied for a presentation in which you announce that you can do complete tours of the chessboard with any piece. At first glance, this sounds impressive, but again, this presentation has the potential to lose the regular chess players. Every piece in chess, with the exception of the knight, simply moves horizontally, vertically and/or diagonally. Not only will a chess player realize that the knight is the only piece whose tour offers any real challenge, but that a bishop's tour is impossible, as the bishop's diagonal moves limit it to only half of the board.
The picture on the Hocus-Pocus website is somewhat confusing, as well. If we are to assume that the board starts filled with the numbers, which are then removed as the knight moves around the board, then the picture in the ad shows a knight that has two more moves maximum to make before it must admit defeat. OK, this one is just me being picky.
Judging by the descriptions, though, there are still plenty of good things about the routine. First, Devin Knight provides several different routines, including ones for restaurant and close-up! Also, judging from the pictures and the ad copy, the board and pieces are contructed to make the following of the knight much easier, and doesn't involve lines being drawn all over the chessboard. This is always a welcome change.
The ad states that this method becomes self-working. Also, there are no hidden cue sheets used, and no memorization is used. For those of us who are actually disappointed that no memorization is used, Hocus-Pocus offers throws us a bone, as well:
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are one of those performers who has memorized all the charts and patterns you will love this outfit. You can use it for the most visual way possible of doing the effect for real without any trickery.If you've pursued any of the other references I've written on the Knight's Tour, this sounds like it would greatly help in the presentation.
All in all, I do have to say that the ad has made me interested in looking into the Knight's Tour Excalibur set further, so it has done it's job.
As an aside: I didn't plan for my 64th post to focus on the 64 squares of the chessboard. It just worked out that way.