The words “Game Over” appeared on the screen in big, flashing characters. The man who wished to be called Mr. Smith but whose real name was Leonard Richter had been following the game on a monitor from his private study. Not that there had been much to follow. Unlike most of the other candidates who had battled until the very end trying to solve the puzzle, Jule had stopped playing after only a quarter of an hour, so the screen had displayed what looked like a frozen image of the board for the remaining forty-five minutes.
Richter had first feared a system failure, but the screen clock had continued to operate normally. A more likely explanation was that Jule had used the time trying to figure out some principle or strategy that would lead to the solution, instead of playing the game by trial and error in the hope of hitting on the winning configuration by some lucky combination of moves. If such was the case, he had obviously run out of time. Unless…
When Richter entered the big room, Jule swiveled round in his chair to face him. He was smiling as he said: “Congratulations, Mr. Smith. That was a very neat trick you pulled on me. I wonder how many candidates for whatever you have to offer fell into the trap.”
“Congratulations to you, Mr. Davidson.” Richter also smiled, seemingly very pleased by what he heard, and completely ignoring Jule’s sarcastic tone. “When did you find out that the puzzle had no solution?”
“Less than five minutes ago.”