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Casino Royale: Chapters 9 - 13

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#1 Donovan



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Posted 30 March 2003 - 09:51 AM

Chapters 9 through 13 of "Casino Royale" are probably my favourite of the book. Chapter 9 has Bond explaining to Vesper (and the reader) how the game of Baccarat is played. This is a useful and convenient device writers also incorporate into screenplays to explain something to the audience they wouldn't otherwise understand. For instance, the Frederick Gray character in some of the Bond films always needed something explained to him (magnetic pulse, Smyert Shpionam, etc.). So in Chapter 9, Mr. Fleming can use Vesper's ignorance of the game to creatively teach the reader how to play Baccarat. He was also creative with his background history on Smersh and Le Chiffre by using the dossier from Head of S. as the information resource.

The next four chapters concern the monumental casino showdown between Bond and Le Chiffre. Each chapter separately deals with the classic "beginning-middle-end" storytelling method that is so popular (and almost crucial) to narrative film.

The beginning (Chapter 10) carefully, and almost excruciatingly, details Bond's basic movements at the table as the game gets set to start. This writing reminds me of how one can experience a high-tension event in slow-motion as it unfolds. Bond already enjoys certain first-class treatment from the casino. Earlier, he earned respect as a serious gambler by fortifying his capital winning at Roulette. Although no one knows what to expect from the forth-coming game of Baccarat, with Bond sitting at the table, it will certainly be interesting. Bond sizes up the other players, and finally Le Chiffre enters the scene. Bond had arranged to be seated directly across from Le Chiffre, so he will face his enemy directly. Le Chiffre knows of course who Bond is and why he is there. Nothing much will be said between them, but the body language will be brutally straight-forward. Through these two soldiers, two nations are at war. After the game begins, Bond sits on the sidelines and lets the scene settle in. Finally, Bond sees a ripe opportunity to participate and calls 'Banco.'

Chapter 11 concerns the main bulk of the game. This includes some inpressive wins by Bond against Le Chiffre and how the other players are fairing. And, as it happens in war, external variables come into play and turn against Bond in the form of an unexpectedly unfriendly shoe. The tension mounts as the tables are turned against Bond to the point of bankruptsy. Now the impressive battle victories are empty as Bond sits frozen with defeat. It looks like the war is lost. Among other embarrassments, the future prospects for Bond as a OO agent are grim.

However, Felix Leiter, living up to the mythological United States Calvary, makes a surprise gesture by loaning Bond an incredible 32-million francs to cover the bank. This will be one last opportunity to succeed. Just as Bond has surprised Le Chiffre with a 'suivi' to play another hand, Le Chiffre surprises Bond with a less-conventional play of his own. An assassin tries to force Bond to withdraw his bet by pressing a gun disguised as a cane into his back. Bond, ever the gambler, successfully wrenches the weapon from the man by heaving his chair backwards. Certainly a surprise to the witnesses, particularly Le Chiffre. So the game can now continue.

Even now, where the hero must assuradely win, Fleming keeps the reader guessing. Here, at the table, there are no guarantees. The cards are blind to good verses evil; deserves verses un-deserving. It can go either way, but someone will win and someone will lose. So the scene is set, and Fleming has everything going Le Chiffre's way. But the one way Bond can win happens: he asks for a card and draws a nine, the perfect winning digit. But to win, your other two cards must equal nothing--picture cards, and Bond just so happens to have two queens. Le Chiffre, in a feeble last stand, only has 6 million in the bank. Bond 'Bancos' this, and draws two cards that equal a natural nine. Le Chiffre must draw at least the same to survive. Instead, he draws the worst: two picture cards. Nothing. Baccarat.

I cannot stress enough how expertly written the whole gambling scenario is. On one hand, I questioned the chapter explaining the game immediately followed by the game itself. Perhaps spacing the two events might have added some anticipation of the game for the reader. But no, the game itself is played to the hilt, and it is good to have the rules of Baccarat fresh in the reader's mind so that it is easier to understand what is happening. The sensational thriller aspects (the high-stakes, the subtle attempt on Bond's life in the middle of everthing) is what makes this fun. My guess is Mr. Fleming had as much fun writing these passages as I had reading them.

#2 Xenobia


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Posted 31 March 2003 - 01:50 AM

It has been said that one can learn how to play Baccarat from reading the chapters of Bond vs Le Chiffre . I didn't believe it...until I read those chapters!

Mind you, you won't see me hitting the Baccarat table any time soon, but Ian Fleming deserves a big hand for making an already exciting card game that much more intense.

-- Xenobia

#3 Renix



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Posted 01 April 2003 - 07:06 AM

At the end of chapter 13 Bond reflects on two atemps on his life that day... but I only count one: The man with the cane. The bombing was the day before if I'm not mistaken. So, what was the second?

#4 Zographos



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Posted 04 April 2003 - 09:32 PM

The cane incident took place either late on the same night or early the next morning. Probably just a small flub by Fleming. :)

#5 TGO



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Posted 04 April 2003 - 09:45 PM

Yep...those chapters were riveting. That probably explains how I finished the book in two days. But the end...you'll be unpleasently shocked. :)