Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Luzhin Defence / Russian History of Chess

My brother will visit in a few days and we can play chess again- a favorite pastime. The last time we played, my almost 2-year son tipped the chessboard over in the middle of an intense game- well, better to laugh than cry. Thinking about chess reminded me of an interesting movie I saw, The Luzhin Defense . The plot:

Set in the late 1920s, The Luzhin Defence tells the story of a shambling, unworldly chess Grand Master who arrives in the Italian Lakes to play the match of his life and unexpectedly finds the love of his life. Discovering his prodigious talent in boyhood overshadowed by his parents' failing marriage, Luzhin's lyrical passion for chess has become his refuge and rendered the real world a phantom. Already matched up by her family to the very suitable Comte de Stassard, when Natalia meets Luzhin, she is drawn to the erratic genius and offers him a glimpse outside of his chess obsession. But it is a world he is not equipped to deal with and his two worlds collide to tragic effect. (

As the ending neared, my wife said something like "I can't watch this unhappy ending. I should have known that anything based on a Russian novel would end in tragedy." However, looking over the comments, I'm not sure that the movie is faithful to Nabokov's book. An excellent review of the ending chess moves (the movie's climax) can be found here. A physician who blogs muses on how Nabokov depicts the mentally-ill main character here.

As for Russian chess itself, some Russian chessplayers have found worldwide fame- such as Spassky and Kasparov (who by the way I admire for acting on his political convictions- more on that here).

Indeed, I was not aware that

Russia (or the former Soviet Union) first competed in a (chess) Olympiad in 1952 and has won all but two since then. Only for three years since 1948 has there been a non-Russian (Soviet) champion. Bobby Fischer (USA) won crushingly in 1972 but did not defend in 1975 when the title went to Anatoly Karpov by default. In 1985 Karpov lost the title to 22-year old Garry Kasparov in a marathon struggle lasting 72 games, starting in September 1984. (here).

Though recent news does not look so good.

Mark Weeks briefly details Russia's history with chess in this article. Or you can read a quick timeline if you're familar with the chessmasters.

A really interesting page on chess pieces created to corresponded to early Russian history. Finally, if you're into chess battle pieces, Russian Legacy sells three Russian battle chess sets (Borodino, Poltova, Battle on Ice) -ad on left hand side.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the tsars desrved to be executed, and replaced, as they hel;ped cauise world war onwe, a war of 80million deaths including the flu epdeimcs, which was as directly caused by it, as typhus was against ujraion'es famine

11:36 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

History Weblog Commenting and Trackback by