Posts Tagged ‘chess and the movies’




Chess: Spy Style – from the movies: James Bond: From Russia with Love

It’s time for chess – again – and this time – from the movies. This game of Boris Spassky, is the game played in the James Bond movie as well.  You can read what Nigel Short said in 2004 about Spassky’s game.

The name is Spassky, Boris Spassky
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d5 4. exd5 Bd6 5. Nc3 Ne7 6. d4 O-O 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. O-O h6 9. Ne4 Nxd5 10. c4 Ne3 11. Bxe3 fxe3 12. c5 Be7 13. Bc2 Re8 14. Qd3 e2 15. Nd6 15Nf8 16. Nxf7 exf1=Q 17. Rxf1 Bf5 18. Qxf5 Qd7 19. Qf4 Bf6 20. N3e5 Qe7 21. Bb3 Bxe5 22. Nxe5 Kh7 23. Qe4 [see an annotation of the game lower down in this entry]

Click HERE to play through the game on Chessgames.com

Nigel Short: [see resource at the end of the text] If chess is a vast jungle – deep, relatively unexplored and slow to yield its myriad secrets – computers are the chainsaws in a giant environmentally insensitive logging company. If our beloved game is not to be reduced to a glorified naughts and crosses – an arid computational desert – then, like a beautiful and intelligent woman, it must retain an element of mystery. If I sound uncharacteristically sentimental, it is probably because my wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this week and thus, for once, my thoughts are jolted out of their quotidian rut onto matters of the emotions. A little romance does not come amiss in either chess or love, or so I try to remind myself from time to time. In my opinion perhaps the most romantic of all openings is the King’s Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4!). A few years ago I sat in a bar with Vladimir Kramnik discussing theory. At that time the future World Champion was contemplating a switch to King’s Pawn openings and he wanted to bounce his preliminary ideas off me. He opined that the Evans’ Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4!) was very logical: White sacrifices a fairly unimportant wing pawn to open lines and accelerate his development. This was not necessarily to say that it was Vlad’s preferred method of starting the game, but at least he could understand the rationale behind it. In contrast, the King’s Gambit, however, was for him totally incomprehensible: it loses a pawn and weakens the King-side, for all he could see. Of course Vlad was absolutely right; my scientific deductive side had to agree – the King’s Gambit has had a somewhat dodgy reputation ever since it was first mentioned in Lucena’s manuscript of 1497. And yet my irrational mystical side revolted and still revolts against so cold and sober a judgement. There is something inspiring about voyaging into storm-tossed seas.
Over the years the most successful practitioner of the King’s Gambit has been Boris Spassky. His record of 16 victories and no defeats (with some draws) is unsurpassed. His victims include two of the most illustrious names in chess history – Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov – and his famous brilliancy against Bronstein was used as the opening scene of the Bond movie From Russia with Love.
Click on this link to read the article on the site of the Telegraph.

From Chessbase:


From Leningrad with Love

The movie Nigel mentions, From Russia with Love, was produced in 1963. One of the villains is Kronsteen, played by Vladek Sheybal, master plotter for the terror organisation SPECTRE. Kronsteen is also a world-class chess player who, when asked if his plan would be successful, replies: “It will be. I’ve anticipated every possible variation of counter move.” And Bond’s colleague, the Turkish operative Kerim Bey, says of him: “These Russians are great chess players. When they wish to execute a plot, they execute it brilliantly. The game is planned minutely, the gambits of the enemy are provided for.”

In the famous chess scene at the beginning of the movie we see Kronsteen playing the Canadian McAdams in an “International Grandmaster Championship”. The score is 11½–11½. The position on the board is the following:

Kronsteen – McAdams, From Russia with Love, 1963

Here Kronsteen gives his opponent a long glare and then plays 1.Nxe5+ (as you can see in the picture above). He ominously says “check” while the move is displayed for the audience on a large demonstration board. McAdams nervously plays 1…Kh7, after which Kronsteen smiles and plays 2.Qe4+.

McAdams is horrified and knocks over his king as a sign of resignation, muttering “Congratulations sir, that was a brilliant coup.” The audience bursts into applause as Kronsteen leaves the room to get on with his evil plottings.

Click HERE to read the article on the site of Chessbase.

This is the game annotated by my chess friend, Dan. [see his message in the message box].

1.e4 e5 2.f4 Prior to Spassky, Bronstein was considered to be the foremost grandmaster practitioner of the King’s Gambit, so Spassky’s move has an air of provocation about it.

exf4 3.Nf3 d5 The Abazzia, or “Modern,” Defence to the gambit. After 45 years, though, should it still be called “modern,” especially since it dates back to at least 1913 (time of the Abazzia Gambit Tournament, from which it gets its alternate name)?

4.exd5 Bd6 A rarely played continuation, the usual line being 4…Nf6.

5.Nc3 This move comes up in several of Spassky’s King’s Gambit games (see his game with Fischer in the same year). It’s like his philosophy is, “when in doubt, play Nc3.” In many lines of this opening, a handy solidifying move for White is Pc3, which the Knight now blocks. More active, it seems to me, is the line (5.Bb5+ Bd76.Bxd7+ Nxd7 7.0-0), which should lead to a considerable advantage for White. White could have also tried 5.d4 followed by 6.c4 with a Pawn phalanx. Both plans seem better than the text.

5. … Ne7 Black plans to put his Queen’s Knight on f6, hence the King’s Knight gets developed on e7.

6.d4 O-O 7.Bd3 Nd7 Heading for f6 …

8.O-O h6 … which he doesn’t play right away because of (8…Nf6 9.Ng5! h610.Nge4) and White has a nice, centralised game (although, due to White’s Pawn minus, the game could be considered equal).

9.Ne4 White might also have tried the manuever 9.Qe1-h4.

Nxd5 10.c4 Ne3 11.Bxe3 fxe3 12.c5 White prefers to gain space rather than prosaically win back his Pawn with 12.Qe2.

Be7 13.Bc2 This looks almost like a beginner’s plan: doubling the Queen and Bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal, move the Knight/e4 out of the way, then mate on h7. Of course, that’s assuming Black does nothing to stop it.

Re8 14.Qd3 e2?! Black is trying to gain time with his useless e-pawn, but the threat on h7 is real. Better would be (14…Nf6 15.Rae1 Be6 16.Rxe3) and White is only marginally better.
15.Nd6!? One of the more spectacular sacrifices in chess history. “The most brilliant sacrifice since the Evergreen Game,” exclaimed one commentator. The question is: is it sound? (15.Qxe2) sould lead to a small advantage for White, and, objectively speaking, may be the better move. Another possibility is 15.Rf2, with the idea of(15.Rf2 Nf8 16.Rxe2) followed by Rae1.

15. … Nf8 (15…exf1=Q+ may transpose to the game if, after 16.Rxf1 Nf8). KK suggests the following: (15…exf1=Q+ 16.Rxf1 Nf6 17.Nxf7!) with advantage. However, I think Black has a better move here with 15 or 16…Bxd6, e.g.,(15…exf1=Q+ 16.Rxf1 Bxd6 17.cxd6 cxd6 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Re1+Ne5 21.Qxg7 Be6 (21…Rg8 22.Qxh6 Qb6+! 23.Kh1 Be6 24.dxe5 d5 25.Qf6+ is unclear) 22.dxe5 dxe5 23.Bb3 Qb6+ 24.Kh1 Rg8 25.Qxe5). I’d take Black for choice.

Chessworld member jim42078, Lord Ptarmigan did the following analysis with the aid of his “Fritz” computer: “I have found what seems to be the best defence for Black(well, my fritz has anyway). The key idea is to maintain the pawn on e2 for as long as possible, e.g., (15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ this check really just gives White a chance to peer through the fogginess of this position, but is not disadvantageous 16…Kf817.Qh8 probably not best; this is merely for illustrative purposes 17…Ke718.Qxg7 Rg8 19.cxd6+ cxd6 20.Qxh6 and now Black has to take on f1 with check, or else he will find himself lost or level.

20…exf1=Q+ 21.Rxf1 Qb6) and this position differs from the …exf1 before …cxd6 lines because Black has made time to give his King somewhere to run to and has not needed to interpose with the Knight to e5. Black is better off here, although there is work to do.

To counter this, White could play his King’s Rook to e1 or f2 and not sacrifice it. Thus(15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Rfe1 Nxc5! 18.Qh8+ Ke7 19.Rxe2+ Ne6 20.Qxg7 Rg821.Qxh6 c6 22.Rae1 Kd7 23.Ne5+ Bxe5 24.dxe5 Ke8 25.Qf6) seems White’s best on a first, rushed glance, but Black cannot have much to fear here.

Alternatively, White could force the early sac by (15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.cxd6when Black has to take on f1 if he wants to claim a refutation 17…exf1=Q+18.Rxf1) and we are back in the main idea Norfolk suggested. This is White’s best.”

Another example of the inexhaustible riches of chess! Admittedly, these complications are almost impossible to wade through over the board, so who can blame Bronstein for losing his way?
16.Nxf7 exf1=Q+ 17.Rxf1 Bf5 This looks like desperation, but Black’s options are limited. If instead (17…Kxf7 18.Ne5+ Kg8 (18…Ke6 19.Bb3+ Qd5 20.Qf5 mate) 19.Qh7+! Nxh7 20.Bb3+ Qd5 21.Bxd5+ Be6 22.Bxe6+ Kh8 23.Ng6 mate). Black’s best bet may be to try to block the key diagonal with 17…Qd5, e.g.,(17…Qd5 18.Bb3Qxb3 19.Qxb3 Be6 20.Nxh6+ gxh6 21.Qxb7). White is better, but Black can fight on for awhile.

18.Qxf5 Qd7 Otherwise he loses at least the Queen. Maybe White will swap Queens?

19.Qf4 No such luck. White has a marked advantage now.

Bf6 Trying to cut off the Knight from the Queen’s protection.

20.N3e5 Qe7 Another try is (20…Bxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxe5 22.dxe5 Re8 23.Qe4) with advantage for White.

21.Bb3 Threatening a deadly discovered check.

Bxe5 This leads to a quick end, but (21…Ne6 22.Nxh6+ gxh6 23.Qxf6 Qxf624.Rxf6) also loses, as does (21…Kh7 22.Qf5+ g6 23.Qxf6 Qxf6 24.Rxf6) etc. The position following the text, and the remaining moves of the game, were featured as the game “Kronstein vs. McAdams” in one of the early scenes of the James Bond movie, “From Russia With Love” (although I was informed that the position in the movie was slightly altered). Quite a distinction and honour for an actual grandmaster game of chess!

22.Nxe5+ Kh7 Or (22…Ne6 23.Qe4 Rad8 24.Qg6 Qg5 25.Bxe6+ Rxe626.Qxe6+), winning easily.

23.Qe4+ On (23…g6 24.Rxf8!) wins. Bronstein (and McAdams in the aforementioned movie) resigned.

23. … 1-0

Read Full Post »

It’s a long time since I’ve blogged something chessy – so here goes… time is tight! I don’t even have enough time to play a proper chess game. Luckily, it’s almost Easter Hols and then I might have a few spare hours to play a game or two. I do miss playing chess though! I’ve come across this movie-article and thought to share it with you. The movies can’t go without chess! It’s Spring and trees around us are almost covered in blossoms. This flower-pic was taken in August last year. I hate these bees we have here, they are surely not friendly and look quite scary.

In ‘Queen to Play’ Sandrine Bonnaire plays a chambermaid empowered by playing chess.

Chess as a Slow Dance of Seduction


Published: March 31, 2011

Caroline Bottaro’s tangy comic bonbon, “Queen to Play,” plucks the game of chess out of the metaphorical realm of spy thrillers and reimagines it as a fable about relationships and upward mobility. Adapted from Bertina Henrichs’s novel “The Chess Player,” this slight but captivating movie (Ms. Bottaro’s directorial debut) compares the strategies of chess to the erotic maneuvers in a flirtatious pas de deux that may be more satisfying than actual sex. At the same time, a woman’s winning the game symbolizes female empowerment in a man’s world and ascent from working-class drudgery to the bourgeoisie.

Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire), the movie’s sly, middle-aged Cinderella, is an attractive chambermaid at a luxury hotel in Corsica. While going about her chores, she observes a chess game being played by a sexy American couple (Jennifer Beals and Dominic Gould) on the balcony of their suite. Stealthy moves accompanied by insinuating eye contact culminate with the woman’s defeating the man and flashing Hélène a smile of conspiratorial glee.

Hélène takes the hint, and at a birthday party for her husband, a handsome dockworker named Ange (Francis Renaud), she presents him with an electronic chess set in the hopes of reigniting the spark in their marriage. Ange is mystified and vaguely annoyed by the gift. When he expresses no interest in learning the game, Hélène begins teaching herself to play and quickly becomes obsessed.

“Queen to Play” is a lighthearted, grown-up fairy tale in which chess consumes Hélène’s imagination and transforms her life. As she mops a black-and-white checkered floor, it becomes a surreal dreamscape. At a restaurant she makes chess pieces out of crumbled bread and pushes them around the squares of the red-and-white tablecloth.

The intimate looks exchanged by the characters as they compete for advantage in a game in which the queen is the most powerful piece tell us as much about them as anything they say. Sometimes chess even suggests a mental striptease in which the players shed their defenses as they exchange glances and dare each other to go forward. At other times it conjures a war between the sexes, with Hélène the feminist upstart challenging male dominance.

Avid to learn more, she discovers a chess set in the house of Dr. Kröger (Kevin Kline, in his first entirely French-speaking role), a widowed American professor for whom she works as a part-time housecleaner. She volunteers to clean his place in exchange for weekly chess lessons. A mysterious figure suffering from an unidentified lung ailment, Kröger agrees. When, after only a few lessons, she is regularly beating him, he urges her to enter a local tournament.

In small but significant ways, “Queen to Play” defies expectations. It dangles the possibility of an affair between Hélène and Kröger in games that the film likens to courtship rituals in a classic screwball comedy. But their flirtation is never physically consummated.

Hélène’s relationships with her husband and rebellious teenage daughter, Lisa (Alexandra Gentil), undergo surprising transformations. Ange, initially threatened by Hélène’s passion, which keeps her out late and distracts her from housework, is initially so suspicious that he follows her to a lesson and spies on her. But once he realizes that she has a gift, his jealousy turns to admiration, and the flame of desire is rekindled. Lisa, who is so ashamed and contemptuous of her parents for being “poor” that she refuses to invite boyfriends to the house, becomes her mother’s fervent champion.

Ms. Bonnaire’s Hélène subtly evolves from a harried, resentful domestic wearing a perpetually hurt expression into a woman who discovers her power. Mr. Kline, as the haughty, secretive professor with a kind heart under a prickly exterior gives one of his finest screen performances, executed with minute fluctuations in his body language.

In their most delicious scene Hélène and Kröger play an imaginary game of chess away from the board. Gazing into each other’s eyes, they engage in what has the ring of intellectual pillow talk. Although the conversation is entirely chaste, in the intensity with which they study each other’s signals, they might as well be newlyweds.


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed by Caroline Bottaro; written by Ms. Bottaro and Caroline Maly, based on the novel “The Chess Player,” by Bertina Henrichs; director of photography, Jean-Claude Larrieu; edited by Tina Baz Le Gal; music by Nicola Piovani; set design by Emmanuel de Chauvigny; costumes by Dorothée Guiraud; produced by Dominique Besneard and Michel Feller; released by Zeitgeist Films. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Sandrine Bonnaire (Hélène), Kevin Kline (Dr. Kröger), Francis Renaud (Ange), Jennifer Beals (the American Woman), Dominic Gould (the American Man), Valérie Lagrange (Maria) and Alexandra Gentil (Lisa).

A version of this review appeared in print on April 1, 2011, on page C8 of the New York edition..

Source: http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/movies/kevin-kline-in-caroline-bottaros-queen-to-play-review.html

Time is tight – enjoy!

Read Full Post »

Images: Wikipedia [click on image for a larger view]

Title page of the first printed edition. It depicts the Fat Bishop saying “Keep your distance”, and the Black Knight tempting him with “A letter from his holiness”. The characters’ faces are caricatures of de Dominis and Gondomar.
Written by:  Thomas Middleton
Date premiered : August, 1624
Place premiered:  Globe Theatre, London
Original language:  English
Subject:  Anglo-Spanish relations, Protestantism and Catholicism
Genre:  Satire, allegory
Setting:  A chessboard
Chess is a game where there is a war taking place. [luckily without violence and blood] The chessboard is a very popular setting to depict situations or to learn lessons – from the past as well as current. Chess is also popular in movies. On THIS LINK I’ve posted an entry about chess and the movies.
I was searching for something completely different – than chess – when I came across this play – about chess – and really enjoyed reading about it. I’ve copied from the link, but you can read on the Wikipedia link more about the Acts, the Scenes and the characters in this play. Interesting:

The play was stopped after nine performances (August 6–16, Sundays omitted), but not before it had become “the greatest box-office hit of early modern London.

Please click HERE  to read more about the play on Wikipedia.

King James I of England, model for the White King

King Philip IV of Spain, model for the Black King

Count Duke of Olivares, model for the Black Duke [Rook]

The play

The drama seems to be about a chess match, and even contains a genuine chess opening: the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Instead of personal names, the characters are known as the White Knight, the Black King, etc. However, audiences immediately recognized the play as an allegory for the stormy relationship between Spain (the black pieces) and Great Britain (the white pieces). King James I of England is the White King; King Philip IV of Spain is the Black King. In particular, the play dramatizes the struggle of negotiations over the proposed marriage of the then Prince Charles with the Spanish princess, the Infanta Maria. It focuses on the journey by Prince Charles (the “White Knight”) and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (the “White Duke”, or rook) to Madrid in 1623.

Among the secondary targets of the satire was the former Archbishop of Split, Marco Antonio de Dominis, who was caricatured as the Fat Bishop (played by William Rowley). De Dominis was a famous turncoat of his day: he had left the Roman Catholic Church to join the Anglican Church—and then returned to Rome again. The traitorous White King’s Pawn is a composite of several figures, including Lionel Cranfield, 1st Earl of Middlesex, a former Lord Treasurer who was impeached before the House of Lords in April 1624.

The former Spanish ambassador to London, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, conde de Gondomar, was blatantly satirized and caricatured in the play as the Machiavellian Black Knight. (The King’s Men went so far as to buy discarded items of Gondomar’s wardrobe for the role.) His successor recognized the satire and complained to King James. His description of the crowd’s reaction to the play yields a vivid picture of the scene:

There was such merriment, hubbub and applause that even if I had been many leagues
away it would not have been possible for me not to have taken notice of it.

The play was stopped after nine performances (August 6–16, Sundays omitted), but not before it had become “the greatest box-office hit of early modern London”. The Privy Council opened a prosecution against the actors and the author of the play on Aug. 18 (it was then illegal to portray any modern Christian king on the stage). The Globe Theatre was shut down by the prosecution, though Middleton was able to acquit himself by showing that the play had been passed by the Master of the Revels, Sir Henry Herbert. Nevertheless, further performance of the play was forbidden and Middleton and the actors were reprimanded and fined. Middleton never wrote another play.

An obvious question arises: if the play was clearly offensive, why did the Master of the Revels license it on July 12 of that summer? Herbert may have been acting in collusion with the “war party” of the day, which included figures as prominent as Prince Charles and the Duke of Buckingham; they were eager for a war with Spain and happy to see public ire roused against the Spanish. If this is true, Middleton and the King’s Men were themselves pawns in a geopolitical game of chess.

Read Full Post »