Thursday, 20 November 2008

Political Chess - Alekhine vrs Trotsky - Apocryphal Account

Trotsky, Lenin and Kamenev - Party-Congress (1919):

Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, was a Bolshevik and Marxist theorist. He was also one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution (1917), second only to Lenin in importance . Trotsky was the founder and commander of the Red Army. He fell out of favour with Joseph Stalin in the 1920s and was expelled from the Communist Party, as well as deported from the then Soviet Union. He moved to Mexico where he was subsequently assassinated. In chess circles, Trotsky is also known for being the second cousin of David Bronstein (the famous Russian Chess Grandmaster).

There have been many discussions, on various chess sites, about the mythical account of Alekhine's life being spared by Trotsky (following a game of chess). Although the story is very likely apocryphal, this is the first written account I have read of this alleged meeting between Alekhine and Trotsky. It was published in the magazine Sacremento Chess News (July 15th, 1951) and probably came originally from a recent (at the time) newspaper article.
Alexander Alekhine, the world's chess champion, before his death was asked by friends what was the most exciting and dangerous chess game of his life. This story was his answer!

As A Captain in the Czarist army and a member of a noble family, I was placed under arrest shortly after the Bolsheviks came into power. In the depths of despair, I was sitting in an Odessa prison and pondering my fate when the door was flung open and four members of the political police entered the cell. A fifth man entered and I recognised him immediately from his photographs. It was Leon Trotsky, I was certain my time had come. "Captain Alekhine," said one of the police, "Comrade Trotsky wants to play a game of chess with you." With that he placed an elaborate chessboard and set of men on the small table. I had heard of Trotsky's chess fanaticism and it was obvious that reports of my ability had reached him.

Trotsky sat down without a word, to begin the most interesting and dangerous game I ever played.

For I was faced with a titanic problem. I was convinced that on the outcome of the contest would depend my life. But - did Trotsky so badly want to beat me that he would allow me to live if I lost? Or did he feel that a person gifted sufficiently to conquer him at the board should be entitled to life?

I looked into Trotsky's face for a possible clue. It wore an intense expression, but beyond that gave me no indication. The police were impassive. Trotsky made the first move, a conventional opening. I decided to play a non-decisive, week for the nonce, waiting for him to show his hand. He played well, but not brilliantly.

After some fencing, I decided to cast the die. I would play my best and beat him as quickly as I could. It did not take long. Slowly Trotsky rose from the table, "I lose," was all he said. He made a peculiar gesture, a sort of wave of the hand, then walked quickly from the cell. The next day I was declared a free man, and given permission to leave Russia if I desired. The paper was signed by Trotsky. Attached was a personal note in which the powerful revolutionary said he had enjoyed our chess game very much.

That game of chess gave me my life. I went to France to continue medical studies but decided to devote the rest of my life to the game. -- As told to Albert A. Brandt.

From - Sacramento Chess News (July 15th, 1951)
I find it interesting that this story is attributed to a little known writer, Albert A. Brandt. I will try to post again, at a later time, on who was Albert A. Brandt.

Tags: Albert A. Brandt - Alekhine - Bronstein - David Bronstein - Kamenev - Lenin - Leon Trotsky - October Revolution - Sacramento - Trotsky
Posted by ALCHEssMIST - Alchemipedia alliance.

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