The Chess Master That Played For His Life

Samuel Reason | June 20th, 2019

Chess is a game of strategy, and if you have the best strategy then you will win. In chess tournaments you will find big financial prizes paid out for the winners – it is safe to say that when you are considering a grandmaster then playing chess is a serious game. But there’s one chess master that played a game for the greatest stake of all, he played for his life.

In 1918, Ossip Bernstein decided his fate by a game of chess. Ossip Bernstein was a famous Russian-French chess player and was also a known successful financial lawyer. He had numerous victories during his chess career that made him a known figure throughout the Russian Empire. In 1950, he actually became a chess Grandmaster. It is safe to say that Bernstein’s chess success brought him prizes and fame, but it also saved his life when the October Revolution became ugly.

The October Revolution brought along huge changes to the Russian Empire, notably that private property was seized and the nationalization of all the Russian banks. Private bank accounts were confiscated, and everyone that collaborated with the bankers and the royalty was in danger of being executed. Bernstein was a lawyer who provided legal advice to bankers, as a result, the Bolshevik secret police arrested him. And he was quickly ordered to be executed by a firing squad.

On the day of the execution, the first officer demanded to see the list of names and luckily for Bernstein he was a chess lover. He demanded if Bernstein really was the famous chess master, and they after hearing he was, he said that Bernstein had to prove it in a game of chess. The rules were simple if he won he would be released but if he drew or lost then he would be shot. Bernstein was able to win the game quite easily, saving himself and then managing to escape to Paris with his family.

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