Because I love history so much, I wanted to discuss which famous historical figures engaged themselves in the game of chess. Here I show some problems, the solutions of which are at the bottom.

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Philidor was by far the strongest chess player of his time, although he was primarily an opera composer. Chess was just a hobby. He was one of the first to analyse endgames of rook and bishop versus rook, and he was the first to understand the importance of pawns. His further contributions include a chess opening (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6) and the classic defence of rook and pawn versus rook:

Black keeps his rook on the sixth rank. If white plays the pawn forward, black’s rook will go down to the back rank in order to harass white’s king with checks, since it can’t find shelter behind the pawn anymore.

Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner were other composers who played chess. Unlike Philidor, they remain fairly known as composers and not as chess players, which is probably why I haven’t been able to find any games of them. Let’s just say chess was part of a decent upbringing. Fortunately, parents are ever more starting to notice that.

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Another famous Frenchman who played chess was of course Napoleon Bonaparte. In the diagram above, how did he defeat Madame de Résumat, lady-in-waiting of Empress Josephine?

In addition to the French, the Germans can also do a fine job. The following trick occurred in the game Anonymous – Karl Marx:

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Monopoly may have suited Marx better because that game was actually meant to alert us to the dangers of capitalism, but unfortunately he was already deceased when it was launched in 1935. Perhaps chess was his way of demonstrating the suppression of the lower classes: pawns are exploited, everything may be sacrificed to protect one man, the king. In fact, no game would fit Communism because competition is inherently associated with capitalism.

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Finally, a small task for the reader. Try to find the best moves and write down who is beating who here. Hand in your solution at the press room or bring it to me.


Napoleon Bonaparte – Mme de Remusat (1804): 1. Bc4+! Kxc4 2. Qb3+ Kd4 3. Qd3#

N.N. – Karl Marx: 1… Qf2+! 2. Rxf2 gxf2+ 3. K~1, Ng3#

Zyon Kollen

FM Zyon Kollen studies Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Leiden. He won the Amsterdam Science Park Tournament in 2018 and he hunts for a norm at the Chess Festival. The 24-year old Kollen speaks six languages fluently, e.g. Finnish, Swedish and Portuguese. He is also a chess trainer, chess set collector and builder, and he writes reviews on chess books. His columns will be published every day on the website around 12 o’clock.