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1963 James Bond - From Russia with love

From Russia with Love, was produced in 1963. One of the actors 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 countermove." 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.

The reason McAdams resigned is clear: after 2...Kh8 3.Rxf8+ Qxf8 (or 3...Rxf8) White wins prettily with 4.Ng6+ Kh7 5.Nxf8+ Kh8 6.Qh7 mate. 2...g6 is not much better, since 3.Rf7+ wins the queen.

The position used in From Russia with Love is very realistic, the combination quite beautiful, except for the fact that McAdams could have probably drawn with 1...Ne6 (instead of 1...Kh7??). So where did this position come from?

It was from a game Boris Spassky had played three years earlier, against David Bronstein in Leningrad ("Bronstein", "Kronsteen"). It is the famous King's Gambit brilliancy. There is however a slight difference to the Bond game.

Spassky,B - Bronstein,D, URS-ch27 Leningrad, 1960
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Bd6 5.Nc3 Ne7 6.d4 0-0 7.Bd3 Nd7 8.0-0 h6 9.Ne4 Nxd5 10.c4 Ne3 11.Bxe3 fxe3 12.c5 Be7 13.Bc2 Re8 14.Qd3 e2 15.Nd6 Nf8 16.Nxf7 exf1Q+ 17.Rxf1 Bf5 18.Qxf5 Qd7 19.Qf4 Bf6 20.N3e5 Qe7 21.Bb3 Bxe5.

This position is identical to the one in the Bond movie, except that White has two pawns in the center. Spassky, like Kronsteen, did indeed play 22.Nxe5+, and Bronstein did reply 22...Kh7, only to resign after 23.Qe4+, for the same reasons given above. But unlike McAdams Bronstein did not blunder with 22...Kh7. The reason is that after 22...Ne6, the refutation of the Kronsteen combination, White can play 23.Ng6 (or 23.Qe4 and then Ng6) and win the black Ne6, e.g. 23...Qg5 24.Qe4 followed by Bxe6+.