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Cold war chess

The rise and fall of chess in the 20th century was intimately linked with the cold war and the Soviet Union's giant investment in the game. But deprived of the atmosphere of menace that characterised that era, chess has dissipated much of the capital it built up over more than a century

By Daniel Johnson   June 2005

Chess has always been a simulacrum for political and military confrontation, with its gambits and endgames, stalemate and checkmate. We imagine diplomats or generals facing each other across a board. The game has been internationally popular for more than two centuries, but, like the literary genre of the spy thriller, it came into its own in the cold war. To take one of many examples: the opening scene of one of the first James Bond films, From Russia with Love, is a chess match between two grandmasters. And in real life, it was the Fischer-Spassky match of 1972—when an eccentric…

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