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Grandmasters of war

Was Bobby Fischer's defeat of Boris Spassky in 1972 really a product of liberal democracy's superiority to communism, as Daniel Johnson suggests? No—it was simply a game in which the better player won

By Erik Tarloff   January 2008

White king and red queen: How the Cold War Was Fought on the Chessboard, by Daniel Johnson (Atlantic books, £22)

Even the title, White King and Red Queen, is a muddle: the “red” alludes to communism, of course, but why queen? Was there anything inherently feminine about the Soviet Union or its chess representatives? And what’s the significance of “white king”? “White” is not an adjective customarily applied to the democratic west; when used in opposition to communist red, it references the anti-Bolshevik side in the Russian civil war. And who are these two mythical personages meant to represent? The…

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