Chess Fever

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2009-09-05

I've been reading about early Soviet cinema, and I stumbled across this video of Vsevolod Pudovkin and Nikolai Shpikovsky's 1925 short film Chess Fever (ШАКМАТНАЯ ГОРЯЧКА).

The twenty-minute comedy tells of the estrangement of a couple over the man's obsession with chess during the 1925 tournament held in Moscow. So engrossed is he in playing both positions on his chessboard that he is hours late to a meeting with his beloved, who sends him packing; but no matter where she seeks solace, she cannot escape chess in the time of "chess fever". (I had no difficulty understanding the film without the Russian intertitles, but I found these translations later.)

The film is notable for an appearance by the great Cuban chess player José Raúl Capablanca (who was then the reigning world champion, though he placed only third in Moscow), and it also features footage of actual game play from the tournament.

There are even some cute kittens tossed in.