Karl Marx Plays Chess

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Sun Feb 4 00:22:56 MST 1996


The game is listed as "year and venue unknown." Soltis gives no
indication who the fellow Meyer may have been, nor how he came across the
game. The book of which this very brief (two pages) section on Marx is
part is a collection of Soltis's writings for his column in *Chess Life*
magazine. The man is a master (though not, I think, a grandmaster)
himself, and he knows the history and lore of the game pretty well. Maybe
a letter to him care of *Chess Life* would slake your curiosity.

About the notation--yes, it's correct the way it is. The system used is
called algebraic notation. 1. e4 e5 means that White moves his king pawn
two spaces, and Black responds in kind. In algebraic notation, the pawn
moves are given without a designation for the piece. In the older system
that would have appeared as 1. P-K4 P-K4.

Since the section on Marx's game is so brief, I may as well reproduce
most of it here:

"[...] And then there was Karl Marx. He played a good deal of chess,
especially after fleeing the Continent following the failed revolution of
1848. How do you suppose he started a game? With the new ideas of his
time, like the English Opening? Or the hear-headed Queen's Gambit, or
some strange flank attack with a double fianchetto of bishops?
	"No. The great materialist played perhaps the most unlikely of
openings, the Muzio Gambit." [game follows]

"Yes, the Muzio, that magnificent dinosaur.[a variant of the King's
Gambit, looks like] At the time Marx played it, Howard Staunton (who
preferred the English) was the world's best player and he stated with
authority that the Muzio was 'the most daring and brilliant, and at the
same time, as modern discoveries have shown, the most sound and enduring
method of attack yet known.'
	"That was in the days when it was considered chivalrous to attack
at all cost and crass to count material. The spirit of the gambit
infected everyone who played it, even Marx. Players could see themselves
as heroic figures when they sacrificed that knight with 5. O-O.
	"Here is how Joseph Henry Blackburne, Staunton's successor as
England's best player, got carried away as he recalled offering the Muzio
knight in an 1882 game: It was 'like Ivanhoe challenging Bois-Gilbert in
the lists at Abby,' Blackburne wrote. 'But we were nothing if not daring
in those days, and the cautious modern safety-loving youth of today had
not yet evolved.' (He meant the youth of 1895 or so)."

What follows after that is more about the 400-year-old history of the Muzio
Gambit, but nothing more about Marx, except that the first 13 or so moves
of his game were often played automatically in a typical game of about 1850.

Well, that was more evidence of Marx the Romantic. If you want to see how
Dialectical Materialists played chess, the Soviet Union did indeed
completely dominate the game for most of the time since WWII. And
Kasparov, the current world champion and considered by most experts to be
the strongest player who has ever lived, is himself a product of that
formidable Soviet School of Chess, however much he himself professes to
loathe Communism.	



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