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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