Interesting Article on "Chess and War" in current  New in Chess

Many of us have been questioned about the game that we have a passion for… the 64-square battle we call chess. What is chess? Is it a sport, a science, an art, or a game? Depending on who you're talking to, your answer may take one of the four angles.

Jesper Hall of Sweden writes a very interesting article in New in Chess (2002, No. 5) titled, "Chess and War." It is based on a conversation he had while riding in the dining car of a train. An older gray-haired man approached him as he unfolded his pocket set and asked him the immortal question, "What is chess?" Hall gave a trite answer, but soon learned that this person is no intellectual patzer. The man, it turns out was a retired Swedish officer in the Army!

New in Chess, 2002, No. 5

The two spent the entire train ride discussing parallels of chess and military strategy to the point where they diagrammed famous battles in history and tried to create scenarios on the chessboard. Hall had illustrated the battle of Cannae where the Carthaginians under General Hannibal crushed the Romans with brilliant encirclement tactics and related it to a fascinating story of 1967 Swedish Champion, Rolf Martens. Martens came out of retirement to play in a 1984 blitz tournament and came in a respectable third.  The article states,

"But it was not the result that caught people's eyes, but the way he got it. He present a complete repertoire of totally unknown openings that gave the other top players a good laugh until thy ran up against them themselves. One after the other they had to resign, and even in the post-mortem the openings proved hard to crack, however outlandish they looked."

Martens founded the Stalingrad Gambit which is part of a system called the "Ultra-Hyper Modern Counter Attack" school for Black. It is said that this opening (diagrammed on the right) mimics the battles fought in World War II between the Russians and Germans. The position was reached after

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3. d5 a6!? 4.Nc3 b5 5.Qc2 e6!? 6.e4 exd5 7.e5 dxc4!? 8.exf6 d5

The article is an interesting read and draws heavily on the history of warfare tactics and discusses types of strategies and how they were implemented in battle… the Sicilian Dragon was even mentioned. If nothing else this article gives us a litany of information to share with one who thinks of chess as a mere game.  Surely, they are wrong… chess IS war!!

Posted by The Chess Drum: 30 July 2002

The Stalingrad Gambit

Chess simulation of the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II