Ossip Bernstein Saved His Life By Playing A Game of Chess

Ossip Bernstein was a Russian chess player who found himself targeted by the Bolsheviks in 1918,

After the First World War, the October Revolution, and during the Russian Civil War in 1918, he fled to France. In 1918 he was arrested in Odessa by the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police), and ordered shot by a firing squad because he was a legal advisor to bankers. As the firing squad lined up, a superior officer asked to see the list of prisoners’ names. Discovering the name of Ossip Bernstein, he was asked whether he was the famous chess master. Not satisfied with Bernstein’s affirmative reply, the officer made Bernstein play a game with him. If Bernstein lost or drew, he would be shot. Bernstein won in short order and was released. He escaped on a British ship and settled in Paris. Bernstein was a successful businessman. He earned considerable wealth before losing it in the Bolshevik Revolution, earned a second fortune that was lost in the Great Depression, and a third that was lost when France was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940. Bernstein was exiled in Paris, only to be driven to Spain by the Nazis because of his Jewish origin.

Selim Akl’s Quantum Chess Variant

Selim Akl’s website has a suggested chess variant that relies on quantum-like states,

Quantum Chess, a variant of the chess game invented by Selim Akl, uses the weird properties of quantum physics. Unlike the chess pieces of the conventional game, where a pawn is a pawn, and a rook is a rook, a quantum chess piece is a superposition of “states”, each state representing a different conventional piece. In Quantum Chess, a player does not know the identity of a piece (that is, whether it is a pawn, a rook, a bishop, and so on) until the piece is selected for a move. Once a piece is selected it elects to behave as one of its constituent conventional pieces, but soon recovers its quantum state and returns to being a superposition of two or more pieces. Why Quantum Chess? Conventional chess is a game of complete information, and thanks to their raw power and clever algorithms, computers reign supreme when pitted against human players. The idea behind Quantum Chess is to introduce an element of unpredictability into chess, and thereby place the computer and the human on a more equal footing.

The site includes rules for one possible variation of quantum chess that can be played with a Java applet linked to

Taxidermy Mice Chess Set

Every so often I run across links to this taxidermy mouse chess set available for $550 on Etsy.
Taxidermied MIce Chess Set


The kicker, though, is the note in the item details that,

**** This item is made to order and will take at least 30 days to complete and dry before shipment can be processed.***

. . .

All specimens were acquired from a captive breeding facility that distributes frozen rodents for reptile feeding, so don’t feel sad if these little guys were not battling it out on the chess board they would be deep in the belly of a snake.

WordPress Plugin: RPS Chessboard

A few years ago I recommended the Chess by Blog plugin for WordPress, which added a number of chess-related functions to WordPress blogs. So, of course, that particular plugin was abandoned a couple years later.

It looks like RPS Chessboard is now the most versatile, actively developed WordPress plugin that will take chess games in PGN notation and create interactive chessboards in a WordPress post or page.

Loka – A Fantasy Chess Variant

Loka is a 4-player chess variant that had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year.

The game features both a fantasy-styled chess set that can be used for traditional chess, as well as a variant rule system built around a point-based army building system,  and dice for resolving captures.

AncientChess.Com posted an excellent, generally positive overview of how the variant play works: