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     Volume 5 Issue 88 | March 31, 2006 |

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Time Out

Exiled Emperor                                    Chess

Chess was a favourite pastime of kings and emperors. It attained the stature of a royal game because of its large following among the nobility. Aristocrats were fond of this game of symbolic warfare. Maybe, it gave them the pleasure of winning a war without bloodletting. The game also brings into play the elements of strategic thinking and tactical operations-much the same way these are treated in a real warfare.

The Counts and Barons also promoted chess. Sultan Khan, the Indian chess star, would perhaps have never played in international tournaments had there been no Sir Umer Hayat Khan, the landlord from Punjab, to support him. Sultan Khan went on to become British champion three times.

Now, it won't be irrelevant to ask how strong the noblemen were over the board. It seems most of them were interested only in playing. In Satyajit Ray's Satranj-ki-Khiladi we find how two members of the Oudh royal family play chess almost round the clock. But we don't know anything about their playing strength. Perhaps they were no better than wood pushers.

There were, however, exceptions. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was a pretty strong player. He spent the last six years of his life in the island of St. Helena where he played a lot of chess. What could have been a better companion than chess for an exiled monarch? He had lost the decisive Battle of Waterloo, but still had the consolation of winning some well played games over the chessboard. It was no compensation for losing to the British, but how else could the great General feel happy?

Napoleon played the same brand of chess that the top masters of his times were known for. Their style was simple enough for anyone having an elementary knowledge of the game to grasp. The opening would invariably be some sort of gambit, to be followed by a series of sacrifices aimed it breaking the defensive wall around the enemy king.

The games that Napoleon played in the solitude of St. Helena must have reminded him of the tough battles that he had fought all his life.

White- Napoleon Bonaparte
Black-General Bertrand [C44]
St. Helena, 1818

1.Nf3 Nc6 2.e4 e5 3.d4 Nxd4 4.Nxd4 4...exd4 5.Bc4 Bc5 6.c3 6...Qe7 7.00 Qe5 8.f4!! dxc3+ 9.Kh1 cxb2 10.Bxf7+! Kd8 11.fxe5 bxa1Q 12.Bxg8 Be7 13.Qb3 a5 14.Rf8+! 14...Bxf8 15.Bg5+ Be7 16.Bxe7+ Kxe7 17.Qf7+ Kd8 18.Qf8# 1-0

Position after 10.Bxf7+!


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