Chess and “Gentleman in Moscow”

In his inventive and marvelous  novel “A Gentleman of Moscow,” author Amor Towles captures the social unrest in Russia in the wake of  the Bolshevik Revolt.

As an imperial aristocrat he is held at house arrest in the City’s legendary Metropol Hotel.

Instead of his luxury former suite, Count Rostov returns to a tiny room under the slant of the roof, with one small window that seems to grow smaller with each mention, first “the size of a chessboard,” then “only the size of a dinner invitation,” finally “only the size of a postage stamp.” Here he will remain for the next 40 years.

The repugnant antagonist the Count must constantly counter is labeled “The Bishop,” as he does not seem to be contained by rank and file.

Up to a point Rostov is reconciled to his fate:

“It is the mark of a fine chess player to tip over his own king when he sees that defeat is inevitable, no matter how many moves remain in the game.”

(Chess clock courtesy of Mechanics Institute Chess Club)