Brainwashed

by Arne Kaehler
5/13/2020 – We recently had a chess film quiz with stills from movies before the 60s. One of them was the German drama film Brainwashed (1960) by Gerd Oswald. Based on one of the most famous chess books ever written, "Die Schachnovelle" (The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig, the film itself wasn't very popular. We took a closer look at the game featured in the film and also in the book, which was originally played by Alexander Alekhine against Efim Bogoljubov in 1922.

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Brainwashed, a film based on Die Schachnovelle

Centowic (left) playing chess against von Basil (right)

The central character of the film Brainwashed, Werner von Basil (Curd Juergens), has been arrested for smuggling precious art treasures out of the country to hide from the national socialists, and has been imprisoned by the Secret State Police. Von Basil is held captive in a hotel room to confess his criminal activities. Officer Berger (Hans Joerg Felmy) is trying to force him to reveal secret information. 

After six weeks of imprisonment, von Basil pretends to be cooperative and manages to steal a book. Because the book only shows chess games, his disappointment is huge. As a last resort, to keep his sanity, von Basil starts reading it and uses pieces of bread as chess pieces to re-enact the games described in the book. Unfortunately, Berger discovers the stolen book and takes it away. Von Basil keeps on playing the games in his mind and shows signs of insanity.

Irene Adreny (Claire Bloom), who is Berger's lover, begs him to release von Basil from the struggles.

This is the middle part and main story of the film and seen as a flashback to understand who von Basil is.

The chess game

The chess game re-enactment takes place at the beginning of the film, where famous World Chess Champion Karl Centowic (Mario Adorf), is on the cruise S.S. Adria, travelling to an important chess tournament. He is willing to play against passengers, one of them being von Basil, who is on the same ship.

Chess Champion Centowic (right) asked by Mac Iver (left) to play chess

Von Basil is behaving nervous and unhinged, due to the recent occurrences, still in disbelief that he is free now. Walking around on the cruise ship he discovers passengers playing the chess game against the World Chess Champion.

He approaches the players and interrupts them before they can make a bad move. 

The original game was played by Alexander Alekhine and Efim Bogoljubov in 1922 at the Bad Pistyan Tournament in Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). This game was played in round fifteen, three rounds before the tournament was over. Both players had a chance to win the tournament with a decisive outcome. In the end, Bogoljubov triumphed, with 15/18 points, only half a point ahead Rudolf Spielmann and Alexander Alekhine. This was also Bogoljubov's first International tournament win. Alekhine and Bogoljubov only lost one game in the competition. Savielly Tartakower was the one who defeated them. He ended on place eight with only nine points though.

 

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In the last part of the film, Centowic is playing against von Basil, a game they agreed on after the draw, although von Basil didn't want to participate at first. We see another chess position, but not more than eight to ten moves have been played, so it doesn't have too much value to look into it. I don't want to give away the end of the film, because it is very well worth watching it.

Curd Juergens played in countless German-Austrian films and is probably most famous for his evil Bond villain role as Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). His performance in the Brainwashed film is quite memorable!

Hans Joerg Felmy and Mario Adorf also portray wonderful characters and are a joy to watch. The Swiss actor Adorf is the only actor who is alive today. He is 89 years old.

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Arne Kaehler, a creative thinker who is passionate about board games in general was born in Hamburg and learned how to play chess at a very young age. Through teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess content on YouTube, Arne was able to extend this passion onto others and has even made an online chess course for anyone who wants to learn how to play this game. Currently, Arne blogs for the English news page of ChessBase and focuses on creating promotional and entertaining articles.
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haider33 haider33 5/14/2020 01:06
excellent job. thank you🍺
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