In 1918 A Chess Master Was Ordered Shot By Firing Squad. Then He Was Offered A Match For His Life

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Image: baona/Getty Images

Having been arrested, Bernstein was awaiting his imminent death. But just before the shooting could take place, an officer apparently requested a look at the names of those who’d been detained. This agent soon recognized the name of famed chess player Ossip Bernstein. And he consequently came up with a twisted proposition.

Image: Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine

By this point in time, Bernstein would only have been in his mid-30s. But already, the man had lived quite the life. Brought into the world by a Jewish family in 1882, Bernstein came from the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr, in what was then the Russian Empire.

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Image: Sergey Lvovich Levitsky

Throughout the early stages of Bernstein’s life, the Russian Empire was a tumultuous place. Under the rule of Alexander III at the time of his birth, it was then engaged in the Great Game against the British Empire. This was a dispute between the two powers over territories in Southern and Central Asia and lasted for over 65 years.

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