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Last Gambit in Lisbon

To explain how Best Production’s first published work came about, it is necessary to go back nearly fifty years. It happened like this:

When I first started playing chess in the late 1960s I was delighted to discover that there was a very large number of chess books which one could read and enjoy and even learn from. I soon realised that, fascinated as I was by the game itself, I was perhaps more interested in the characters that played it. One of the characters that I was early fascinated with was Alexander Alekhine, World Chess Champion from 1927 to 1935 and then from 1937 to 1946. He died in Lisbon in 1946 while still champion and engaged in negotiations for a title match with the Soviet player Mikhail Botvinnik. I first learned of Alekhine when I borrowed his own collections of his best games from Plymouth Library. At the time they were described as 'the cream of chess literature' and for me they opened up a lifetime interest in the literature of chess.

I played chess, but not at a high level, never getting around to actually studying the game, fascinated though I was with it. In the mid 1970s I found a kind of chess that I became immediately hooked on – chess problems and endgame studies. I joined the BCPS in the late 1970s and was soon solving instead of playing and I even attempted to compose problems. The world of chess composition, though with far fewer adherents than the game, also has a large number of books to adorn it and I soon started to collect them. One of my early acquisitions, published by the BCPS in 1974, was A Tribute to G F Anderson, a 20-page pamphlet. Anderson soon became one of my favourite composers as his problems were always enjoyable to solve, not an attribute shared by all chess problems.

I can't remember how and when I first learned that Alekhine and Anderson had actually met, but to find out that two of my heroes were connected greatly interested me. I seems that Anderson, in 1946, was working in the British Embassy in Lisbon, and, as a chess player, was nominated to deliver the challenge from Botvinnik to Alekhine. They played a game in the Embassy and it became the last recorded game by Alekhine. You can find the game on p. 221 of the July issue of British Chess Magazine, 1946 where the editor opines that Anderson could have won with 27.Rf6. Although this move is certainly better than what Anderson actually played, computer analysis has shown that Alekhine had all his bases covered and would still have won.

By the time I did learn of this game and what led up to it I had become a firm fan of radio drama and I started to dream of writing a radio play to tell the story of Anderson and Alekhine. Move forward to the year 2013, when, quite by accident, I met the remarkable Mr Chris Bellamy in The Benjamin Huntsman – a Wetherspoon's pub in Sheffield, which is a venue that led to another production – but that’s another story.

The inspiration and the title (Last Gambit in Lisbon) came from me, and at least 90% of the script came from Chris, but we worked together, and very enjoyable it was too. Of course, nobody really knows what happened at the meeting(s) between Anderson and Alekhine and we have invented a story, which, though based on an historical event, does not purport to be historically accurate.

We submitted the story to Peter Beeston at Cornucopia Radio, Sheffield's own independent producer of audio drama and comedy. He took it up, improved it, found an excellent cast and got it recorded. The finished play was posted on their site on 29th November 2015. You can listen to it there.

Developed and maintained by Brian Stephenson.
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