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Editor: Dr Tim Harding
  Dr. Tim Harding   J. H. Blackburne   Blackburne-book   Paul Morphy   Correspondence Chess history book   Captain W. D. Evans


We present a hitherto unpublished extract from the journal of Jonathan Harker — being presumably excised by his editor, Mr. Bram Stoker, from the final MS of Dracula, along with the well-known fragment Dracula's Guest, on the grounds that the novel was becoming too long.

It was unearthed by Tim Harding, first published by him in Chess magazine (Sutton Coldfield) number 807-8 (December 1978) and later revived at The Chess Café.


Frankenstein versus Dracula at the Chessboard


14th May. Midnight — I had another long talk with the Count, and learned to my relief that he is a keen player of chess. Surely no-one who takes delight in that noble game can be wholly bad? I must revise some of my estimates of the man.

Later — The Count told me that tomorrow a chess tournament is to be held, not far from here in an inn near the Borgo Pass. He himself would be competing, he said, and he offered to take me with him as a spectator. I assented readily.

Next day — We have arrived, after a rough ride over the misty pass in the Count's coach! Sometimes, I could hear wolves baying only feet from our flimsy vehicle. Why do we have to travel at night — and with so many trunks and other baggage?

The Count appeared not at all dismayed by the strange and eerie sounds, but pulling his cloak tighter around his shoulders for warmth — until I could have sworn he resembled some giant bat — he said, in a tone of relish: "Ah, the children of the night! Such music they make!"

I urged the Count to tell me more of this chess contest. I learned that it was not held along the all-play-all or Swiss systems with which I was familiar in England, but was an old-fashioned 'knockout', like Mr. Staunton's tournament of 1851 in London. The Count was interested to hear of our new forms of tournament, but doubted if they would ever become popular in his part of the world: '"Our traditions are strong; we are suspicious of the new. Besides, the knockout system has certain advantages from our point of view..."

The wind caught his next remark from my ears, but there seemed to be a sinister note in it.

As we approached the inn, the Count was explaining that the Borgo Open was an annual event of which he was patron, which was why he had been unable to entertain me in the daytime; there had been administrative details to attend to... However, he was (as I gathered he had been for many years) the title-holder, which exempted him from play in earlier rounds. When the other players had completed their knock-out, the victor would play off with the Count the next evening.

Later — On arrival, we learned that this year's challenger was to be an overseas competitor (from Bavaria, was it or Switzerland?) — a redoubtable sounding character by the name of Herr Frank N. Stein-Münster. From the excitement at the inn on our arrival, though Stein-Münster was nowhere to be seen, I gathered that a more interesting contest was anticipated than for many years.

The Count disappeared somewhere, while I ordered myself a meal and I engaged the landlord in conversation.

"Every year, as long as I can remember," he said, "the Count has won the challenge round with great ease. But this year the challenger is something special. He stands head and shoulders above his rivals, he's been eating them alive — with some special opening he learned in Vienna, they say."

 



I thought to myself that surely the Count would not be unprepared for any novelty, but kept my own counsel; I should not be disloyal to my host!

Next day — What a tale I have to I tell! All took their seats near the chess table, where each should command the best view he could of the board and clock. Then the seconds entered; firstly myself, for the Count, and then, for his mysterious adversary, a devout Dutch professor, a Dr. Abraham van Helsing. Then, and I could hear a hush fall upon the room, the Count entered and seated himself at the black pieces. Finally, the German appeared, an ugly giant of a man, who scowled at everyone then sat down slowly in the huge chair that had been specially constructed for him.

Without more ado the game began, both players making their moves swiftly and confidently. They followed Herr Stein-Münster's earlier games with White in the event. Here they are, so that you may follow the game for yourself (the Count, of course, is Black):

1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Bb3 Nc6 6 Nb5 g6 7 Qf3 f5 8 Qd5 Qe7 9 Nxc7+ Kd8 10 Nxa8 b6 11 d3 Bb7 12 h4

Now the Count for the first time hesitated, although not through unfamiliarity with the position. I recognised it as the interesting theoretical line that he had several times during the last few days shown me and asked for my comment. I am no master; I could only say that it looked as if Black should not have enough attack for the rook he had sacrificed.

While the Count was deciding on his reply, the landlord handed me a sheaf of papers — the tournament bulletins! Looking through this, I could see that the huge German had reached this position three times already in the tournament, and had always won.

In the first round, Stein-Münster had had the white pieces against a stranger who hailed from the Russian steppes, W. Wolf. He had been a hairy fellow by all accounts and so was the game, for all its brevity. From the diagram Wolf played

12...Bg7 13 Bg5 Bf6 14 Bxf6 Qxf6 15 Qf3 Nd4 16 Qh3 Bxa8 17 0-0-0 N6b5 18 Re1 Nxb3+ 19 axb3 Qc6 20 Nf3

At this point in the game, the landlord informed me, the German had sat back with a hideous smile — and called for a quart of Heineken lager!

20...d6 21 h5 Rf8 22 hxg6 hxg6 23 Qh7 Qe8 24 Rh6 Bxf3?

An obvious error that hastened Wolf's demise; he had been drinking too much vodka.

25 gxf3 Rg8 26 Qb7 Qe6 27 Rh7 1-0.

At this point Wolf resigned, then gathering his cloak around his shoulders vanished into the night, with the giant Teuton in hot pursuit...

In round three, Stein-Münster again reached the diagrammed position. This Black really was black — a huge mulatto named Z. Ombie from the far-off Caribbean Isle of Haiti. Herr Ombie had done his homework, and confidently improved upon the Russian's handling of the rook sacrifice by playing 12...h6 (instead of 12...Bg7).

The game Stein-Münster v Ombie continued thus:

12...h6 13 Qf3 Nd4 14 Qg3 f4 15 Qxg6 Rh7 16 Rh2 Rg7 17 Qh5 Bxg2 18 Bd2 Nf3+ 19 Nxf3 Bxf3 20 Qxf3 Rg1+ 21 Ke2 Rxa1 22 Bb4 a5 23 Nxb6 axb4? 24 Qa8+

Now the bulletins said simply "Black resigned" but my doughty informant, refilling my glass as he spoke, told me that Herr Ombie appeared to be overtaken by a strange paralysis and never moved again of his own volition. Eventually Herr Stein-Münster, after being awarded the game by general consent, volunteered for the ghastly task of carrying his opponent out of the inn and burying him.

In the quarter-final, Stein-Münster was yet again allowed to reach the diagram position with White. This time his opponent was a thin Frenchman of surly appearance who went under the name of Professor Orlac. On his wrists, this man bore the scars of some terrible surgery. It was rumoured that Orlac had once been a famous concert pianist who, after his hands were damaged beyond repair in an accident at the Paris Opera, had been sent to some unscrupulous doctor who had devised a technique for grafting, onto the living, limbs and organs severed from the recently deceased.

In the case of Orlac, some said that the fiendish surgeon had taken the hands of a strangler, not yet cold from the guillotine; another told me that they were the hands of a chess player who had died in impoverished circumstances. The latter seemed more plausible; certainly in his days as a musician Orlac had shown no talent for the game of kings.

Whatever the explanation, Monsieur Orlac played chess like a man blind. Seated at the board, he would close his eyes and his face took on a blank expression; his opponents, having played their moves, had to speak them aloud. Then Orlac would stretch out his hands over the board and let them hover until suddenly finger and thumb would seize a piece and move it. In this macabre fashion the game between Stein-Münster and Orlac was conducted.

From the familiar position, the Frenchman played 12...f4. Many of the kibitzers had felt that the German's play against Ombie had been unsound; could Orlac's move be the way to justify Black's rook sacrifice? Stein-Münster (who indeed looked as if he had at some past time been ministered to by the same doctor who had given Orlac his strange hands) was not abashed and promptly replied. The game went on:

12...f4 13 Qf3 Nd4 14 Qg4 Bg7 15 Bd2 Bxa8 16 0-0-0 Bf6 17 h5 g5 18 Nf3 Nxb3+ 19 axb3 Nf7 20 h6 Rg8

At this point the Frenchman, perhaps feeling his chances slipping away, proposed that a draw be agreed. The German shook his great head and said in a booming but childlike voice: "Position: Good. Draw: Bad!" and played on. The continuation was:

21 d4 e4 22 Ne5

22...Nxe5?

Orlac's normally infallible hands had reached out for the bishop at f6, with which to capture the knight. But a fingernail brushed the knight first and the eagle-eyed van Helsing, second to the German, instantly claimed "touch-and-move" on behalf of his protègé. So the fatal blunder was made.

23 dxe5 Bxe5 24 Bb4! Qf7 25 Rxd7+ Qxd7 26 Rd1 Bd4

26...Bd5 would have been a better try, but evidently the fingerslip had caused the hands of Orlac to lose their confidence.

27 Qe2! Re8 28 Qc4 Qc6 29 Rxd4+ Kc8 30 Qf7 b5 31 Rd6 Qc7 32 Qf5+ Kb8 33 Qxb5+ 1-0.

At this point Orlac resigned, left the room, and he too was seen no more.

So this was the background to the Count's innovation! Like Professor Orlac two rounds previously, Dracula also played

12...f4

but after

13 Qf3

the Count preferred

13...Bh6!

Stein-Münster, normally a quick player, thought for many minutes before deciding on

14 Qg4

This was the very move which the Count and I in our preparatory analysis had rejected as inferior. Perhaps if the innkeeper had not by now run out of Stein-Münster's favourite refreshing Heineken, the German might have found 14 Ne2! and our story could have had a different end. But 14 Qg4? it was. Baring his teeth in a greedy smile, Dracula replied:

14...e4! 15 Bxf4 exd3+ 16 Kf1 Bxf4 17 Qxf4 Rf8 18 Qg3 Ne4 19 Qc7+ Ke8 20 Nh3 Nxf2!

White's position is now lost, but the giant fought on with:

21 Nxf2 Qe2+ 22 Kg1 Qxf2+ 23 Kh2 Qxh4+ 24 Kg1 Qd4+ 25 Kh2 Ne5 26 Rhf1 Ng4+ 27 Kg3 Qe3+ 28 Kxg4 h5+ 29 Kh4 g5+ 30 Kxh5 Rh8+ 31 Kg6 Be4+ 32 Rf5 Bxf5+ 33 Kxf5 Rf8+ 34 Kg6 Qe4+ 35 Kg7 Qe7+ 36 Kg6 Qf6+ 37 Kh5 Qh8+


The Horror! The Horror!

At this point, where the Count had forced mate in his grasp, something happened which even now I do not fully understand. Was it the garlic on the breath of the peasant who leaned across the table to peer at the position on the chessboard? Was it the tiny crucifix around the neck of the white king (painted there by van Helsing?) which only now did Dracula in horror espy? Was it the morning's first ray of sunlight gleaming in through the shutters? We shall never know.

Stein-Münster sat staring at his position in despair.

Suddenly a look of sheer terror crossed the face of my host. The Count rose to his feet, and as he stood he disappeared. In his place there was a shimmering vortex of dust, almost opaque at first but then becoming increasingly transparent as the dust passed through a crack in the casement and out into the cold night air.

I threw open the shutters, but all that could be seen was a large black bat flying at a great pace over the Borgo Pass. Soon it disappeared from view, heading in the direction of Castle Dracula. A wolf howled.

Hardly believing his luck, Stein-Münster played

38 Kg4

And sat back shaking, after pressing his clock. Of course Black could now mate in one by

38...Qh4

but Black was no longer present. In due course, Stein-Münster was awarded the game on time and he was declared Borgo Open Champion.

Perhaps next year the rivalry of these two grim fellows will be taken up anew? If it is, I hope I am not there to see it.

I send this letter to you, dear Mina, by the hand of the excellent Doctor van Helsing. Meanwhile, I must return to the castle to conclude my business with Count Dracula...


The games:

RD 1. (Stein-Münster v W.Wolf): Harding-Wolfgang Nicklich, corr 1975 RD 2. (Stein-Münster v Z. Ombie): Harding analysis stemming from a game Welling-Gershberg, corr 1972-73.

RD 3. (Stein-Münster v Prof. Orlac): Analysis stemming from a game Lågland v Brilla-Banfalvi.

The Final: (Stein-Münster v Count Dracula):

Jakob Ost Hansen-John D.M. Nunn, Student olympiad, Teesside 1974 (in which John, not being a vampire, did administer the mate.)