I dimly remember a movie that had a Jewish (?) WWII prisioner (in Germany, most likely) that used bread to build chess pieces. At one point he played his guard / interogator (German, most likely), and surprised him with a special move that had the guard / interogator completely baffled.

That's about all I remember, aside from the conditions of that game being highly emotional (the prisioner facing execution, deportation or somesuch?).

The chess move might have been called "Grünfeld Gambit" or something like that, but I might mis-remember that.

I watched that movie on TV a long time ago (try 20+ years), and the memory has a feel to it as if it was already old at that time. Probably a German production, somewhere between the 50's and the 70's perhaps. (Black & white? Possibly. Likely, even.)

The movie worked on the premise that the audience knew about the holocaust, and pictured the prisioner as quite likeable, which rules out any wartime / late 1940's production.

Can you identify that movie?

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    Welcome to Movies & TV. Do you have any other external details to go by? Like when you watched it or what time it was approximately from? What country was it likely from? Or any additional descriptive details you remember? – Napoleon Wilson Aug 4 '15 at 14:57
  • @TomCody: Combing my memory for more details, but it's hard because I mostly remember the emotions felt during that scene. I am also quite sure that I have seen only the last few scenes of the movie back then, so... – DevSolar Aug 4 '15 at 15:03
  • stalag 17 - the theme behind Hogans Heroes – user23625 Aug 4 '15 at 18:21
  • For what it's worth, there is a recognized chess opening known as the Grünfeld Gambit. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 O-O (or 1.P-Q4 N-KB3 2.P-QB4 P-KN3 3.N-QB3 P-Q4 4.B-B4 B-N2 5.P-K3 O-O in old money). It's a gambit because, after exchanging in the centre, black's queen's bishop's pawn is unprotected and can be taken by white's bishop. First played in 1936 so not even anachronistic in a WWII movie. – David Richerby Aug 4 '15 at 23:18
  • did you ever find this movie? I remember it as you do - vaguely. It was black and white, the prisoner learned and/or practices whatever chess he may have already know - all in the name of surviving mentally. There was a scene, after he was released and in society, where he entered a large hotel or building lobby where the floor was black and white checkerboard designs and the protagonist started to freak because the people walking or standing about became chess pieces to him and he began to move people around on that floor. Great movie - would love to find it again - perfect example of how vis – Jack Fultz May 17 '17 at 15:06

Die Grünstein-Variante (1985)

Three prisoners in a pre-World War Two French jail occupy the long hours before their courtroom trials, each after his own fashion: the young German sailor Lodeck teaches chess to the elderly Jew Grünstein, while their simpleminded Greek cellmate daydreams aloud about being Kaiser Wilhelm's personal chef. Showing more patience than aptitude, the novice Grünstein unwittingly stumbles onto a foolproof chess strategy, the secret of which will elude a mystified Lodeck for the rest of his life. It may play like theater, but it's good theater, written and directed with humor and sympathy and graced by a trio of fine performances.

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    Apparently I mixed up those two movies in my memory, because -- apart from the detail about chess pieces made from bread -- this is definitely the one I meant. – DevSolar Nov 6 '16 at 9:03
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    If you quote external sources in whole, please put them into proper quote markup to show that it's taken from somewhere else and please try to reference the source (preferably with a link) for proper attribution. – Napoleon Wilson Nov 6 '16 at 12:11

I guess you got some parts wrong, but it should be the German movie Schachnovelle

In WW2 an intelectual (not a Jew) is arrested and isolated in a hotel by the Nazis. He teaches himself chess only by a book he found at his prison. After the guards find the book and take it away, he starts, like you described, to build chess pieces from bread and uses his blanket as board (but he plays not against his guard/interogator, only against himself). After WW2, he is freed but a broken man. He travels with a ship to America, and the chess champion is also on the ship and invites some people to play against him. The ex-prisoner then tells the people the move you mentioned, so they can win against the chess champion.

Playing chess on blanket with pieces build from bread

Playing chess on blanket with pieces build from bread

EDIT: I just found the film on youtube and saw that I remembered some details wrong:

  1. The Film starts with the chessgame on the ship, only after about 20 minutes it does a flashback and tells the story during WW2.

  2. The last 5 minutes are playing on the ship again, and he play a second game against the champion. He does a useless move, says checkmate and leaves the board (not meaning the game, but surviving his situation during ww2, but the chess champion does not understand it)

  3. He does not tell them the winning move during the first game, but a move that help them to keep a remis (which is also admireable against the chess world champion).

But I rewatched the scene where he builds chesspieces from bread, I guess there will be not many other movies which include such a scene (that was the main reason I could identify your question, because these scene was stuck in my head when I watched it many years ago):

(around 1:15:30, the movie is in german)

  • Hmm... I am not sure. I remember it differently, but I can't really say. Upvoted but kept open in case there's a similar movie. – DevSolar Aug 4 '15 at 15:16
  • probably based on Stephan Sweig's novel, en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royal_Game – Olivier Dulac Aug 5 '15 at 12:09
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    Yes, its defenitly based on the book from Stefan Zweig, did not think this would be relevant for the question, so i not mentioned it. It could also be possible that the movie was released with an english name elsewhere (like The royal game), i just know it with the name schachnovelle – kl78 Aug 5 '15 at 12:20

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