Frankenstein – Dracula variation of the Vienna Game

We present a hitherto unpublished extract from the journal of Jonathan Harker being presumably excised by his editor, Mr. Bram Stoker, from the final manuscript 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 and first published in Chess magazine (December 1978).

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 none who takes delight in that noble game can be wholly bad? I must revise some of my estimates of the man.

Count Dracula

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!

Count Dracula’s Castle and the Borgo Pass in Transylvania

Knock out tournament

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.

The Borgo Open

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.

Herr Frank N. Stein-Münster

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 if all 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):

Klik op de zet in onderstaande partij(en) en je ziet de stelling. Click on a move in the game(s) below and you’ll see the position.

The other games played by Frank N. Stein-Münster:

In the first round, Stein-Münster had had the white pieces against a stranger who hailed from the Russian steppes, W. Wolf.

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

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.

Z. Ombie

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:

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.

Professor Orlac

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:

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