When those two masters of the macabre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi made their first movie together after individual success on screen in the early 1930s with Frankenstein and Dracula, it was to appear in the 1934 Universal classic The Black Cat - a movie that is regarded as a classic of the horror genre. And the tense highlight of the movie was a gripping five-minute sequence when both played a game of chess (literally and figuratively) for the life of the young female lead, played by Jacqueline Wells, the start of which can be viewed on You Tube by clicking here.
Although both horror stars played without the make-up that they became synonymous with, the image of the Frankenstein Monster and Count Dracula being involved in a game of chess is something that happens more often than you would think at the board, because there's particularly hair-raising exchange sacrifice in the Vienna Opening (1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Bb3 Nc6 6 Nb5 g6 7 Qf3 f5 8 Qd5 Qe7 9 Nxc7+ Kd8 10 Nxa8 b6)named the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation - so-called because it is terrifying for both sides, and, much like those two famous gentleman of the night, has an incredible facility for rising from the grave, theory-wise.
The complicated line has featured in many books on the Vienna Opening published in the 1970s and beyond. It was christened by correspondence guru Tim Harding, who, after discussing the variation in his 1973 book Bishop's Opening commented: "One thing is certain: after 5...N-B3 sharp and often hair-raising play is inevitable; in this chapter a game between Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster would not seem out of place." He then followed this up with a reference to the variation by the same name in his popular 1973 BCM book, Counter Gambits.
By this time the name had firmly caught on in the chess circuit and, in 1976, when Harding wrote a book on the Vienna Opening for the same publishers, the relevant chapter was thus officially named "The Frankenstein-Dracula Variation". However the variation named after the two horror mega-monsters became more famous after he subsequently wrote an article on it in the December 1978 edition of BH Wood's monthly magazine CHESS that was cleverly built around a hitherto unpublished extract from the journal of Jonathan Harker that was presumably excised by his editor, Bram Stoker, from the final manuscript of his 1897 cult novel, DRACULA - and you can read Tim Harding's original story by clicking here.
The Halloween Monster bash with the Frankenstein-Dracula variation (1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Bb3 Nc6 6 Nb5 g6 7 Qf3 f5 8 Qd5 Qe7 9 Nxc7+ Kd8 10 Nxa8 b6) prize thematic tourny was enjoyed by all! The prizes on offer were membership extensions of 1 x 1-year, 1 x 6 months, and 4 x 3 months. You can view the results are HERE.
And Chess.FM's gambit guru, GM Boris Alterman, featured the Frankenstein-Dracula variation on one of his past shows, and as a Halloween trick-or-treat for everyone on this auspicious day of the year, we're making that video free for everyone to view today.
It's trick or treat time with a special Halloween edition of Gambit Guide, as GM Boris Alterman investigates the Frankenstein-Dracula variation in the Vienna...