every now and then I have heard the saying "1. e2-e4 -- The favorite opening move of Ostap Bender." In Alexei Kornev's book "A practical white repertoire with 1. d4 and c4" the author writes:

Ostap Bender is the picaresque hero of the hugely popular Russian comic novel “The Twelve Chairs” (1928) by Ilf and Petrov. It is still not widely known in the West, despite the efforts of, for instance, Mel Brooks, who made a film adaptation of it in 1970.

Unfortunately, I have not read the novel (has it anything to do with chess?) and I also have not watched the film by Mel Brooks (I only know "Spaceballs"). Ostap Bender even has a Wikipedia entry but it does not explain why his favorite opening move is supposed to be e4.

Could anyone please explain what it is all about Ostap Bender and the move e4?

3 Answers 3


As a person who read the book, I will explain:

So Bender is a con-artist from the book, and as any person of such kind he tries to transfer money from other people to himself. He has done a lot of such things in the book, but you are interested in the chess part. In this part Bender came to some average small city and was looking for a way to get some money. He found a chess club, where he decided to play chess having no idea how to do so. His idea was to create a simultaneous match with as many opponents as possible.

He called himself a GM, wrote an ads where he told that he (GM) a lesson of how to play chess and will play a simul game on 100+ chessboards. Take your chessboards, pay fee for a game, fee for an entrance and you good.

Before he started the game, he was able to persuade the owners of chess club to give him all the money by explaining them his idea how to make their city and their chess club one of the most profitable. He told that he would you all his connections in chess world (he is GM, who knows Lasker and Capablanka) to organize next world chess tournament in their city which will eventually makes it better than Moscow, New York and will give huge amount of money.

Back to simul games. When people came - he started to abstractly speak about chess, how cool the game is, how is it connected to everything without any details. Then he started his games. Because he had no knowledge how to play, he decided to play 'solid' e2-e4 (he new that he can not lose straight after that move).

So he played e2-e4 with everyone. His games were not long, soon he lost to the first guy, was doing mistakes with chess movements, tried to steal a piece and so on. He lost to almost every player and ran away.

P.S. it might not be 95% accurate and looks like a starting place for my own book, so do not be mad with inaccuracies.

  • I have read the book. The difference between you and me is that I read it today for the first time :)
    – LeppyR64
    Sep 16, 2014 at 23:27

The answer is the book that's actually referenced in the wikipedia article. In chapter thirty four. Bender moves the king pawn two spaces in all the games.



PS: Life of Brian was Monty Python, not Mel Brooks.


Refer to page 145 of The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal

  • 2
    Could you include some of what the text you refer to is? What will be found there?
    – ETD
    May 16, 2015 at 14:12

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