Aging Soviet chess champion Akiva Liebskind (Michel Piccoli) arrives in Geneva to face off against his former student Pavius Fromm (Alexandre Arbatt) in a World Championship match. Pavius is a defector from the USSR, and the Soviet authorities threaten to harm Akiva's family if he does not defeat the rogue player. Determined to shame Pavius, the government brings the wife (Liv Ullmann) he left behind to the game, attempting to unnerve him as the stress of the match takes its toll on both men.
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