I felt obliged to warn him. “Be careful. I was a bit of a child prodigy at chess. Which was true. I was just five years old when I contested my first tournament. That was in Lodz, my home town. Later I played simultaneously, against twenty opponents at the same time.
Jürgens just said: “Come on then, you precocious prodigy.” He took the chess board, couldn’t find anywhere to put it, and without further ado laid it down on the carpet. We crouched down in front of it and set up the pieces. In no time, there were a dozen guests standing around us.
“What shall we play for?” I asked hypocritically.
“What shall we play for? Just for the honour of it of course,” Jürgens said, in his voice that always sounded as if he’d been gargling with drawing pins every morning. Then he thought better of it. “Honour is a bit small. Let’s say, a crate of very old Scotch whisky, okay?”
“I would suggest something else.” In the sudden silence that emerged I said slowly: “If you win, you get your whisky. But if I win, you’ll play Peer Gynt for me. Okay?”
He squinted at me, grinned and said: “Nightingale I hear the tramp of your feet.” And then after a short pause: “Okay. All right.” He decisively moved the king’s pawn from E2 to E4. The game lasted nearly two hours and the quality of play was so interesting that it should have been recorded in a chess manual. Jürgens sparked an aggressive fire that all but left me deaf and blind. I soon noticed that he favoured a variant used successfully by the world champion Alexander Alekhine. I deployed the Sicilian defence.