By 1969, chess grandmaster Pachman seemed to have it made. Although not personally satisfied. with the lack of freedom in his Soviet-dominated native land, he was a hero in his country: Champion of Czechoslovakia seven times and a shining star of international chess competition. Suddenly his world collapsed. He was arrested and thrown into prison. He was charged with subversion, sedition, defaming a member of the government, and holding illegal meetings. After countless Kafkaesque interrogations, investigations and examinations where various charges against him were made and withdrawn, after detentions, releases, re-arrests, and a total of two years in assorted jail cells, Pachman was finally brought to "trial" three years after his initial arrest. He was sentenced to two years - which he had already served, and released.
In the meantime, he had been "banned" from chess by the Czech Chess Federation, expelled by that organization and prohibited from representing his country in international tournaments, the first chess player ever to be expelled on political grounds. His appeals to FIDE, the international chess body, were of no avail and to this date he is banned from the game because that international body is afraid of a Soviet boycott if they were to re-admit Pachman. Not being able to earn a livelihood (his wife had been dismissed from her job) and unwilling to give up his quest for Freedom, Pachman was finally allowed to emigrate to the West after being forced to deed all his property to the state.
Ludek Pachman's account of his political struggles is interspersed with numerous chess anecdotes about many of the masters he faced in tournament play, such as Alekhine, Bobby Fischer, Botvinnik, and Tal; he also tells about his meetings with Castro, about his activities during the Prague Spring, and about his early chess career under Nazi occupation. Checkmate in Prague is a remarkable document of a man's determination to survive, and his unwillingness to surrender his love of liberty.