Castro’s 638 Lives (Or is it 634?)

fidelcastro.jpg (Fidel Castro flanked by world chess champion Tigran Petrosian and grandmaster Lev Polugaevsky)

Speaking of heads of state and aspiring h.o.s’s who play chess, Fidel Castro was a stand-out. But judging from the surviving game score of a King’s Gambit he defended and won in 1966 (when the 17th world chess Olympiad was held in Cuba), he was more accomplished as a revolutionary than as a woodpusher. Away from the chessboard, Castro was certainly a master of defense.

Tonight on the Sundance Channel is the U.S. premiere of “638 Ways to Kill Castro,” a British documentary that explores his invincibleness. The film’s title “refers to the number of assassination plans that Fabián Escalante, the former director of Cuban intelligence, claims to have evidence for and, in many cases, to have thwarted,” writes Mike Hale in today’s New York Times. “Mr. Escalante breaks it down by administration:

Eisenhower, 38;

Kennedy, 42;

Johnson, 72;

Nixon, 184;

Carter, 64;

Reagan, 197;

Bush Sr., 16;

Clinton, 21.

(That adds up to 634, but we can forgive him for losing track of a few poisoned diving suits.)”

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