In this free adaptation of Stefan Zweig′s novella, Viennese lawyer Dr. Werner von Bastil gets arrested by the Gestapo when Germany occupies Austria in 1938. They want to know about the hiding place of some precious art treasures and put von Bastil into solitary confinement which nearly drives him mad. During an interrogation, von Bastil manages to steal a chess textbook. To save himself from mental isolation, he obsessively learns to play chess in his mind which drives him even more insane. Later, after his release, he meets the chess world champion on an ocean liner and is tempted to play a chess match against him. But after losing the match, von Bastil is on the verge of completely losing his mind. His only salvation is to give up playing chess once and for all.