In Prague, a man and woman are in bed when the man Yuri hears the police pull up outside. He and his woman quickly get dressed and Yuri tells the woman to stay there. He runs out but the police, led by Major Natalia Zorbuskaya, close in on him and open fire. Yuri falls off the stairway and to his death, and Natalia looks down on him briefly in satisfaction and then walks off.
In San Francisco, Jim picks up his disc player on the beach and is informed that Professor Gregor Antonov is one of Europe's ranking chess masters. He's also a scientist in a major Soviet defense program. His wife died five years ago and Gregor has become increasingly dissatisfied with his work in the arms race. His son Yuri, an outspoken critic of the anti-nuclear movement, has made Gregor determined to defect to the west with his 15-year-old daughter Sasha. The Soviet officials are aware of Gregor's intentions and has increased security. Gregor will be competing in the world chess championships in Prague, and the security around him is possibly impenetrable. The team's job is to get Gregor and Sasha out of the country.
At the final briefing, Jim informs the others that Natalia is in charge of Gregor's security, and specializes in political assassination and torture. The IMF's Moscow sources link her to Yuri's death, and they can't let Gregor know until they get Gregor out of Europe. If he gets away then Natalia will spend the rest of her life in Siberia. Joseph Ritka, a magician, is retired and living outside of Prague and wants to help them. Max demonstrates the magic he did in school, and Jim warns that getting the Antonovs out of Prague will be quite a trick.
A few days later, the train arrives in Prague and Nicholas and Grant are there posing as reporters. Natalia escorts Gregor from the train and the two agents approach them. Natalia doesn't allow any questions there, but Nicholas persists. Jim gets off the train while Grant takes a photo of Natalia. Meanwhile, Max and Casey arrive as the Great Sandu and his assistant and Maxi boasts of his performance that night at the hotel. Jim approaches Natalia and they watch as Max performs a close-up trick.. When Jim wonders if he could put Max into his act, he explains that he's a talent agent from Texas and Natalia walks off. Joseph approaches Max and tells him that they have much work to do.
Joseph takes Max and Casey to his workshop outside of Prague and teaches Max how to become a master magician.
Gregor's security escort takes him to the Lion of Pilsen Hotel and Gregor holds a press conference. Nicholas questions him about the young age of his opponent, Bakunin. Grant records video of Gregor, capturing his mannerisms on film. Bakunin comes in and promises to stop Gregor. The two of them argue until Natalia interrupts them and ends the press conference.
At the workshop, Max continues practicing.
At a reception at the hotel, Jim approaches Gregor and talks about "travel arrangements" for Gregor and Sasha. Natalia notices them talking and comes over, and Jim hands Gregor his card. The major tells Gregor that it is time for his match and her men lead him off. She then tells Jim to come with her.
At their suite base, Grant runs off photos of Natalia while Nicholas reviews the video of Gregor and practices his mannerisms.
Jim tells Natalia that he was asking Gregor if he would come back to Texas with him and play chess against the American master if he beats Bakunin. Natalia tells him that Jim isn't interested, and Jim offers her a bonus. Disgusted, Natalia says that it isn't wise to subvert Soviet citizens or offer bribes and tells him to approach her first in future. Jim shakes her hand and moves on, and Natalia tells one of her men to keep Jim under surveillance.
Nicholas reviews Gregor's history, practices chess, and double-checks the Gregor mask that they've made.
Gregor and Bakunin begin their first match and Gregor plays white. Jim and Natali watch and Jim says that it looks like it's going to be an exciting game.
Nicholas practices Gregor's voice.
As Gregor ponders his next move, Jim tells Natalia that Gregor looks rattled. She tells him that the game isn't over until the last move is made.
Max continues practicing until Joseph says that he's ready for the Floating Phantom Illusion.
Gregor puts Bakunin in check, and when Bakunin takes the piece Gregor says that they have a stalemate. Realizing that Gregor is correct, Bakunin walks off and accuses Gregor of cheating, and is furious that Gregor played to stalemate. Jim points out that Natalia's "boys" could use a trip to Texas, and she insists that it isn't going to happen.
Nicholas puts on the Gregor mask, and Grant assures him that it's perfect.
Natalia tells Gregor that he will attend the gala that night. Gregor refuses but Natalia tells him that he has no choice and will bring credit to the Soviets.
That night at the gala, Grant is at the gala. Jim arrives and sits down near Gregor's table, and Natalia sits down with Gregor. Gregor's military friend Commissar Rudensky comes in and greets his friend, loudly congratulating him on his mental abilities. Meanwhile, Grant slips into the cloak room and goes to work on Natalia's jacket, sewing passport papers into the lining.
As Max begins his act, Rudensky sends his aide Krensky to get his cigars and flask of vodka. Grant hears Krensky coming in and hides among the coats, Meanwhile, Sandu calls on Gregor and Bakunin to stand and take a round of applause. Krensky finds what he's looking for and leaves, and Grant finishes his work.
Max calls up Gregor for the Floating Phantom Illusion. Rudensky encourages Gregor to do it, overriding Natalia's objections, and Jim tells her that it's just a little bit of trickery. The commissar tells Natalia to sit down, and Max performs the illusion which involves covering Gregor with a cloth and then levitating him. Grant emerges from the cloak room and Max pulls away the cloth, revealing that Gregor is gone. Natalia and her men go to the stage and the major demands to know where Gregor is. When Max feigns ignorance, Natalia draws her gun on him.
Below the stage, Casey and Grant greet Gregor as he climbs down a ladder. Grant tells him that they'll be watching Nicholas, who is disguised as Gregor. Nicholas wishes Gregor luck and goes up the ladder.
Natalia gives Max five seconds to return Gregor, and he goes to a giant chess piece on stage and opens it to reveal "Gregor." Rudensky glares at Natalia, who sheepishly goes back to her table.
Grant and Casey take Gregor to their suite and give him the identity papers for him and Sasha.
After the performance, Natalia complains to Nicholas that he made a foul of both of them. He says that she doesn't need his help to be a fool, and Natalia vows that she'll have the last laugh.
Casey joins Jim and Max as Natalia returns. Jim whispers that Sasha's train will arrive in an hour, and Max says that he'll be there. Once he and Casey leaves, Jim sees Rudensky talking with Nicholas. Rudensky asks Nicholas the name of the girl in the coffee shop, and Nicholas feigns a bad memory. He says that there were so many, and then claims that there were so many coffee shops. Rudensky assumes that he's joking and laughs.
Casey discovers that the train has been delayed and is running twelve hours behind schedule.
Natalia escorts Nicholas to Gregor's room and warns him that there will be guards posted outside all night.
Casey returns to the suite and tells Gregor and the team that the train has been delayed. Gregor refuses to go without Sasha, but admits that Nicholas would betray himself within three moves against Bakunin. Grant notices Gregor's ring and says that he could modify the ring to receive a slight electrical impulse via the satellite broadcast. Gregor could decide Nicholas' move from the border and beyond.
Casey soon goes to Gregor's room posing as a maid and tells him that the egg is full of everything he needs, and that the train has been delayed. Once she leaves, Nicholas cracks the egg open and finds the ring inside. He switches it for the duplicate Grant made for him to wear, and Grant sends a message in Morse explaining their plan.
The next day, Grant approaches the satellite dish and hooks up his transmitter to it. Meanwhile, Nicholas and Bakunin take their positions at the chess table as Jim, Natalia, and Rudensky look on. Grant has Nicholas adjust his tie to indicate he's getting their message, and when Nicholas does so Jim signals to Grant. Grant, Casey, and Max head for the border with Gregor.
The match begins and Bakunin plays white. Gregor, watching via Grant's laptop, provides Nicholas with the proper moves. Sasha arrives at the station and the team meets her. They get back on the train and head out, and Gregor continues sending Nicholas the moves. The train arrives at a checkpoint and the soldiers inspect the cabins. Grant takes the laptop but Gregor warns that Bakunin has them in difficulties.
Grant gives the computer to Sasha with a game running on the screen. Meanwhile, Nicholas runs low on time and has no choice but to make a move on his own. Meanwhile, the soldiers move on and Gregor takes the computer. Gregor tells the others that Nicholas' move was brilliant. Bakunin responds and Gregor gives Nicholas the finishing move. The younger chess player concedes and Nicholas quickly leaves. The train leaves Czechoslovakia once the soldiers are done.
As they go back to Gregor's room, Natalia reluctantly offers her congratulations to Nicholas. Once he goes inside, the major tells the soldiers that Gregor is heading for Siberia no matter what. Inside, Nicholas removes his mask, takes out a train schedule, and circles two dates on it. He then drops it in the trash can.
Jim goes down to the lobby and tells the reporters that "Gregor" is giving a press conference. They all run up and Jim tells the clerk that Natalia went to the hotel station and left him with the bag. He gives the clerk $100 to get the bag to Natalia and leaves. A soldier notices the conversation and comes over to check the bag.
Nicholas puts on his page credentials and lets the reporters in. He then blends in with the crowd and leaves with them as the soldiers escort them out. Nicholas goes down to the car where Jim is waiting and they drop off.
Natalia finds the train schedule and assumes that Gregor is heading to the train station.
The soldier calls Rudensky, who searches the bag and finds travel clothing and American currency. He heads to the station with a military escort.
Jim and Nicholas board the train and sees Natalia coming. Rudensky arrives and places her under arrest, and they search her and find the passports in the lining of her jacket. She insists that she was set up and says that she needs to get on the train. Jim watches her as it depart, and then joins Nicholas in a cabin. Nicholas figures that Natalia is getting travel arrangements of her own, and he's received a signal that the others crossed the border successfully.
Written by Gadfly on Jul 29, 2017