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In the short story The Chess Problem (later chapter 11 of The Big Four), Dr Savaronoff is a Russian chess master, reputed to be the second best player in the world. "Second to Lasker," according to Japp. Savaronoff had reportedly fallen foul of the Bolsheviks at the outbreak of the Russian revolution. He had been imprisoned in Siberia for three years and had changed so much that apparently his friends said they could hardly recognise him. After his release, he lived in a Westminster flat in London with his niece Sonia Daviloff. He was a recluse and seldom went out. He was challenged to a chess contest by the American Gilmour Wilson several times but turned it down. He eventually agreed to a game at his flat. During the event, Wilson collapsed and died at the third move of the match.

Poirot later showed that the real Savaronoff had died while in Siberia. He had been impersonated by Claud Darrell, "Number 4", the chief hitman of the "Big Four" conspiracy. He had done so in order to lay claim to a large fortune which had been left to Savaronoff by a former mistress Madame Gospoja.

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