The Popular Front wins elections, the Spanish Civil War begins, and Hitler and Stalin are manipulating and spying. The brilliant exile, Fiodor Voronin, a general at 20, is the deputy at the White Russian Military Union, probably slated to replace the aging GÃ©nÃ©ral Dobrinsky soon. Fiodor's Greek wife, ArsinoÃ©, paints and stays away from politics, befriending Communist neighbors. Her health declines; the attentive Fiodor arranges care and, against the backdrop of Stalin's Great Purge, considers his options. He plays a chess game in which love of country, love of ArsinoÃ©, ideology, petty jealousies, and the machinations of power roil in matters of life and death.