Ossip Bernstein was a pretty good chess player, but he never challenged for the world championship. However, he played a game of even greater importance.
Bernstein was a lawyer by trade, and served as a legal advisor to bankers. Once the Russian Revolution hit, that was not looked at too fondly. Bernstein was arrested by the secret police, which had a simple solution: the firing squad.
Thankfully, one officer recognized his name. Are you the famous chess player, he asked. (Hooray for Bolshevik chess groupies?) Not believing his answer (Bernstein is a pretty common Jewish name, after all), the officer offered a game of chess. If Bernstein won, he would get to live. Lose or draw? Well...
Bernstein won. The police released him and he escaped to Paris. Bernstein would live a long life, playing chess in major tournaments all over the world. He didn't win that many... but, clearly, he won the one that mattered.