The Most Dangerous Match

Episode 14 – The Most Dangerous Match

The fourteenth episode of Columbo was titled The Most Dangerous Match and was the seventh episode of the show’s second season. When a legendary chess grandmaster is seriously injured Columbo must outwit a sharp-minded killer to piece together the vital evidence. In this podcast Gerry and Iain consider whether the case has been made effectively, following the twists and turns of the investigation.



The Most Dangerous Match sees Columbo thrust into the midst of a rivalry between Laurence Harvey‘s Emmett Clayton and Jack Kruschen‘s charming Tomlin Dudek, chess grandmasters facing a career-defining showdown. Each of these actors was Oscar nominated – Harvey in 1960 for Room at the Top and Kruschen the following year for his role opposite Jack Lemmon in The Apartment.


In a particularly tight episode the only supporting roles of note were played by Lloyd Bochner as Tomlin’s ‘coach’ Mazoor Berozski and former popstar Heidi Brühl as Linda Robinson, Clayton’s ex-fiancée turned advisor to Tomlin. The episode did see returns from Columbo’s dog and his vet, played by Michael Fox and there was an engaging, if brief, turn from Oscar Beregi Jr. as an exasperated restaurateur.


The episode was designed to revolve around Harvey’s performance as Clayton, but ultimately the plotting and script were deserving of the greatest scrutiny. Writer Jackson Gillis was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his work on Suitable for Framing in Season 1 and for an Edgar Allan Poe Award for his work on Requiem for a Falling Star, but The Most Dangerous Match was to receive no such recognition and perhaps we should not be surprised at that.


The episode was directed by Edward M. Abroms in his second and final outing at the Columbo helm. His career as a director saw him behind the camera on 31 different shows over a period of 9 years, but it was as an editor he had his greatest success, picking up an Oscar nomination and winning two Primetime Emmys in that capacity – including one for Season 1’s Death Lends a Hand in 1972. Fascinatingly, both of his directorial roles on Columbo received Primetime Emmy nominations, an accolade not extended to any of his work on the other 30 shows!


During this episode we asked listeners a couple of questions. Firstly, what is the story behind Lovejoy’s Antiques. Could the books have their origin in this episode of Columbo? Also, who portrayed the taxi driver hired to collect Tomlin Dudek and where might we recognise him from? If you have thoughts on those issues or any other aspects of The Most Dangerous Match then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.


The Most Dangerous Match was released in 1973. It is 74 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Richard Hinton

    Didn’t recognise the cabbie and a quick google search came up blank. I liked how the actor milked his part for all it had though – completely unnecessary, so I’m guessing he was a friend of someone in the production.

    Lovejoy’s Antiques appears in the background of a Rockford Files episode in 1977 so it’s been around a while before the books and maybe some time after. It’s location is 3809 Riverside Drive Los Angeles

    • CarlosMu

      I remember the cabbie resembling John Wayne. If no one has a better guess, let’s just say it’s John Wayne.

      • Kieran Wright

        The cab driver was Fred Draper in an uncredited performance. Fred’s most famous movie was ‘A Woman Under The Influence’, but he also appeared in ‘Faces’ and ‘Opening Night’. Incidentally these are all John Cassavetes films. You may remember that John, as well as being a director was an actor – known for films such as ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Dirty Dozen’, and of course, he was the main guest star in ‘Etude In Black’.

        Back to Fred though. Sadly he checked out on Boxing Day, 1999.

    • Ah! So it’s a real place! That covers it. Good sleuthing.

  • Emrys

    One of my favourite episodes. Disagree with most of your negatives and especially disagree on the ending but… I suppose that’s the beauty of a decent TV series. Conflicting views. And a TV show that has no points for discussion is a dull TV show. Interesting about the fate of the lead actor so soon after this episode. I did not know that. 🙁

    • Absolutely agree that varying opinions are to be expected. I really wanted to like the episode because I liked the setup and I liked both Tomlin & Clayton. There were just a few little nagging points, that i had to mention.

      It should be a good discussion next week on the conviction or not section of the show for Season 2!

      • Ian Baxter

        In terms of proof, I did notice that Clayton does not wear gloves when carrying the bag and wrestling his opponent into the garbage machine. Must have been prints on the bag.

  • Arabian Knights

    This episode is one of my least favourite, not aided by my dislike of Lawrence Harvey’s acting style. Was there actually a murder? I missed it, but may have fallen asleep during the critical time.

    • CarlosMu

      not one of my favorites, but it does have my favorite “famous last words” of any Columbo victim. Poor old Dudek’s last utterance in this world was “what are you doing with my bag?”

  • Peter

    I love the parallels between episodes. For instance, there are parallels here with A Stitch in Time. The killer is despised by a young woman, the victim is an avuncular cuddly man, and in both cases the first attempt at murder does not succeed right away, though in Stitch in Time it was deliberately delayed.

    • I think that’s right, not to mention the points I made on the podcast about spiking medicine and the killer being ‘informed’ by phone of the death.

  • digger01

    Hi all!

    Well, after doing my best digging I discovered that the cab driver was portrayed by an actor named Ray Kellogg. He lived from 1919 to 1981, and played bit roles in many popular series of the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s.

    Without giving too much away, a Google Image Search of “actor Ray Kellogg” will produce a color screen cap of Kellogg in his other uncredited Columbo role.

    While “The Most Dangerous Match” is not without its faults, I find the episode pretty enjoyable. Laurence Harvey is off-putting in the way a villain should be, and the scenes at the restaurant have some great cat-and-mouse play.

    Not in the upper echelon of Columbo episodes, but it’s a tightly-paced 74 minutes and quite a bit of fun!

  • Largo

    Just chiming in to say that I’m with Emrys and digger01 concerning this episode: I still enjoy this one despite some ridiculous script contrivances. I saw “The Most Dangerous Match” when it premiered on NBC back in March of 1973. I watched this episode with my parents, who were both fans of Laurence Harvey because of his Oscar nominated performance in the film, Room At The Top, and an equally excellent portrayal in The Manchurian Candidate. The many talents of the strong cast in “The Most Dangerous Match” makes this Columbo episode very enjoyable to watch, in my humble opinion. Of the eight second season Columbo episodes, I’d rank this one at number three — with “A Stitch In Crime” and “Double Shock” at numbers one and two, respectively.

  • CarlosMu

    in my opinion, we are nearing the end of what I consider to be a run of mediocre episodes. Looking ahead, we are 3 episodes away from the heyday of Columbo, as I see it.

    • Largo

      Yes, this second season of Columbo has been quite the tough slog to get through. One mediocre episode after another until “A Stitch In Crime” — in my very humble opinion, that is, eh. I admit that I’m rather biased when discussing “The Most Dangerous Match” because I dig the chess theme and the cool cast (barring the outrageous accents, heh). The last second season episode, “Double Shock,” has the most excellent Martin Landau and the most lovely Julie Newmar and a solid supporting cast — not to mention a neat plot twist, too. Great stuff, I think.

      However, I’m rather ‘blah’ towards the third season premiere episode of Columbo: “Lovely But Lethal.” But this is quickly followed by the superb episode “Any Old Port In A Storm,” and the series is back to firing on all cylinders once again. The one real clunker in the third season is “Mind Over Mayhem,” so I heartily agree with you that overall we have a whole lot to look forward to watching and discussing here. Be seeing you!

      • Emrys

        I seem to hold season two in higher regard than most of you, but I’m in agreement with Largo on Double Shock. The fantastic Martin Landau and a great episode. Another in my top ten I think. Looking forward to next week.

  • Jenifesto

    I had a hard time getting into this one. It might be that I don’t understand chess, so maybe that put me off right off the top. I appreciated your very thorough look at the episode during the podcast, because I certainly missed some things while watching! I don’t want to nitpick but a few random musings:
    – I too didn’t know that was a hearing aid, and thought it was a radio or for coaching! And … the technology of this intrigues me. Clayton’s deaf to the degree that he can’t hear the garbage/recycling machine, but that one little ear bud remedies it?
    – I sort of love those very 70s effects that show up now and then. The trippy chess board sequences just add a delightful call back to the time these were made.
    – I have no idea what was going on with that medicine shuffle. It was all liquids in glass jars – how did he switch anything around? Were there empty jars? How do you switch the labels? How convenient he bought those in the US and not the USSR so the labels are in English!

  • CarlosMu

    the highlight of every podcast is when you tell us that everyone that appeared in the episode is now dead. 😉

    • Ian Baxter

      Yes, we’ve been reminded, all too recently, that a growing number associated with this great show have now died; perhaps making us all feel that bit older.

      On ageing actors I’ve always liked this little story of the veteran actor A E Mathew; saying it was his practice each day to read the obituaries in his morning paper, “and if I am not mentioned, I have my breakfast, get dressed and go to work.”

  • Ian Baxter

    For what it’s worth I recon it’s a stalemate (sorry, couldn’t resist).

    You’ve got to love Columbo’s energy and interaction with Clayton, he tries hard, he pesters, he pushes, he persists, and lots of other things beginning with ‘p’.

    And yet, as pointed out in the podcast, we have an uncomfortable implausibility about the killer, his methods, decision making and behaviour.

    Interesting, this episode really seems to have split the room.

    Another great podcast by the way, really getting into the whole venture. I’m certainly in for the long haul (i.e. I promise not to disappear after season 3!)

    • Thanks Ian. Hopefully we can keep growing the audience and make the venture a success! In the studio to wrap up Season 2 in a few hours, so it feels like we’re getting somewhere!

  • Dominic

    I enjoyed the podcast well done guys! This is an episode I’ve always enjoyed without ever considering it to be in any way significant or a stand out episode. I think I enjoy it because of the chess theme and the good interaction between the killer and his victim. Lawrence Harvey won’t go down as the best guest star but with his tortured style he certainly brought something different to the episode, and as for Jack Kruschen I really enjoy his charming performance and was probably as sad to see him killed as any victim on Columbo. But until I listened to the podcast I wasn’t aware of all the plot holes in this episode which are a bit embarrassing. I normally only cast a critical eye on how realistic the arrest is at the end and was already well aware of it being weak but added to all the other inconsistencies it’s no wonder this episode is one of the more forgotten stories of the series. Pity really as this is a likeable episode but ultimately just a noble failure.

    • Thanks Dominic. I hope we don’t come off as too critical – even with the issues there was still a lot to admire in the episode!

  • Jim B
    My daughter with me at Fuddrucker’s. Remembering the episode, she acted this out with me.