Engaged as a teenager to the czarevich
(the Russian heir apparent) who dies suddenly, Maria is handed over to his brother, the gruff Alexander III.
The result is that he will be (to take a famous example) a hemophiliac like the Czarevich
Alexei, whose parents and sisters were all healthy.
The game could go on all night, which no doubt was part of its charm, and there are accounts of a young Prince Wilhelm taking on his cousin and future rival the Czarevich
Nicholas, though Halter doesn't say who typically won.
The Russians believe that their "Time of Troubles" started when a young man appeared at the castle of a Polish nobleman claiming to be the Czarevich
Dmitry, the heir to the throne of Russia.