The world of chess is full of great stories, and not by accident, it served as inspiration to several movies and documentaries. Today’s selection brings the top 7 best chess movies. Gather your friends, get the popcorn ready, and check out our list!
THE SEVENTH SEAL (1956)
This movie by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman is regarded as one of the best in the history of film making. It tells the story of a knight who comes back from the Crusades and finds his country in a surge of Black Death. The knight meets the Death itself, and in order to gain some time, he proposes a chess game that will decide his fate. Unfortunately, in one of the scenes, a chess board is set up incorrectly, which is an inexcusable mistake.
DANGEROUS MOVES (1984)
Directed by Richard Dembo, this drama takes place in Geneva during the World Chess Championship of 1983. The title is in dispute by two great Soviet masters: Pavius Fromm, a young refugee who has left Lithuania, and Akiva Liebskind, a Jew with an oversized ego. The story is based on the matches of the World Championship disputed in 1978 and 1981 between Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov.
SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)
The movie by director Steven Zailian tells the story of Josh, a seven-year-old boy who beats his father in a chess game without ever having played before. Impressed with his son’s talent, the father decides to invest in the boy’s career as a chess player. However, his search for success ends up by disturbing their relationship. The film is based on the story of Josh Waitzkin, a chess International Master and a martial arts champion.
Rafael Leitão tells us: “I had the pleasure to meet Josh at a tournament in Bermuda in 1998 (when I got my Grandmaster title). He is extremely smart and has tremendous charisma, though his talent for chess is pretty much overestimated, both in the book and in the movie. He abandoned chess later and dedicated himself to philosophy and martial arts, having written a couple of successful books.”
Directed by Boaz Yakin, “Fresh” shows Michael, a 12-year-old boy who sells drugs to help his family make a living. Michael often meets his father Sam, who teaches his son how to play chess. Sam wants to show him that life challenges can be faced with the same reasoning used in front of a chess board.
GAME OVER: KASPAROV AND THE MACHINE (2003)
In 1997, Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player ever, accepted the invitation from IBM for a match against their super computer Deep Blue. The documentary shows the match and the behind-the-scene facts from the perspective of Kasparov, who ends up defeated and then raises suspicions that IBM might have cheated. “Game Over” was directed by Vikram Jayanti.
QUEEN TO PLAY (2009)
Directed by Caroline Bottaro, “Queen To Play” brings the story of Hélène, a shy hotel maid who casually witnesses a couple playing chess. She gets interested in the game and decides to learn it with the help from an American recluse called Kröeger.
BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011)
This one is a biopic directed by Liz Garbus, which tells the life story of American chess player Bobby Fischer. The documentary shows Bobby’s extreme dedication to the sport, with a special highlight to his participation in the World Chess Championship of 1972. “Bobby Fischer Against The World” also brings statements from the greatest names in the sport, such as Garry Kasparov, Henry Kissinger, Larry Evans, Friðrik Ólafsson, Susan Polgar and others.
When asked about our list, GM Rafael Leitão said: “I would also add ‘The Luzhin Defence’, a movie based on the homonymous book by Nabokov. By the way, the Russian-American author was a strong chess player himself. Some other directors and movie stars were also fans of our sport, with special mentions to Stanley Kubrick and Humphrey Bogart – both were constantly seen with chess boards in the movie sets.”
Drama, comedy, true stories, adventure: the best movies about chess cover all tastes and entertain even the ones who do not enjoy the game yet. Have you ever seen any of those movies? Do you think there is any other movie missing from that list? Leave your comment!
I'm not sure when this list was made but I watched Pawn Sacrifice yesterday and it was great!