I’m a little bit obsessed with chess right now. I’ve always liked chess and I learnt how to play when I was about six years old, but I never really got the bug when I was younger, or had other friends who liked it, or learnt any proper theory. But I’ve recently rekindled my passion for the game and also taught my son the rules a couple of years ago when he was 5. He’s 7 now and is hooked on chess too, so it’s great to have a little chess buddy that I can play with. And he’s good! He’s even managed to beat me fair and square a couple of times, which I would like to say is because he’s very good and not necessarily because I’m not very good! We’re both learning from apps and books just now so we’ll see how we both progress. See below for some good chess resources.

But what’s good timing is that right now we’re about to enter the latest World Chess Championships. It starts today, Friday 9th November 2018 and runs for about 3 weeks. The competition happens every two years I believe, and this time it is being contested between the reigning champion for 4 years, Magnus Carlsen, the highest rated chess player ever in the game, and he will be playing Fabiano Caruana who is the current no.2, the third highest rated player of all time, and who was also a child chess prodigy like Magnus. Magnus is a bit of a superstar in the game of chess and my son and I watched a documentary about him, simply titled ‘Magnus’, this weekend, and we are both learning chess using Magnus’ chess apps.

My recent love of chess has made me think about all the cool chess references that I’ve seen in movies over the years. So obviously I felt the need to make a Top Ten. I physically couldn’t not make a Top Ten. It was quite a tough one this time and once again it is purely my personal preference here, not what I think are the universally best chess references. I’ve based my choices on coolness, nostalgia, how iconic it is, and how well it depicts the game of chess.

I had to be quite strict in keeping it to movie references only, in order to cut it down to only ten, but I have to mention a couple of TV ones in my honourable mentions. As ever, let me know in the comments if you can think of any other contenders.

Searching for Bobby Fischer – I felt it was unfair to actually include movies that were purely about chess! I actually haven’t seen this film yet but will be watching it soon.
The Pawn Sacrifice – see above
Star WarsHologram chess – I was very torn about including this but as it isn’t proper Earth chess I couldn’t justify having it up against all the other entries. Of all the non-proper chess games though this has to be the best one. The game is officially called Dejarik by the way.
Star Trek – Tri-dimensional chess – This appears in both The Original Series and The Next Generation. Very cool indeed. You can read the rules here. I’m not sure how plausible it is as a game but I do know that I used to have this game when I was younger which always reminded me of the Star Trek version, called Space Lines. I recently picked it up again off eBay. See a photo here.
Phenomenon – This is a movie that I’ve always really liked. And of course, when someone gets super smart they are always going to get super good at chess. It’s the law.
Austin Powers – Funny scene here. Probably parodying The Thomas Crown Affair whist is listed below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR0viMNGKoI 
WarGames – Always good to be able to add my all time favourite movie to a list, but it’s only a very light reference here. In the video of Professor Falken, when David is explaining Falken’s research, we see a computer hooked up to chess pieces with wires. Also, chess is one of the games in the list that he hacks into, and one of the last lines in the film is “How about a nice game of Chess?”.
Back to the Future 3
– Marty plays chess with Copernicus the dog! Read more here http://www.belgianchesshistory.be/cipc-64-back-to-the-future-part-iii/
Independence Day – Jeff Goldblum plays chess with his dad at the start of this film, in a very cool chess park setting, and as far as I can remember there are several more chess references in the movie, such as Goldblum, explaining that the aliens are strategically positioning their pieces before waiting for the time to strike. Then what? “Checkmate”
Starchaser: Legend of Orin – A very cool animated movie where the bad guy states that Earth is where “a primitive chess computer was the first inorganic mind to beat man”. A stark forewarning about AI perhaps. 40 seconds into this clip… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8UZ2WfLG70. Thanks to my friend Kingy for showing me this one.
Cheers – At least two episodes had Woody playing chess with Frasier. If that wasn’t the recipe for some classic Cheers scenes then I don’t know what is.
The Wire – I love this scene in The Wire. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0mxz2-AQ64 
Assassins – Sly Stallone has a 15 yr old chess game going on and Antonio Banderas manages to surprise him with “Bishop takes Rook Pawn, Check!” 
Geri’s Game – Again this one was so close to making my list, but it’s only a short film and it’s all about chess, so possibly isn’t fair to compare it with the other ones in the list. But I remember how fantastic this was when it came out, showing a glimpse of what Pixar were about to bring to the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IYRC7g2ICg
X-Men films
 – This one is a bit of a cheeky multiple entry. Instead of trying to choose which one to put in I thought I would just include all of the X-Men movies because it’s the same characters essentially playing chess in each of them. In particular Professor X and Magneto. Chess appears in multiple X-Men movies and I know that certainly for X-Men First Class they had a chess consultant. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MElT6g3dhI8

And now for the actual list.

10. 2001: A Space Odyssey
It’s a classy, sophisticated film and so no surprise that it includes a chess scene. Perhaps there to show what astronauts have to do to pass the time, or also to show the AI capabilities of HAL. Stanley Kubrick was apparently quite a chess fan, and he chose a game between Roesch vs. Schlage, Hamburg 1910 to use for the chess match in the film, to keep it authentic. This is a good chess reference in a movie that I enjoy. https://www.chess.com/article/view/2001-a-chess-space-odyssey

9. The Seventh Seal 
This is an interesting one. I’ve never actually seen the film but I certainly know of it. The scene with the knight playing a game of chess against Death himself is hugely iconic. Here is the match analysed. And it was made even more famous by the parody of it in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey where William Sadler as Death plays several other games with them including Twister and Computer Battleship.


8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Pretty famous chess scene here I’d say. Wizard Chess. You can even buy your own chess set of the pieces (although I never like chess sets like that because I find them too busy or too hard to distinguish what each piece is). It must have been pretty stressful for Harry, Ron and Hermione playing in a game where you could literally get smashed to pieces. I always liked it because it reminded me of a real life version of Battle Chess, a game I loved on the Atari ST. Very cool. Read more here about Wizard Chess http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/features/essays/issue26/chessgameinsorcerersstone/
And here is a really interesting article by the chess consultant, Jeremy Silman, who worked on the chess scene. http://dev.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Creating-the-Harry-Potter-Chess-Position-p3692.htm
And here is a clip of Battle Chess on the Atari ST.

7. The Shawshank Redemption
Obviously a classic movie, and the Andy Dufresne character tries to teach chess to Red, only for Red to say that it was a “totally f***ing mystery” to him. You see Andy chiselling his own chess pieces. From the first moment I saw that film I wanted to make my own chess pieces like that. I still do. I want to make my own board and then make two sets of pieces, maybe one set from metal spun on a lathe, and one set sculpted, moulded and poured in some material, who knows, maybe bronze or something! In fact these Jimmy Diresta videos, where he makes a chess board and a chess set, are great examples of the sort of thing I’d love to do one day. But that’s one of the reasons I love the reference in the Shawshank Redemption, because it reminds me of wanting to make my own chess set.

6. A Good Year
We thoroughly enjoyed this Russel Crowe movie, when my wife and I stumbled upon it on Netflix. It has a young version of Russell Crowe’s character (if memory serves me correctly) playing chess with his grandfather outdoors in his French chateaux. Fantastic. That’s the way to play chess. On a balmy evening with the warm breeze in your face. It reminds me of summer holidays playing giant chess in hotels abroad. For the memories of past holidays and the desire to have future European holidays playing chess in the sun, this movie gets the no.6 spot.

5. From Russia With Love 
This is a classic scene from a classic Bond movie. The SPECTRE agent Kronsteen is playing in the Venice International Grandmasters Championship when he gets a secret message hidden in his drink, telling him to report to a meeting immediately. He manages to checkmate his opponent and win the tournament before he leaves though. Classy. I love the whole setting for the tournament. The game is based on the 1960 match between Spassky v Bronstein. More info here.

4. Sherlock: A Game of Shadows 
This one is classy too. Chess is certainly a game you would associate with Sherlock Holmes, and this is a very well done scene with Holmes playing Moriarty whilst Watson is inside trying to find an assassin. They use the concept of the chess clock to great effect here. Very well done indeed. I understand that they used a chess consultant here too. The match was based on the Bent Larsen vs Tiger Petrosian match in 1966. More info here. There’s a cool analysis of the moves here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsOgY1Yrxok&t=88s


3. Blade Runner
I love this one. Tyrell and Sebastian are playing a remote game, and Sebastian is only allowed into Tyrell’s apartment late at night because he surprises him with an unsuspected chess move in their game. I always really like when you see two people playing chess remotely and they phone in their moves somehow and move the pieces on their respective boards. Apparently the game in the movie is based on a game between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in London in 1851. Apparently it’s considered one of the best games every played and is known by many as the “The Immortal Game”. That authenticity adds something to its use in the movie for me too.

2. The Thomas Crown Affair
I’m sure many people would have this scene as their no.1 chess scene in a movie. And it was very nearly mine too. It’s very likely to be the sexiest chess game ever. Steve McQueen is of course the epitome of cool, so to have him playing chess whilst wooing a beautiful woman is definitely a recipe for a great chess movie scene. I wonder if any chess player has ever tried to recreate this in the same way as McQueen, only to be brutally shot down, or checkmated!

1. The Thing
It might be a surprise to many that this one made my number one spot. But it’s just got too many cool things in the scene. Chess, scotch whisky, retro computers and Kurt Russell. You don’t get much better than that. The scene is made even cooler because they have an Asteroids Deluxe arcade cabinet in the background of adjacent scenes too, and the ‘Chess Wizard’ machine is apparently a rebranded Apple II computer. The chess video game was a real game too, called Sargon II. Read more info here. I may just have to get myself this awesome t-shirt from Last Exit to Nowhere.

Let me know what other chess scenes you would have included.

As I mentioned above, myself and my son are really enjoying learning more about chess. Here are some of the resources that I would strongly recommend (as well as the Magnus documentary I mentioned above).

The Perpetual Chess Podcast – Great weekly show where Ben interviews the big names in Chess.
Full English Breakfast – This one is quite sporadic and hasn’t really been updated in a while, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying going through all the back episodes.

Chess with Friends – This is the free app I use to play games with my friends.
Magnus Trainer – Amazing app, made by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, that has hugely helped my chess skills. Costs £6.99 per month though, once you reach a certain level.
Play Magnus – Great app where you can learn some things from video clips of Magnus and also play a computer simulating how good Magnus was at various ages between 5 and 27! A free app I believe.
Magnus’ Kingdom of Chess – A great app for kids. Makes learning chess into a game. Costs about £8

YouTube Channels
John Bartholemew – One of the biggest chess YouTube channels.
Agadmator – Good analysis of great games from the past
Simon Williams – One of the big chess characters. The Ginger GM. Seems like a top bloke, and great training material.

Chess.com – Pretty much everything chess is here.
Chessbase – Great chess resource
Chessable – Great learning tools.
The Ginger GM – Excellent training tools.

The Usborne Chess Book – Fantastic book for young kids. Really really great way for them to learn a lot of good info in a very child friendly way.

I’m still very early on my chess journey, so if anyone else can recommend any other resources please do let me know in the comments.