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Inspiration throught chess-themed movies

Jul 10, 2016
StaffCoachWGM 2263

Every once in a while chess audience has the opportunity to enjoy a big budget chess-themed movie that includes well-written scripts and popular cast. What a gift! Also, what a great way to attract more people to the chess world and introduce them to all those life-long benefits that stem from playing chess. And although some of these movies contain slight chess inaccuracies, I think they deserve great applause for bringing the game of chess into good light and raising its popularity.

Here is a list of chess-themed movies that I highly recommend:

1) Searching for Bobby Fisher (1993)


From what I recall, this is the first chess movie I have ever watched! It’s truly well done and all chess kids as well as chess parents can enjoy watching it while learning a bit more about the game.

StoryA 7-year-old boy named Josh becomes interested in chess and as his parents decide to hire him a chess coach. He experiences what it is to be a full-time chess player – he becomes fully absorbed by the game, and his successes quickly follow. Still, young Joshua learns that chess is still an extremely difficult game and no talent is enough for being perfect.

Rating on IMBd: 7.5/10

2) Knights of the South Bronx (2005)


Another great movie that focuses this time on a group of chess kids instead of an individual. Chess seems to be a very individualistic sport; however, there is a lot of fun when chess players get to practice together and travel to tournaments. If you haven’t experience it yet, watch this movie and get inspired. Tournaments are a lot of fun.

Story: A business man sees the sad reality of inner city schools in the South Bronx and how they lack to provide sufficient education for its students. He is especially troubled, when he knows that these underprivilidged kids face a very unstable future. Therefore, he chooses chess as a tool to engage them during classes and along the way teach them about life. 
Rating on IMBd: 6.8/10

3) Brooklyn Castle (2012)


A well done and inspiring documentary about chess in American schools. It is especially worthy watching if you're interested in learning about the chess culture in the U.S.A, and about the way chess programs brings can bring success and influence everyday life. 

Story: A New York inner-city school that has more than 65 percent of students living below the federal poverty level and that is officially known as a "school in need of improvement," also happens to be the most winning junior high school chess team in the country. While coaching its great chess team helped maintained its country's top position in tournaments, it also transformed the school to one of New York City's best. Unfortunately, budget cuts now threaten to undermine those hard-won successes.

Rating on IMBd: 6.8/10

4) Life of King (2013)


This movie continues to support the commong theme: the applicability and usefulness of chess thinking to a good everyday life and prosperous future. There is violance and gun engagement within the movie and it's not suitable for too young children.

Story: Returning from prison where his cellmate taught him how to play chess, the ex-felon Eugene Brown, decides to establish a Chess Club for inner city teenagers in Washington, D.C. His goal is to divert these potential young people from their wrong path and teach them, through the game of chess, how to plan and master their life.

Rating on IMBd: 6.9/10

5) Pawn Sacrifice (2015)


The most recent chess movie I've watched so far. A must watch movie if you are a Bobby Fisher fan.

Story: Going back to the Bobby Fischer greatest era, this movie focuses on his own chess and social struggles as he aims to challenge the reigning champion Boris Spassky and to ultimately win the match. However, having the lenses of Cold War, it is clear that Fischer's chess skill is a significant asset in US arsenal for the political war against its superpower opponent - the Soviet Empire.

Rating on IMDb: 7.4/10

Lastly, there is a trailer to a movie that the whole chess world paitiennly awaits. There is not much one needs to say for its introduction - it's called: MAGNUS.


Tips For Coaches:

1. All these movies have interesting information for coaches - some give insights into good chess coaching practices, others with other chess related struggles. I would say they are a must watch for coaches.

2. If you are on a summer chess camp, give your students a break for a bit. Let them enjoy a chess movie! The potential of movies to inspire should not be underestimated.

Thoughts? Leave a response below! I will be glad to learn from your insights and answer your questions. 

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arunjchess 10:20 - 13 Jul 2016
Nice work. Shared it on Reddit, and people shared more suggestions to this list!
Have a look:
Katerina 23:16 - 16 Jul 2016
That's great, thanks! I think I will make part 2 on this topic after I watch some of the listed movies. It will be a tough choice which to pick though, they all sound very interesting!
panacea 11:37 - 20 Jul 2016
One fanatic Chessity player is ostapbender. Who refers to the name of Ostap Bender, a figure from the novel "The Twelve Chairs" by Ilf and Petrov. This book has inspired many cineasts of which Mel Brooks. I haven't seen the movie yet. And it is not about chess, but it may contain a scene where Ostap pretends to be a GM.

It might also be an idea to make a blog about chess in literature? There "The Twelve Chairs" may fit in nicely. As well as "The three Sailors Gambit" by Lord Dunsany.
panacea 12:03 - 20 Jul 2016
And what about "Through the looking glass" of Lewis Caroll. Book and Movie;-). It is fun looking for literature and movies with chess themes.

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