Monday, July 30, 2012

It's your move

My Dad taught me how to play chess.  I'm not sure how or when he learned how to play, but we did have a copy of Bobby Fischer's book which he referred to quite often.  So I am thinking that the chess craze begun by Fischer's popularity as a chess god in the 1970s probably led to his renewed interest.

Not long ago I noticed this documentary on Netflix and I was immediately interested.

It didn't disappoint.  I was riveted from beginning to end, watching how this genius of logic and strategy became the most celebrated chess player on the globe for a brief shining moment and then self-destructed like a time bomb.  This biopic is a personality study of Fischer's mind over the matter of his behavior.  It not only answers the question I had - whatever happened to Bobby Fischer?, but it puts his story directly in the context of the historical times and what real impact that had on his life.

Not long after viewing that documentary I came across this subtitled French film on Netfix called Queen to Play, and it was completely charming!  It's about a quiet, unassuming woman (beautifully played by Sandrine Bonnaire) working as a maid in a picturesque village who witnesses a sensual couple enjoying a chess game and decides she wants to learn to play.  When her husband shows no interest in playing, she finds a tutor (played by Kevin Kline) and soon develops into a very skillful player.  Her talent for chess gives her the confidence to improve herself in other ways which has repercussions for her whole family.

This next screencap is from the movie Cairo Time which I just watched the other day on Netflix.  It is such a beautiful film, I am going to have to give it some more blog love soon.  It doesn't really have anything to do with chess, other than the male lead, played by the excellent Alexander Siddig likes to play the game in his coffeehouse.
It would be difficult to concentrate while playing such a romantically handsome man.

The movie Two Weeks Notice features an amusing conversation about women between Hugh Grant's character and his chauffeur while playing chess. As I was unable to embed it, you can watch the clip Here.

Dorian Missick as Tony the chauffeur explains his theory

While it had never occurred to me to play this next particular variation of the game, I will admit it could make things very interesting with the right partner. This just might qualify as one of the most awkwardly uncomfortable scenes ever (for good reason).

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

This next scene has got to be the sexiest chess game on film!

Scene from original movie The Thomas Crowne Affair (1968)
with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway

The scene following this one is even hotter. You can click on it at the end of this video if you dare!

I am pretty sure this next scene is why so many young students at our elementary school became interested in this ancient game.

The Harry Potter gang plays chess.

I love the '70s Rock group Kansas but I wasn't aware of this song until Cassia deWarren posted it on Facebook:
Play the Game Tonight / Kansas

Well, I had no idea that this next song was from a concept album which lead to the 1986 musical by Tim Rice and the male members of ABBA aptly entitled Chess . I kind of lost touch with the music scene sometime after Boy George and The Culture Club appeared on the scene. I remember hearing this song but as this was the year my first child was born I was much more immersed in baby culture than anything else!
One Night in Bangkok / Murray Head (1986)

The Arbiter is another song from this musical.  How nice that potomusicfan4ever made a fanvid which highlights the Sheriff of Nottingham from the BBC's Robin Hood.  Of course you will also see Robin Hood, Marian and my personal favourite - Guy of Gisborne!

Yes, that wicked Sheriff of Nottingham played poor Guy of Gisborne like a pawn.

But what a wonderful pawn he was!

Awhile ago, when I was still researching this post, Judiang's blog, Confessions of a Watcher had a "Surreal Saturday" post on chess with an interesting video by a fun vidder she got me hooked on, by the name of DeStorm.  If you haven't already read it, her post is definitely worth checking out.  We bloggers definitely have a lot more in common than just a certain actor with the initials RA.
There is no end to styles of chess pieces and boards, but this is one I would love to own!

Chess pieces modeled after the Robin Hood legend
When I began writing this post this next item was news.  Although I may be repeating some information previously published in others' blog posts, I would be remiss in not mentioning this exciting book!
This debut historical fiction is by Australian fantasy author Prue Batten.
Prue Batten of Mesmered's Blog has a new book about GoG which has been released in Ebook format and is almost ready for paperback publication. The title is Gisborne: Book of Pawns. It is a total departure from canon as there is no Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood or Maid Marian!  I enjoyed this portrayal of Guy of Gisborne which follows closely what fans of Richard Armitage have come to believe as his true character.
It's been available as an e-book since the first week of March 2012 when I downloaded it from Chapters/Indigo for my Kobo Ereader, it is also available as a Kindle Ebook from  I can't wait until it is released in book format.

Here is a review by Maria Grazia of Fly High!

I also am eagerly awaiting a sequel! Have you seen any of these movies?  Do you play chess?   Have you read Prue's book yet?


Prue Batten said...

Hi Phyllys.

Thanks so much for mentioning Gisborne: Book of Pawns. The idea of people being used as pawns in a greater scheme of things has always fascinated me, hence the title of this book. And of course, i had to continue the them with the sequel by calling it Book of Knights.

In a historic fantasy I wrote called A Thousand Glass Flowers, I used a game called shatranj (the precursor to chess) as the crisis point in the novel with people and pieces being used to devastating effect.
And like that terrifying game in Harry Potter, one of the most frightening games I have ever read was the chess game with people as pieces in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Saga, where the lives of two children were played for. it was exciting beyond belief and the outcome? Well... read it and see...

jazzbaby1 said...

I've never learned how to play but I love to watch others. A child prodigy chess player named Gibson was part of the X-Files mytharc.

Phylly3 said...

Hi Jazz! Thanks for the input! I watched X-Files intermittently when it was on TV but obviously missed that episode. I Googled for more info. and see that it has a big following. I found this site:
I should probably check it out. I see that show is now on Netflix too. Oh, when will I have time to read? LOL!

Maria Grazia said...

I used to play chess as a little girl since a very good friend of mine taught me. He was really good, so much better than me. But I haven't played for so long now!
I read and loved Prue Batten's book 1 in the Gisborne saga. She is such a skillful writer, she does magic with words.
Her Gisborne is so mysteriously fascinating. She was inspired by Richard Armitage's Guy but she's gone beyond and her Gisborne is a promise of endless emotions. Looking forward to reading book 2!

Phylly3 said...

I would love to play a game with you! I am used to playing elementary school students in our school's chess club- so they think I'm good but I'm really not.
I love what Prue has done witth Gisborne's character! I can't wait to read more about him!

JaneGS said...

What an amazing post--first of all, who would have thought there were all those chess scenes in movies!). My brothers tried to teach me when I was young but I was simply not interested, though I have a wonderful chess set one brother brought me from Peru with Incas and Conquistidors. I love the Robin Hood version you showed too.

Gisborne: Book of Pawns sounds wonderful.

Phylly3 said...

@JaneGS - I guess I notice the chess scenes more than other people might. But that movie Queen to Play was such a good find after watching the Bobby Fischer documentary!
I'd love to see your Incan chess set - it sounds fabulous!
Do read Prue's book, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Phylly3 said...

@Prue Batten - Sorry, I thought I had left you a comment here already!
Thanks so much for telling us more about your writing. I enjoy reading your work very much. I will have to check out your other titles too.