Category: Chess on the Sidelines

Chess in Films

Published / by Jonathan Whitcomb

Many movies have some reference to the game of chess, if only with a brief sight of a chess set. In a few films, the royal game is a big part of the theme or background throughout the story. Let’s look at two of those, both of which involve children: Searching for Bobby Fischer and A Little Game.

Searching for Bobby Fischer

This 1993 drama is based on the life of the child chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin, played by Max Pomeranc in the movie. Ben Kingsley plays the chess instructor Bruce Pandolfini. Much of the drama is off the chess board, as Mom and Dad compete with two different perspectives on what is best for their son.

Chess tutoring philosophies also clash: between the official master instructor and the city-park “professional.” But the chess games themselves are sometimes given the spotlight, with little Josh fighting for survival over the board.

Joshua loses his queen early in the game

Little Josh is shocked at losing his queen early in the game

The climax comes when Josh has a chance to win a big tournament. The problem is that the boy across the board from him is the one kid he fears.

A Little Game

In this movie (released in 2014) it’s a little girl who becomes fascinated by chess. No darkly-lit tournament rooms are displayed in this one, however, although a big game is played out at the end of the story. A Little Game also has action off the board.

Movie about a little girl learning chess

“A Little Game” also has a chess expert in a city park

The ending is more of a surprise in this film, in the climax of the big game against a scary child-competitor. Yet like Searching for Bobby Fischer the kid we have grown to love ends up happy.



Chess in Harry Potter and Casablanca Movies

The three children must use themselves as three of the chess pieces, with Ron Weasley a knight who sits on a horse. It would appear to be childish fun, except that this is Wizards’ Chess . . . in which captured pieces are smashed into . . . pieces . . .

Bishop Plus Knight Checkmate on Youtube

Whitcomb’s instructional video on an end game of chess