Fiction And Chess- Using Chess As An Element

Chess is an immensely popular game in the world today and has been utilized as a prop in many books, films, and OTT series. Here are a few stories and fictions, where chess has been a  key element, around which the stories have developed!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

In the first book and film of the Harry Potter series, there are a lot of references to chess. Ron Weasley begins to teach Harry, Wizarding Chess, which involves enchanted pieces on the board that act out and break the other pieces when in a killing position. In the ultimate quest for the Philosopher’s stone, there is a huge life-like chess board, which Harry, Ron, and Hermione encounter. They had to win the game, to move ahead. It was an extremely tense but interesting point in the film and showcased their ability to strategize and their bravery.

Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ki Khiladi

Satyajit Ray’s famous film, Shatranj Ki Khiladi is about NawabWajid Ali Shah’s keen pursuit to constantly play chess. His friend and he are perpetually engrossed inplaying chess and would go to any extent to play chess, even if it meant replacing the pieces with fruits in one scene. The title in this case is almost a pun. Shatranj, meaning chess in Hindi is used torefer to Wajid Ali Shah, not only as a direct reference,to his obsession with the game, but it is also denoting him as a key-political figure, initiating politics. Ray through his masterful film, actually shows how the cultural pursuits of the emperor are a part of his political endeavors, rather than a result of the monarch’s debauched nature. The monarch is therefore not debauched but actually, it is these cultural traditions that he pursues that allow him to embody the “tahzeeb” of Lucknow. Shatranj is therefore a metaphor here.

Queen’s Gambit 

This show explores the rise of an introverted prodigy, Beth Harmon. Neglected, and put in an orphanage, she also develops an addiction. However, one day, she discovers a man, playing chess in the orphanage. Every day she sneaks out and starts learning the techniques and tricks of chess, ultimately unraveling her potential, and going for major competitions, and becomes an undefeatable force! What is interesting is how this show uses the aesthetics of the chess board immensely. A lot of the clothes that she wears have the pattern of checks like a chess board. Furthermore, there are also these dream sequences, where she is obsessively thinking about chess, and the whole ceiling is transformed into a chess board. The way this show has taken the aesthetics of chess and incorporated them into every element is so creative.    

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