Through the Mirror of Chess: A Cultural Exploration

AVAILABLE NOW: A captivating 4-part docuseries examining the remarkable impact of chess on culture, art, science, and sport. These films take the viewer on an exhilarating journey across a wide range of times and places touching on cultural history, the nature of competitiveness, AI, psychology, game theory, chess variants, art, literature, gender issues, education, social empowerment, prison reform, and much more to comprehensively address the question of what makes the game so unique.

The films offer an experience of cinematic storytelling at its best with an engaging narrative and exciting visuals. Watch the trailer below where you can also find a list of participants in the series.

Year: 2023; IMDB page here;
Rating: suitable for all ages
Total duration of the full series of 4 episodes: 240 minutes
Pricing: rent the full series for 1 week for $9.99 or purchase the full series for $19.99
Where can I watch the series: rent or purchase the series worldwide on the new Ideas Roadshow app or on Vimeo On Demand – click on the related button below.

Below is a brief synopsis of each episode: 

PART 1 – UNIQUENESS: The historical and societal importance of games, what chess is and isn’t, and why it’s an ideal vehicle to explore the captivating link between games and culture.

PART 2 – THE FIRST MILLENNIUM: An examination of chess’ intriguing trajectory from Ancient India to the Sasanian Empire to the Golden Age of Islam to Medieval Europe, highlighting its many influences on art, literature and politics throughout a broad range of very different societies. 

PART 3 – ART, SCIENCE, SPORT: A detailed investigation of chess’ remarkable cultural impact from the late 15th century to the present day, from the birth of the modern game to Renaissance dialogues to artificial intelligence.

PART 4 – CONTEMPORARY IMPACT: How the chess world reveals key aspects of our current beliefs and values, along with an exploration of several specific chess-related programs, from schools to prisons to personal empowerment. 

Read a detailed review by Chief Film Critic Chris Knight, National Post: “…a fascinating stroll through the history of the game, pausing to examine its many (non-Hollywood) cultural connections to the world at large.” (here > Hollywood’s Gambit)

Finding your next series to stream can be more frustrating than facing the London System. Fortunately, this new documentary solves your Saturday night dilemma. Everyone–even grand masters–will learn something new about chess history.” – Tom Shupe, Top blogger (here)

“…shows the cultural impact and history of chess from its origins to modern times. It is very informative and well produced, and features many familiar faces.” – Ben Johnson, Host Perpetual Chess Podcast (full podcast with Howard Burton here)

…the films are among the most comprehensive examples of chess exploration in documentary format.” – Cecil Rosner, Globe and Mail (here)

Watching this fascinating 4-part series doesn’t require a liking of chess or even knowledge of the game but those who do play will gain an insight into the nearly two millennium-old board game that grew and morphed just as did the cultures that embraced it… – review IMDB

A great overview of the beginnings of chess while also taking the viewer through to the state of chess as it exists today. The series explores the philosophy of chess, why people play it at all, and how great thinkers have viewed chess over the years. All in all this is an encyclopedic look at chess as it exists in relation to society that is fantastic in its scope.
GM Daniel Gormally

Featured participants: an eclectic range of experts plus several top chess players have participated, including Jenny Adams, Pontus Carlsson, Tom Dart, Deborah Freeman Fahid, Daniel Gormally, Jovanka Houska, Larry Kaufman, Raymond Keene, Rick Knowlton, Mikhail Korenman, David Kwan, Wang-Sheng Lee, Russell Makofsky, Elshan Moradiabadi, Tunde Onakoya, Elisabeth Pähtz, Antonio Panaino, Bruce Pandolfini, Carl Portman, Daniel Rensch, Ulrich Schädler, David Smerdon, Elizabeth Spiegel, Irene Sukandar, Theo Wait, Jenny Yan, and Hou Yifan.

The accompanying book, Chessays: Travels Through The World Of Chess, is now available as well.