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;
Total duration of the full series of 4 episodes: 240 minutes
Language: English with captions in English and French
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.
*** NEW: the DVD is now on available on Amazon
Libraries/educational licensing: please visit this page HERE

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)

“…one of the deepest investigations and undertakings into chess ever done. Anyone passionate about the history, culture, and community around the game will be interested in watching this series.” Lichess review

“…Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart explains how chess has drastically reduced recidivism rates and forged new relationships between incarcerated men and their estranged children. Chess in Slums CEO Tunde Onakoya uses the game to provide African children intellectual identity and dignity by shining a spotlight on their enormous potential..”
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 leading academics, top chess players, experts in other games (such as xiangqi, shogi, makruk, and go) plus game changers in the world of prison reform and social empowerment have participated in the series:

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.