Information for librarians & educators


Year: 2023
Genre: documentary
Total duration full series (4 episodes): 240 min.
Language: English with English captions
Director: Howard Burton
Production company: Ideas Roadshow / Open Agenda Publishing
Accompanying book: Chessays: Travels Through the World of Chess (see below)
Relevant courses: anthropology, art history, artificial intelligence, computer science, cultural history, education, film studies, game theory, gender studies, history, psychology, Renaissance studies, social science

Your film serves to motivate me and to use chess as a metaphor for how a game can be used as an agent for societal change while simultaneously providing a safe and cheap and fun escape from life’s difficulties.”— Joseph Shemtov, Free Library of Philadelphia

DVD (UPC 810103689244): now available on Amazon and through different library vendors, including Midwest Tape and Library Bound
Educational version DVD (UPC 810134940727): available via MovieZyng here and through different library vendors, including Midwest Tape and Library Bound
Public Performance (PPR) and Digital Site Licenses: at this time only available through Ideas Roadshow.
Community Chess Program: with the purchase of a PPR or DSL, we will provide you with a detailed program guide.
*** To inquire or to place an order, please use the contact form.

The films offer an experience of cinematic storytelling at its best with an engaging narrative and exciting visuals.  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)

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

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, by Howard Burton is now available as well.