11 Movie Chess Scenes Where The Board Is Set Up Wrong
By Arika Okrent
Once you start to look for them, you see chessboards everywhere. In commercials, print ads, TV shows, and movies, chess is a go-to symbol for class, intelligence and the drama of strategic one-upmanship. However, very often – by some estimates almost 50% of the time – the board is set up wrong. For whoever is in charge of these things, here's a tip: from the perspective of the player, the bottom left corner square should be black. The bottom right corner square should be white. Here are 11 movies where a chessboard appears in the wrong orientation.
1. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Ivana Humpalot: Do you know how we keep warm in Russia?
Austin Powers: Oooo hooo! I can guess, baby!
Ivana Humpalot: We play chess!
Not like this they don't. A real Russian would never make this mistake!
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Image Courtesy Chess In Cinema
As the voiceover states during this shot of a chessboard, "in prison, a man will do most anything to keep his mind occupied." Perhaps, after he has finished painstakingly carving and polishing rocks into a chess set, he switches up the board orientation to challenge himself a little?
3. Hands of a Murderer (1990)
Image Courtesy of Chess In Cinema
In this Sherlock Holmes movie, the devious Moriarty comes to Holmes's apartment to confront him. A highly metaphoric game of chess ensues. But the board is set up wrong! Is this yet another twist in their complicated cat-and-mouse game? Holmes never explains.
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Image Courtesy of Chess In Cinema
When Clarice goes to consult with a pair of entomologists, she finds them playing chess—badly. They've set up the board with the wrong orientation! But they are also using beetles as chess pieces and a live beetle as a chess clock. (The player has to make a move before the beetle crawls from one end of the board to the other.) So, it's just kind of all around different.
5. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde (2003)Image Courtesy Of
When you want to signal important officialdom in a movie make sure you've got the required elements: Massive oak desk? Check. Cushy leather desk chair? Check. Giant antique globe? Check. Deluxe burnished wood chess set? Oops!
6. The Da Vinci Code (2006)Image Courtesy Of
Who set this chessboard up the wrong way? Just another one of the many mysteries of The Da Vinci Code.
7. History of the World: Part I (1981)
Granted, it's difficult to get a good perspective on the board when you're setting up a life-sized chess game.
8. What's New Pussycat (1965)
Et tu, Woody Allen? Say it ain't so! In his defense, this was his first movie, and he wasn't directing. Chessboards make frequent appearances in his later films, and they are always set up correctly.
9. Blade Runner (1982)
It's hard to tell on a light-up board, but the bottom right corner of the opposing player is clearly black here. Then again, who knows what the rules of chess will be in the future?
10. Never Say Never Again (1983)Image Courtesy of
You can tell that this is a game being played by the bad guys, because James Bond would never make such a mistake.
11. The Seventh Seal (1957)
That's right, the most famous chess-related movie of all time has a scene with the board set up wrong. But as we all know, Death doesn't play by the rules.