Chess is a battle of wits, a game of strategy, patience, suspense. More than a game, it’s a war fought in miniatures—a playing field of the mind, where even a small child can topple a mighty warrior with just one perfect, unforeseen move. At least, that’s how it’s portrayed in the movies.
You don’t have to be a chess master to appreciate the sense of excitement a game of chess adds to a film. Whether we’re watching Bobby Fischer facing the chess players in Washington Square Park, or Humphrey Bogart (a real-life chess aficionado) as the chess-loving lawyer Andrew Morton in Knock on Any Door (1949), we always wait in suspense for that one decisive move: the checkmate.
Watch enough chess movies and you start to see some similarities—the smug look on the victor’s face when the end is near, the expression of incredulity or awe held by the loser when they suddenly realize they’ve been beaten; that slight shake of the head when a loser, somewhat ruefully, accepts defeat. It’s a less famous movie trope than the double-take, but it shows up in film after film.
“101 Checkmates in Film” is a comprehensive, slightly hypnotic, chess supercut—we’ve posted the video below, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama of the endgame.