Chess--A Cold War Musical
Each game of chess means there's one
Variation left to be played
Each day got through means one or two
Less mistakes remain to be made
Chess first saw the light of day in 1984 as a concept album.
First conceived by Tim Rice in 1979, it was the story about the
great chess masters of the cold war. The intellectual arena where
Bobby Fischer, Spassky and Karpov grappled provided headline
drama that played well against the arms limitations talks.
This musical follows events at two chess matches one year
apart. The first year sees the defection of the soviet player.
Anatoly is assisted by the aide to the American player, an ex-Hungarian
national. Florence escaped during the Prague Spring before the
Red Army closed the borders. She and he fall in love and, despite
the string pulling of PR men, diplomats, secret police and everyone
else, manage to abscond. Western governments use the defection
to further their own international agendas, and the US player
uses the scandal to bump up his own player's fee.
In the second year, at a re-match, the Soviets put pressure
on the defector. It is a matter of prestige. They use the
wife Anatoly left behind--not, and a trump card, Florence's
father disappeared after the Prague Spring, but he is alive.
Anatoly makes a decision. He can keep Florence's
He returns to the Soviet Union, his empty marriage and to
the guilded cage of a publicity puppet.
The Story of Chess
1972 saw the the Soviet chess giant Boris Spassky,
an American chess genius, Bobby Fischer, in Iceland. Fischer,
even on his good days before he went completely out of his
tree, was prideful primadonna whose temper tantrums
altered the staid reputation of the ancient board game- it
was East versus West and at the peak of the Cold
War the world's attention was grabbed. This, of course, happened
at the same time as the great Canada-USSR hockey games that also
gripped the attention of the world.
The concept album did well, placing singls at the top of the
charts in several countries in 1984. By 1985 plans were made
for a stage play. After a troubled lauch, the £4 million production
ran for three years in the UK.
Chess was heavily revised for the American market.
instead of being entirely sung-through as it had been in London,
for New York it would be a more traditional play punctuated by
musical numbers. Among the new material added was "Someone
Else's Story" which
Tim had written for Florence, but which had not appeared in London
or on the
They also changed the ending.
The new and improved version got poor notices and closed after
a short run. However, audiences have been seeking out the play
ever since. The album still sells well and the drama has undergone
several revivals including two high-profile productions