From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigationJump to search
Original Cast Recording - Chess.jpg
Concept album cover
Music Benny Andersson
Lyrics Tim Rice
Book Tim Rice (West End version)
Richard Nelson (Broadway version)
Productions 1984 Concept album
1984 European Concert Tour
1986 West End
1990 First US Tour
1990 First UK Tour
International and regional productions
2010 Second UK Tour
2018 West End revival
Chess is a musical with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of the pop group ABBA, lyrics by Ulvaeus and Tim Rice, and book by Rice. The story involves a politically driven, Cold War–era chess tournament between two grandmasters, one American and the other Soviet Russian, and their fight over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Although the protagonists were not intended to represent any real individuals, the character of the American grandmaster (named Freddie Trumper in the stage version) was loosely based on Bobby Fischer, while elements of the story may have been inspired by the chess careers of Russian grandmasters Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov.
Chess allegorically reflected the Cold War tensions present in the 1980s. The musical has been referred to as a metaphor for the whole Cold War, with the insinuation being made that the Cold War is itself a manipulative game. Released and staged at the height of the strong anti-communist agenda that came to be known as the "Reagan Doctrine", Chess addressed and satirized the hostility of the international political atmosphere of the 1980s.
As with other productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, a highly successful concept album was released prior to the first theatrical production in order to raise money. In the case of Chess, the concept album was released in the autumn of 1984 while the show opened in London's West End in 1986 where it played for three years. A much-altered US version premiered on Broadway in 1988 with a book by Richard Nelson, but survived only for two months. Chess is frequently revised for new productions, many of which try to merge elements from both the British and American versions, but was not revived in the West End until 2018.
Chess placed seventh in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the UK's "Number One Essential Musicals".