Does the player exist
In any human endeavor?
Who’s been known to resist
Sirens of fame and possessions?
Nothing can harm the successful except for success (Florence in “Endgame”)

The Game of Chess

An intricate game of skill, strategy, and creativity, chess represents much more than the 32 pieces and 64 squares that make up the game board. With each move, chess players purposely deceive, manipulate, and fight to survive against their opponents – and train constantly to do so. Despite this, the characters are ultimately pawns within larger sociopolitical systems, and they are constantly threatened by the possible and probable deceit, manipulation, and betrayal of those around them. Even those in power like Walter and Molokov are not exempt from this reality, as they merely represent the larger political and economic powers they work for. Ironically, those who are the best at the game are perhaps the most manipulated of all: Freddie and Anatoly’s global success and intellectual talents – along with the extreme selfishness and narcissism that accompany them – may in fact cause their downfalls.

For more on the significance of chess, see the page on Chess Culture.

Everybody’s playing the game
But nobody’s rules are the same (Florence in “Nobody’s Side”)

Home & Nation

Many in the show – including reporters and leaders – question Freddie, Anatoly, and Florence’s national identities and, subsequently, their national loyalties. As his declaration after defecting from the Soviet Union, “Anthem” gives Anatoly a chance to explain how he could never truly leave his country. In the midst of manipulative leaders and with the knowledge that they are likely being used as pawns at any given time, characters must decide who they are and where they belong.

Power & Persistence of the Press/Media

Throughout the show, reporters repeatedly question and comment on the action, especially interested in Freddie’s actions and motives. During the “Press Conference,” reporters climb over each other to ask Freddie questions about the hostile atmosphere he’s created for the match, ultimately pushing Freddie’s buttons. With the persistence and aggression of today’s paparazzi and TMZ, the reporters in Chess – representing not only the American press but the international press – call attention to our own celebrity culture, obsessed with speculation, rumors, and tantrums.