Е2 – Е4: Start
In July 1972, the world's attention was focused on Reykjavik, where Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky was competing against the American, Bobby Fischer for the title of World chess champion. The plot of the confrontation between East and West was conceived by the British playwright Tim Rice ten years prior - after the Caribbean crisis, but now this story was beginning to take on concrete features. Fischer's scandalous behavior and the pressure on the reigning world champion Spassky against the backdrop of the Cold War turned the sports match into a political farce, in which Rice saw fertile ground for a new masterpiece.
ATTACKING THE KING:
Another ten years passed before Rice returned to his idea.
The impetus this time was a match in Merano, Italy, in 1981, where the Soviet emigrant Viktor Korchnoi, who played for Switzerland, contested the title of world champion against Anatoly Karpov. The librettist was especially impressed by the formidable official delegation from the USSR and a certain silent man who followed Karpov everywhere. Thus the prototypes of the future musical`s central characters — the Soviet champion Anatoly Sergievsky and the special services employee Molokov came to be.
ABBA AND ALLA
Rice invited the founders and members of the legendary ABBA quartet, and most importantly — first-class melodists Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, to write the music for his new musical.
All three of them came to the USSR in 1983 to personally immerse themselves in Soviet realities. Later, Benny admits that most of all they were looking forward to meeting with Alla Pugacheva, whom the CHESS authors wanted to invite to play the role of Svetlana – the Soviet chess player`s wife - in the British production of the musical. The Soviet Superstar was flattered, but refused. Decades later, Pugacheva will reveal the reason for this decision at the presentation of the Russian version of CHESS at the MDM Theater: "I did it for my family. I had months of rehearsals to do in London – it was considered defection at the time."
CHECKMATE: MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN
«THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA»
Sensual pop ballads in CHESS interspersed with expressive rock hits, and opera choirs are juxtaposed with rap and disco. The song One Night in Bangkok from the 1984 recording became the first rap single in history to top the charts. The duet I Know Him So Well remained at the top of the charts in the UK and Ireland for five weeks at the beginning of 1985 – a year later, the central duet from "The Phantom of the Opera" would only reach the 7th and 11th positions in them.
FROM PAWN TO QUEEN
The first production of the musical opened on May 14, 1986, at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. The three soloists from the original recording of the musical, Murray Head, Elaine Page and Tommy Cherberg, masterfully reprised their roles on stage, and the unprecedented spectacular solution with 64 monitors remained innovative in theater for a long time.
But the main character of the show was the music – for all its diversity of genres - being a surprisingly solid and powerful canvas. After a three-year triumph in the West End, a new round of interest in the material was aroused by a large-scale concert version with the symphony orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 1989. CHESS has performed in theaters in Chicago (1990), Sydney (1991), Edinburgh (1994), Gothenburg (1994), and Melbourne (1997). In the XXI century, new productions of the musical were seen by the audiences of Norway, Denmark, Canada, Japan, Austria, Sweden, the United States, Great Britain, Finland and other countries.
WHITE MOVES FIRST... :
«CHESS» IN RUSSIA!
In the fall of 2020, producer Dmitry Bogachev (MAMMA MIA!, "The Phantom of the Opera", "First Date", "Beauty and the Beast", "Dance of the Vampires", CHICAGO, "A Play That Goes Wrong", "Comedy A Bank Robbery", etc.) and "Broadway Moscow" theatre company presented the first Russian production of CHESS on the stage of MDM Theater — the main musical venue in Moscow. The author of Russian text is Alexey Ivashchenko, directed by Evgeny Pisarev, under the musical direction of John Rigby.