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Chess.

Chess is a stage musical loosely based on the Cold War Era World Chess tournaments between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

Cast

Original concept album (1984)

  • Murray Head - The American
  • Tommy Körberg - The Russian
  • Elaine Paige - Florence Vassy
  • Denis Quilley - Alexander Molokov
  • Björn Skifs - The Arbiter
  • Barbara Dickson - Svetlana Sergievsky

Original West End cast (1986)

  • Murray Head - Frederick Trumper
  • Elaine Paige - Florence Vassy
  • Tommy Körberg - Anatoly Sergievsky
  • John Turner - Alexander Molokov
  • Kevin Colson - Walter de Courcey
  • Tom Jobe - The Arbiter
  • Siobhán McCarthy - Svetlana Sergievsky
  • Richard Mitchell - Mayor of Merano

Chess in Concert (2008)

Plot

The president of the International Chess Federation - The Arbiter - speculates on the origins of the game of chess before announcing the location of the upcoming world chess championship: Merano, Italy. As the townsfolk prepare for the occasion, the current world champion, Freddie Trumper of the United States, arrives with his second and presumed lover: Hungarian-born, English-raised Florence Vassy. Florence confronts Freddie about his brash behavior and rocky relationship with the press, which immediately gets out of hand when he assaults a journalist who questions his relationship with Florence. Meanwhile, Freddie's Soviet Russian challenger, Anatoly Sergievsky, argues with his own second, the scheming Molokov. Afterwards, in private, Anatoly cynically reflects on the selling out of his dreams to get to where he is today.

The opening ceremony features the American and Soviet delegates each vowing their side will win, The Arbiter insisting on a clean game, and marketers looking to make a profit. During the increasingly intense match, Freddie suddenly throws the chessboard to the floor and storms out of the arena, leaving Florence to negotiate with Anatoly, Molokov, and The Arbiter. Florence manages to arrange a meeting between the two players, after trading heated words with Molokov. It turns out that Freddie engineered the outburst in the hopes of extracting more money from his sponsor, an American sensationalist media company called Global Television, though Walter—the company's representative in Freddie's delegation—criticises the stunt as ludicrous. Florence later scolds Freddie, and they fight about the politics of the tournament until he viciously turns the argument toward her missing father, believed captured or killed by Soviet forces during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. She laments the situation alone before heading off to the Merano Mountain Inn for the reconciliatory meeting she has scheduled between Freddie and Anatoly. Freddie does not immediately turn up, though, leaving Anatoly and Florence awkwardly alone together; however, they eventually embrace as romantic feelings arise before being finally interrupted by Freddie, who was working out new financial terms with Global TV.

The chess tournament proceeds. Distracted by the loss of Florence's love, however, Freddie flounders, leaving himself just one more loss away from losing his title. Due to Freddie's atrocious attitude, Florence finally deserts him, whereby Freddie ponders how his unhappy childhood left him the man he is today. He sends The Arbiter a letter of resignation, resulting in Anatoly's becoming the new world champion. Anatoly immediately defects from the Soviet Union and seeks asylum at the British embassy. Florence, accompanying Anatoly, reflects on their newfound romance. Meanwhile, Walter tips off the press about this scandal. When the mob of reporters ambush Anatoly and ask why he is deserting his country, he tells them that will never truly leave his country, and that his land's only borders lie around his heart.

A year later, Anatoly is set to defend his championship in Bangkok, Thailand. Freddie is already there, chatting up locals and experiencing the Bangkok nightlife; he is Global TV's official commentator for the tournament. Florence and Anatoly are now openly lovers, and worry about Freddie's sudden reappearance as well as the impending arrival of Anatoly's estranged wife, Svetlana, from Russia, which Anatoly suspects is part of Molokov's plan to shame him into returning to the Soviet Union. Molokov, meanwhile, has trained a new protégé, Leonid Viigand, to challenge, defeat, and humiliate Anatoly.

Walter, now Freddie's boss, manipulates Freddie into embarrassing Anatoly on live TV during an eventually heated interview between them. Molokov, who indeed is responsible for Svetlana's presence in Bangkok, blackmails her into urging Anatoly to throw the match. Walter, who has been promised the release of certain captured American agents if he can ruin Anatoly's performance, informs Florence that her father is still alive though imprisoned, and that he too will be released if she can convince Anatoly to lose. Despite Molokov and Walter's efforts, none of their ploys work to get Anatoly to throw the game. As a result, Molokov and Walter team up to get Freddie to personally persuade Anatoly and Florence, knowing that Freddie is vengeful toward Anatoly and interested in winning back the love of Florence; however, Freddie's attempts also fail.

Surprisingly, Svetlana and Florence end up bonding over their respective relationships with Anatoly. Florence ultimately admits that it would be best for Anatoly to return to his children and Svetlana. Anatoly, meanwhile, follows an anonymous letter guiding him to Wat Pho, where Freddie appears and informs Anatoly of a significant flaw in Viigand's strategy that will help Anatoly win.

In the deciding game of the match, with the score tied at five games all, Svetlana castigates Anatoly for wallowing in the crowd's empty praise and Florence expresses similar annoyance with him for casting aside his ideals; regardless, Anatoly achieves a superb victory against Viigand. Later, Florence confesses her feelings that he should return to his family in the Soviet Union. The pair reflects on the conclusion of their romance. Walter later approaches Florence with the news that Anatoly has defected back to the U.S.S.R., meaning that her father will certainly be released. He startlingly admits, however, that no one actually knows if her father is still alive. Florence breaks down, telling Walter that he is using people's lives for nothing, and she sadly recognizes the truth of Anatoly's earlier sentiment.

Musical numbers

Act I
  • "The Story of Chess" — The Arbiter and Ensemble
  • "Merano":
    • "Merano" — Mayor and Ensemble
    • "Freddie's Entrance" — Freddie and Florence
    • "Merano (Reprise)" — Ensemble
  • "Commie Newspapers" — Freddie and Florence
  • "Press Conference" — Freddie, Florence, and Reporters
  • "Anatoly & Molokov" / "Where I Want to Be" — Anatoly and Molokov / Anatoly and Ensemble
  • "Diplomats/Difficult and Dangerous Times" — Molokov, Walter, and Ensemble
  • "The Arbiter" — The Arbiter and Ensemble
  • "Hymn to Chess" — Ensemble
  • "Merchandisers" — Ensemble
  • "The Arbiter (Reprise)" — The Arbiter and Ensemble
  • "Quartet (A Model of Decorum and Tranquility)" — Molokov, Florence, The Arbiter, and Anatoly
  • "Florence and Molokov" — Molokov, Florence, Walter, and Freddie
  • "1956 – Budapest is Rising" — Florence and Freddie
  • "Nobody's Side" — Florence and Ensemble
  • "Der Kleine Franz" — Ensemble
  • "Mountain Duet" — Florence and Anatoly
  • "Florence Quits" — Freddie and Florence
  • "Pity the Child" — Freddie and Ensemble
  • "Embassy Lament" — English Civil Servants
  • "Heaven Help My Heart" — Florence
  • "Anatoly and the Press" — Anatoly and Reporters
  • "Anthem" — Anatoly and Ensemble
Act II
  • "Golden Bangkok" / "One Night in Bangkok" — Freddie and Ensemble
  • "One More Opponent" / "You and I" — Anatoly and Florence
  • "The Soviet Machine" — Molokov and Ensemble
  • "The Interview" — Walter, Freddie, and Anatoly
  • "Someone Else's Story" — Svetlana
  • "The Deal" — The Arbiter, Molokov, Svetlana, Walter, Florence, Freddie, Anatoly, and Ensemble
  • "I Know Him So Well" — Florence and Svetlana
  • "Talking Chess" — Freddie and Anatoly
  • "Endgame" — Molokov, Walter, Florence, Anatoly, Svetlana, and Ensemble
  • "You and I (Reprise)" — Florence and Anatoly
  • "Finale" — Walter and Florence