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Chess Motifs

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"Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where the kings don't expect them to be."

As chess is one of the oldest and most famous Turn-Based Strategy games in the western world, games of chess are often used symbolically in media in order to represent war, battles of wits, and similar events. Sometimes this is done directly by the author; other times by the characters themselves (by, e.g., having a conversation about a war over a chess match, using chess as an example).

A very simple such analogy is the Pawn — the expendable, powerless, nameless foot soldier who may, if his actions are brave and his heart is true, become a Queen (although someone more practised at the game may note that the pawn is really a symbol of why you should never overlook apparently powerless people). The pawn may even be an Unwitting Pawn. Also common are the Queen (less honored to the casual observer, but the most powerful and versatile character on the board by far) and the King (not the strongest piece, but his implied capture ends the game). To extend the metaphor, the Rooks/Castles will be the straightforward, stoic, unmovable lines of defense, while the Bishops are less predictable, more mystical, moving according to divine diagonal direction. Knights are less predictable still; they can only move in L-shaped directions, for Pete's sake. But the Knight in Shining Armor imagery clings to them yet; expect them to be bold and daring heroes, if ultimately dispensable for the sake of their sovereign. And heroes they are, for that L-shaped movement is something even the Queen can't do, giving the Knight a niche that is something other than "the Queen, but worse" and making the Knight the only piece that can threaten a Queen without putting itself at risk — much like how a clever and crafty hero can bring a seemingly-invulnerable villain down.

A frequent variant is for the author or a character to explain how the situation is not analogous to chess, but rather to some other game such as Poker, Battleship, or Calvinball.

Compare Chess with Death, The Chessmaster (especially the first section of examples for The Chessmaster, most of which could go here as well), Human Chess, Smart People Play Chess, Xanatos Speed Chess, and Check and Mate. See also Talking through Technique, which can turn a motif into a message. An Astral Checkerboard Decor is a checkered pattern representing otherworldness.

Compare Playing Card Motifs for another motif based on a classic game.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Used for a subtle bit of Foreshadowing in Chapter 34, which sees several of the recruits during downtime. Reiner and Bertolt are playing chess to pass the time. Reiner is the white side, and preoccupied in conversation with the others, while Bertolt is playing the black side and intensely focused on their game. He also seems to be winning. Then we learn that Reiner is guilt-ridden and struggling to remain focused on their mission, while Bertolt is far more committed to their purpose and willing to put aside his personal feelings to accomplish goals. The metaphors extend further, as Reiner confesses to having not really understood things when he began his mission and Ymir later referring to the pair of "small fries" when she warns Eren that killing them won't accomplish anything. They very neatly fit into the role of the Pawn, heading out into enemy territory to accomplish their mission while not actually being significant enough that their loss would harm their side. A fan's reconstruction of their game reveals Reiner playing recklessly, leaving his King undefended while automatically throwing his most powerful pieces into the game. On the other hand, Bertolt is overly cautious and sets up a defensive to protect himself while waiting to act.
  • Black Butler uses many chess motifs. Ciel is a Chess Master who refers to himself as the King and Sebastian as his Knight. Not to mention that the series has chess-based imagery throughout it. The anime has more of this later in the series, including some in the new opening animation with Sebastian kneeling on a large chess board before a black King piece that turns to dust to reveal Ciel.
  • Chapter 15 of the Blue Exorcist manga includes one of these. Shura explicitly says that Mephisto "seems to be enjoying himself, manipulating everyone like pawns on a chessboard" with a picture of Mephisto playing a game of chess with a grin on his face (though this scene is imaginary.) Whether he is a Magnificent Bastard or a Guile Hero is uncertain at this point, but he certainly shows plenty of Trickster and Chess Master tendencies.
  • Code Geass:
    • Actually pretty much all of it. Rather tellingly, the King and Queen pieces in the show's chess set were explicitly modeled on Lelouch and C.C. respectively.
    • Lelouch Lamperouge specifically identifies as the Black King, symbolizing his acceptance of corruption and evil in order to bring good. On the other hand, the black king can symbolize Lelouch's pride, or shall we say arrogance, in that he lets his opponent, the white king, have the first move. Further, just as the king is the most important piece on the board, yet not very effective at taking enemy pieces, Lelouch is a below-average giant robot pilot, his skills little better than a mook's, but he's the glue that holds the Black Knights together and if they lose him, they lose everything. Overall, it is a major source of symbolism in the series, as it appears during Lelouch's "Obey Me World" speech.
    • Kallen is the Queen, being Lelouch's bodyguard. Lelouch's designation for her is "Q-1", and she's the ace of the Black Knights, just as the queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard. Contrast that with Lelouch being simultaneously the most important and one of the weakest pieces (in reference to his poor physical endurance).
    • Suzaku Kururugi is an idealistic young man who uses his erratic and acrobatic movements to take his opponents by surprise. Appropriately enough, he's made a knight halfway through the first series. Like chess knights, he is the only enemy who poses a serious threat to the opposing Queen, that is, Kallen, as the two of them are pitted against each other repeatedly throughout the series. Kallen eventually proves the strongest, but it does not prevent her side from losing.
    • Schneizel uses the White King, but is actually even more evil than Lelouch. No, setting up a giant Kill Sat does not create world peace.
    • Schneizel's aide Kanon, who jokes he is his aide "both personal and private", is probably the White Queen in the extended metaphor.
    • The method Mao uses to prove his superiority to Lelouch.
    • Pawns: just about all of the Black Knights (except Kallen).
    • The Humongous Mecha in the series are called Knightmare Frames, named after a type of fairy chess piece (also called a nightrider or unicorn).
  • Cowboy Bebop: In "Bohemian Rhapsody", as a villain sets up a plan to ruin the faster-than-light system, he gives his henchmen chess pieces to tell the company that he's behind it. However, he's too senile after the fifty years it took for the plan to get going, and he ends up doing nothing but playing chess all day. The last one is used by his "benefactor", an electronic chess board manufacturer whose "super-awesomely advanced A.I. system" is actually just an Internet connection to the old man's chess machine.
  • Di[e]ce is about death games modeled after chess. There are kings, bishops, knights, etc. on a white side and a black side. One of the kings has to die for the game to be over, and the kings can only be killed by each-other. The other players live to serve their king.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Data Squad: The Bridge Bunnies are partnered with two PawnChessmon, which then evolve into other chess-inspired forms: first KnightChessmon, then one becomes RookChessmon and the other BishopChessmon. Their strongest forms (not seen in the show but in other materials) are KingChessmon and QueenChessmon, respectively, but true to the game KingChessmon really isn't capable of much.
    • Digimon Fusion: There is a squadron of PawnChessmon led by a Knightmon. Knightmon has appeared in other incarnations of the show, but is modeled after an actual knight rather than the chess piece so the trope only applies to this incarnation. Dorulumon also gets the special attack "Dorulu Checkmate" when fused with the PawnChessmons. Also, near the end of the series the heroes are challenged to a battle; both sides are provided a castle shaped like a collection of chess pieces which symbolizes how the enemy general making and arranging the challenge thinks he's only playing a game.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai:
    • The Shinei Kidan (Guardian Knights), introduced roughly halfway through the manga. With the exception of the "king" Hadler, five of them were animated to life from Vearn's chess pieces; a pawn, knight, rook, bishop, and queen. The fact that they're also made from Orihalcon and have unique abilities that are similar to chess rules make them a very formidable group.
    • Near the end of the story, the remaining chess pieces are animated to life, minus the five mentioned ones earlier. They are all robotic Mooks led by a real Orihalcon King Piece named Maximus, who barks orders and used Stat-O-Vision.
  • Fate/Apocrypha: In the anime adaptation, there are heavy chess motifs assigned to the Servants. The first Title Sequence starts with the camera panning over the seven classes of Servants, each modeled after black chess pieces. Soon enough, the board itself appears, containing not only the aforementioned pieces but also pawns that are supposed to represent the Masters in front of them. In the center, there's a miniature of the Holy Grail and, on the other side, there's another set of fourteen pieces, this time red-colored. The same board can be seen midway through the first episode when Lord El-Melloi II is explaining the rules of the Holy Grail War to one of his students. This is all to highlight how, in this war, the surplus of Masters and Servants demands a more strategic approach (there are two sides now, instead of the Battle Royale these wars usually are), something that is heavily associated with chess.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Roy Mustang refers to his most loyal subordinates as chess pieces. Riza is his queen; he himself is the king, Havoc is the knight, Fuery is the pawn, Breda is the rook, and Fahlman is the bishop. Gives him a woobie moment when Fuhrer Bradley splits them up, sending Roy's men to distant outposts where they can't aid him and keeping Riza as his own personal assistant (read: hostage).
      Roy: *pulling chess pieces out of the box and thinking of the people he relates them to* My pawn. My rook. My bishop. My knight. And worst of all... they've even taken my queen.
    • The Big Bad represents all the current people involved in his plans with chibi versions of them as pieces on a chess board on his desk. This turns out not to be just a motif though, as the board is the true center of his nationwide transmutations circle (a trick he used before).
    • Jean Havoc is the knight in Mustang's chess-themed unit. The knight has the most unique moves and can do things that other pieces can't.
  • Future Diary: In the beginning, a DEAD END is compared to a Checkmate. This is why it was such a big deal that Yuki survived; it wasn't meant to be possible.
  • High School D×D: This is how the master-servant devil relationships work. The protagonist, Issei, is the Pawnnote , Rias is the King, Akeno is the Queen, Kiba is the Knight, Asia is the Bishop, and Koneko is the Rook. Other characters then join Rias later on to become the other pieces. The pieces also give the individual an appropriate boost. Bishops are magic specialist, Knights are high-speed attackers, Rooks are incredibly strong and durable, and Queens get all the bonuses put together. Pawns are grunts, but can promote to gain the boosts of another piece while behind enemy lines, and Kings have the tactical acumen to make the whole system work.
  • Jabberwocky: Lily repeatedly refers to herself as just a pawn to be sacrificed in order to take the king, which irritates Sabata to no end (she gets better).
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo: Game pieces of all the characters are shown in Desir's Inner Monologue throughout Chapter 22.
  • Knight Hunters: Crashers are codenamed after chess pieces: Knight, Bishop, Rook, and Pawn. King is their boss, and Queen is The Handler.
  • Last Exile uses chess terms liberally. Actual games of chess are seen frequently as well. Dio, especially, seems fond of the game; he's even playing it the first time he appears in the series.
  • Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing: Continuing the original series, the episode titles are chess terms and occurrences, and describe the strategic actions of the episode.
  • MÄR: The main antagonists are called the Chess Pieces or Chess no Koma (Chess Soldiers), and their ranks are named for well, chess pieces. However, aside from the Pawns being Faceless Mooks, there only being one King and one Queen, and the rank levels, the motif doesn't seem to stick very well; the head Knight is the one who ends the game if defeated. In the first Chess "games," they never did find the King and Queen.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Dulindal does this a number of times, including almost every time he's on screen by himself during the first half or so. He even goes as far as to refer to certain characters as the chess pieces.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Word of God says that the series was originally planned to have a Chess Motif, and traces of it can be seen in the final version. For instance, Ou is Japanese for King, and the 0 Gundam is both the weakest and most important of the Gundams, being the prototype from which the other, stronger Gundams were designed.
  • Naruto: Variation: Shikamaru and Asuma use Shōgi as a metaphor for Konoha Village. Shikamaru is a Knight because its unusual movement mirrors his Weak, but Skilled nature and strategic mind. Shikamaru asks if the Hokage would be a King that the lower ranking ninja have to protect, but Asuma says that while he thought that once, in reality, the next generation is the King, since it needs to be protected or else the village has no future. Interestingly, Asuma likens himself to a Pawn(despite being Shikamaru's teacher and a rank above him), commonly a sacrificial piece. Even more interestingly, Hidan and Kakuzu's names contain the characters for "bishop" and "rook". Shikamaru manages to outwit and defeat Hidan almost entirely by himself..
  • Rosario + Vampire features Mako Yakumaru, The Chessmaster of the Anti-Schooler monstrels. When she is shown 'behind the scenes', the background is a chessboard from the pawn's point of view. When her control over Moka is broken, the chess pieces are shown mid-fall.
  • Vampire Knight plays off this motif often. Kaname is figuratively shown as the "chessmaster", while Kiryu Zero is the "knight" (or pawn, depending on your point of view).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The earlynote  Archfiend cards: Vilepawn Archfiend, Desrook Archfiend, Darkbishop Archfiend, Shadowknight Archfiend, Terrrorking Archfiend, and Infernalqueen Archfiend. All of these cards have an Astral Checkerboard Decor for a background and even a spell card called "Checkmate". Other cards that may also fit the trope would be Chaos King Archfiend and Imprisoned Queen Archfiend.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: Jean-Michel Roger uses a chess board when making his plans, so naturally a few chess motifs show up. Interestingly, all the motifs are from Rodger's perspective and the roles each person is given reflects his views, not necessarily their real-life significance. For example, Yuya is portrayed as a pawnnote , while another character like Reiji might value Yuya more (due to his unidentified magical power and apparently having an important father).

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • The Red Queen is a crime lord who had chess-themed minions as part of her Alice's Adventures in Wonderland motif. That said, they were based on designs stolen from the Chessmen of Astro City.
    • The Chessmen themselves are, of course, a good example, as super-criminals wearing Powered Armor designed to resemble chess pieces. However, the set of armor has swapped hands, been broken up, been reassembled, been rebuilt, been copied, and so on so many times that any relation between the Chessmen and chess is tentative at best.
  • Captain Britain: During Captain Britain: A Crooked World, Merlin and his daughter Roma play an intricate game of chess, seemingly manipulating events while Captain Britain and his allies fight against The Fury and Mad Jim Jaspers.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark: Scattered throughout the first half of Mothers and Daughters. The most explicit is the final mental meeting between Suenteus Po and Cerebus, where they play chess in a kind of trippy astral experience and each piece and its move are compared to a character in the story and how being around Cerebus affected them. The symbolism of this extends past the actual "game", as Suenteus Po realizes that he made a mistake in the game, revealed by Sim to be Cerebus' "magnifier" at work.
  • Checkmate: The spy organization classifies their agents by chess pieces and uses the White and Black sides to counteract each other.
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom used the Prime Mover against the Fantastic Four in Grant Morrison's Fantastic Four: 1234, manipulating their histories and relationships to tear them apart from within. Going against trope, Reed realized what Doom was up to and developed machines to counter Doom's moves. He realized that Doom's moves were rigid and inflexible, and in order to defeat him, he used his stretching powers to temporarily create new structures in his own brain, thus expanding his already prodigious intellect.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: In one issue, Superman and The Flash play chess at superspeed while debating the future. Superman, who's more experienced in the game, wins their first few games, all the while arguing that the world will be better if he destroys every gun. Barry concedes that destroying all guns will make the world more peaceful, but also worries where they draw the line. If they remove all guns, why not do the same to knives? Cars? Should they destroy murderers as well? At this point, the Flash starts winning.
  • Iron Man: Obadiah Stane was a big fan of these during his arc in Iron Man (1968), naming his mooks the Chessmen. An expensive chess set appears on his desk in the movie as a Mythology Gag to this.
  • Nick Fury: In Jim Steranko's memorable run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strange Tales), Fury faces the Yellow Claw and his forces. The end of the arc reveals that Doctor Doom manipulated S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Claw in an intricate game against an alien chess-playing computer called the Prime Mover.
  • Star Trek (IDW): Chess is constantly used as a metaphor for Spock and Uhura's relationship. When she first met Spock at Starfleet Academy and played a game of chess with him, he left the King piece of his set on her nightstand, which she finds to be a decidedly-unlogical reaction. It's later revealed that Uhura has beaten Spock at multi-dimensional chess, a fact that Kirk is extremely amused by.
  • Trinity War: While rummaging through the Justice League's Watchtower, the Atom finds a chess set with the League's members for pieces. The Superman piece has been replaced with a Martian Manhunter piece.
  • X-Men: First prominently featured in The Dark Phoenix Saga, the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club ranks its members like this, with White Queen Emma Frost replaced by Black Queen Jean Grey after the former's apparent demise. Sebastian Shaw is the Black King, but the other members' ranks aren't revealed until later. While the New York branch uses white and black with their titles, the London branch uses red and black. And, at one point when Magneto held leadership of the Circle, he used the title Grey King, seeing himself as being between black and white (though another time he held the title of White King).

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • A strip has the Pointy-Haired Boss giving chess pieces to his underlings, symbolizing that they're "all on the same team". Unfortunately, he gives them all pawns. He later quips, "I'm saving the rooks for bonus day."
    • Another comic had Dilbert complain to his boss about being moved to a different cubicle with 'I bet another manager wants that cubicle. I bet we are all just pawn in your game.' It ended with the boss doing it anyway, and enforcing a new dresscode: Pawn-costumes. The dialogue at the end suggest that the PHB and another manager were playing an actual game of chess, using the cubicles as fields, and moving the employees as chesspieces by assigning them to new cubicles.

    Fan Works 
  • A Cure for Love: Light plays black and L plays white. Also Misa wants to learn how to play chess so she'll be more useful to Light.
  • Warren Waddlesworth from Albus Potter Series.
  • Used in the Star Trek fanfic AtlasKirk explains the set-up of the Big Bad's organization to Spock while they're playing chess. Basically, everyone is considered a pawn, except for The Dragon (a rook) and the Big Bad herself (the Queen). the Big Bad later uses this motif to let Spock know that she just kidnapped Kirk. While they were in adjacent rooms.
  • In Beyond Tomorrow Arina and Ren reflect at one point that Hanyuu is the perfect pawn. When Kikyo is revived, she explicitly tells them that she will not be a pawn in their "game of chess."
  • In The Gotham Rogues, Riddler and Bane both have chess boards in their lairs; Riddler's even has the pieces on one side altered to represent specific members of the Batman: Rogues Gallery
    • Regarding Joker and Harley's representation as Bishops:
    Batman: Diagonal moves. Psychologically more erratic, amidst the squares and straight lines of the board.
    Riddler: No, to play that game, the most psychologically irrational movement is the knight’s… I didn’t want to do that. You were going to see it. That seemed… needlessly rude.
  • Played straight to a tee in the first arc of Chain Reaction: Iron Revolution.
  • In a story with as many Chessmasters as Child of the Storm, this was inevitable. Magnificent Bastards Dumbledore and Loki have a discussion regarding himself, Harry and the Avengers vs Voldemort as a chess match, while Magnificent Bastard Supreme Stephen Strange name-drops the Check and Mate trope during the Final Battle of Book 1.
  • Tucana’s very first log in Choir of Lunatics has her discussing chess with Celano, she is fond of strategy games, her FETCH MODUS is a chessboard and she later becomes the Black Queen on a literal chessboard. To drive this home, she became a pawn of the Nameless's by accepting the position as Derse queen.
  • As with the show quite a bit of this in Code Geass: Colorless Memories with chess being played in a few chapters by Lelouch and Rai and in one chapter chapter 22 Surt has a chess set of one side gold (his side full) and the other blue (two pieces) hinting at whats to come as shown in chapter 25 with stage two and Rai and e.e.'s plan about to begin and Lelouch makes a comment in chapter 26 the Rai is a chess piece that you won't find on the board whatever than means chapter 30 plays with this again as Surt has two chess sets one black and white and his blue and gold set from chapter 22.
  • The PawnChessmons from Digimon Xros Wars AU 02.
  • Echoes (Kagaseo):
    • Gara/The Rook.
    • Kazama/The Pawn (Because of his potential) and the Queen.
    • Naruko/The Rook and the Queen.
    • Sasori/The Knight.
    • Chibaku/The Knight.
    • Kakashi/The Bishop.
    • Zabuza/The Rook.
    • Haku/The Bishop.
    • Yugito/The Bishop.
    • Tsukiyomi/The Knight.
    • Susanoo/The Rook.
    • Amaterasu/The Bishop.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Ami's first dungeon has one, with the "white and black chequerboard pattern of the floor [and] the bas-reliefs of chess figures on the walls."
  • The Elemental Chess Trilogy emphasizes the Chess Motif originally present in Fullmetal Alchemist. The second story in the series, "Brilliancy," uses actual chess terms for the story title and all chapter titles; the third story, "The Game of Three Generals," does the same thing with terms from shogi (Japanese chess). The members of Mustang's unit still use the chess nicknames he gave them in the canon, and often make references to Riza's position as their queen, even dubbing themselves "all the queen's men" when they are officially made her personal security detail in the third story.
  • Fate/Re:Trace:
    • Ayaka/The Pawn.
    • Meissa/The Queen.
    • Graham/The Rook.
    • Glen/The Knight.
    • Alexander/The Rook.
    • The Shadow King.
    • Rash brings them up.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Frequent references to someone's "game," "pieces," "pawns," and "sacrifice" (in the context of sacrificing a piece to further one's political game, not magic rituals that require sacrifice).
  • In Jewel of Darkness, the mysterious leader of the White Glove apparently has a thing for chess, as he gives Jinx a pawn to show that while he values her, she's really not that important to him. He's also later shown playing an actual game of chess with Vandal Savage, who warns him that predicting people is not as easy as predicting moves in chess.
  • Klaanon:
    • In the game Avde and Zorak are playing, it would appear that white represents Bio-Clan and black the Alliance. Some characters have specific confirmed roles.
    • Tawa is referred to as "the White Queen" by Avde.
  • Abundant in Lines and Webs.
  • Lost in Time Series: The conversation that Second Timeline! Frank has with Faux-Hudson is a very clever one, with different animals of the Ice Age as corresponding chess pieces: mammoths for kings and queens, sabres for knights, humans for rooks, weasels for bishops, and an assortment of possums and sloths for pawns. Faux-Hudson employs the game to illustrate to Frank the gravity of the herd's importance to events, and many hints dropped in this will prove important later to the rest of the Series.
  • Lost to Dust: Salem says Ozpin is a King because he is so weak that he needs others to do his dirty work for him, yet his side will fall if he falls. She says she is a Queen because she is the most powerful and her side will win in the end, even if she has to fall in a gambit to do it.
  • Amusingly, Rook from The Madness Of Laevateinn is often portrayed as a bishop instead of a rook.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mr. Black has an unfinished chess game in his hideout. It's one with his wife that he never finished.
  • In Murderer's Row Simmons attempts to explain the situation with Church during episode 100 with a chess metaphor. However, he doesn't have any chess pieces on hand and ends up using playing cards instead to represent the 'pieces.'
  • In New Hope University: Major In Murder, Saya Wild, the protagonist and the Ultimate Chess Grandmaster, assigns herself each of her 15 classmates a chess piece to indicate how she sees them, not necessarily their role in the game. The choice of their classifications becomes apparent when after Ashley(the Queen) is revealed to be the mastermind long after her murder in Chapter 3, Saya deduces that Bepi(a Pawn), as the holdover student, replaced her, and that he faked his death in the following Chapter. One participant on the Discord server also noticed that all the killers besides Bepi and Earl(who, like Hifumi, was killed before the trial) are Knights, since Knights, with their unique move pattern, have an easy time attacking without being vulnerable.
    • King: Saya herself.
    • Queen: Ashley.
    • Rooks: Earl, Barrett and Katy.
    • Bishops: Rodrigo, Jane and Rocky.
    • Knights: Lucina, JP, Therion and Nicole.
    • Pawns: Juliet, Bepi, Morgan and Emily.
  • During Anjou's and Nathalie's first battle in Nobility, they consistently refer to all of the fighters as chess pieces.
  • Operation GEAR:
    • The appearances of the Bisharp Clan come in chapters with titles referencing chess language.
    • Played with; Captain Liam is fond of referring to the players in his plan as "pieces" and Whitegold City as the "board."
  • Paladin: White King (Light), White Queen (Naomi), White Bishop (Mikami), White Rook (Rem), Black King (L), Black Queen (Kimiko Kujo), Black Knights (Mello and Matt), Black Bishop (Near), Black Pawn (Hideaki Suruga)
  • The Paladin Protocol: In a case of Smart People Play Chess, Sheldon covertly declares war by means of a game. Also a Shout-Out to the TV Western series 'Paladin - Have Gun, Will Travel'. Described as a 'knight without armour', this gentleman gunslinger had a chess-piece as his calling card.
  • Pet Project: Most memorably after Hermione realizes that they should be playing checkers, not chess, since checkers allows for many pieces to be taken off the board in one move
  • Pokémon: Rise of the Rockets:
    • Lark played chess long before he battled. This carries over into how he thinks about battle, as seen multiple times:

      The rematch of Lark V. Hex involved him ordering his 'mon a combination of attacks he considered akin to a chess 'fork', or move that threatens two pieces-in this case, two pokemon-at once.

      "The pawn's soft steps to victory are not heard when the queen thunders across the battlefield."

      Lark reminesces in prison on how Manuel represents his queen, Sasori his knight, and Namikaze his bishop.
    • The structure for the Six Sages of Team Plasma’s ranking system.
  • Edracian and the Eldar Farseer in Secret War seem to love to call Attelus their "pawn".
  • Soul Chess. It's a Code Geass fanfic. Duh.
  • Touhou Doujin: Dawitsu's Folly: Yukari is referred to as being in a 'Conversational Zugzwang' against Yuyuko in chapter six of The Misadventures of Yukari Yakumo.
  • In Vanguard, the Paladins are all modeled after chess pieces, in appearance, attributes and role. Notably, the Paladins' individual armor vary in color.
    • Solustro is the Grey King, simultaneously symbolizing his Anti-Villain status and balancing his methods/motives out. Typical for a chess king, Solustro rarely involves himself personally, but is renowned for his strategic and tactical skill.
    • The Bishop has magic-based abilities, notably Mass Teleportation, and he often appears out of nowhere many times over. His best attack pins his opponent, leaving them unable to counterattack. As an official vizier, the Bishop serves as the main adviser to Solustro, and his influence can be shown by the decisions and directions that Solustro takes.
    • The enigmatic Arkham is a literal Black Knight, feared by friend and foe alike, and he's the resident Enigmatic Minion.
    • The Rook is Dorotlu, a tower-resembling spike-tank thing reputed for having the best defensive offense.
  • In Windows Of The Soul, Shizuru once describes herself as a rook, and recounting the incident in which Yukino, a pawn, tried and failed to stand in her way to protect Haruka despite her lack of combat abilities, as almost essentially suicidal but somewhat courageous.

    Film — Animation 
  • Death Note: In the second movie, Light and L are playing a friendly game of chess while locked in a separate, heated mind game. Light wins the match. His response later when he pulls one over on L? Checkmate.
  • Hercules: Hades uses chess pieces shaped like various potential actors in his bid for absolute power.
  • Pokémon 2000: Lawrence III has his map set up like a chessboard. The plot is indeed quite chess-like in that he captures the three Legendary Birds to bring out the bigger prize, Lugia... or so he thinks. In reality, the "Beast of the Sea" is an underwater current that had been causing the storm.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010): The White Queen's home has a chess motif on a grand scale; the palace has chess pieces all over it. Her soldiers also wear armor resembling different chess pieces, and the movie's final confrontation takes place on a large chess board.
  • Aliens The name of the character that is able to cut a path through the advancing enemy, moving on an unconventional path to reach his objective, then speedily returning to his original location next to his allies, only to be taken by a Queen at the end is named Bishop.
  • Assassins: Early on, Rath examines an incomplete chess game between him and his former partner Nikolai after Bain whispers "Bishop takes Rook Pawn". The move turns out to be the Greek gift sacrifice, a powerful attack. This foreshadows that Rath is an Unwitting Rook Pawn, and his original opponent is The Chessmaster.
  • Blade Runner: The game of correspondence chess played by Sebastian and Tyrell, which Batty wins with his genius intellect. Notably, it's based on the famous "Immortal Game" of 1851, which ties into the film's themes of mortality and a quest for life. This was actually unintended.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002): Edmond and Fernand have a chess king that they trade back and forth when the other has a victory, recognizing the other as "King of the Moment". Edmond explains this to Napoleon Bonaparte, who observes that "In life, we are all either Kings or Pawns."
  • Cypher: Sebastian Rooks is the, er, Rook with Morgan Sullivan being the Pawn. The clever part is the Pawn becoming the Rook when he reaches the reaches the metaphorical end of the board. The two opposing technology corporations, DigiCorp and Sunway Systems, are also color-coded as the opposing sides of a chess board, with DigiCorp being black, and Sunway Systems white.
  • d'Artagnan And Three Musketeers: During d'Artagnan's audience with the Cardinal they play chess. Richelieu praises d'Artagnan for stalemating.
  • Dirty Pretty Things: Okwe and Guo Yi are fond of playing chess with each other, and at one point the latter makes an analogy between the game and Okwe's situation.
  • Dragonheart: Queen Aislinn is playing chess by herself in a scene where Einon and his men are having a rowdy feast. In the novelization, she spends a lot more time playing it, and only Bowen sees any value in the game, realizing that it teaches strategy.
  • Eastern Promises: "You cannot become king while king is still in place." And Nikolai shares a last name, Luzhin, with a famous chessmaster in the Vladimir Nabokov novel The Defense.
  • Fresh: A little boy in a gangster-ruled city block gets chess lessons from his father and applies these lessons in his life. Such as manipulating your opponent. And remembering that only your king truly matters, and that other pieces can be sacrificed if it is needed to protect it. Bittersweet Ending, here we come!
  • Gentlemen of Fortune: There is a chessboard in prison cell (!) and Sad Sack wins a few games with random guy to get civilian clothes for himself after the prison break.
  • Hoodlum: In the Spinning Paper sequence, some shots are edited so that it appears that Dutch Shultz is playing against Harlem gangster "Bumpy" Johnson — who is of course playing black, with Fishburne knocking over the white king. This is slight foreshadowing, as in the film it's Johnson who helps set up the hit on Shultz — rather than the Commission getting sick of Shultz endangering their operations with their plots on the life of the district attorney.
  • The Hunt for Red October: In his speech to the crew, Captain Ramius describes the naval portion Cold War as a game of chess against the Americans.
  • Inception: Ariadne's totem is a bishop chesspiece, and "Robert Fischer" brings to mind famous chess player Bobby Fischer.
  • Independence Day: David Levinson is a chess player. He constantly uses chess analogies to describe the alien invasion.
  • James Bond: From Russia with Love: chess-champion Kronstein turns out to be a SPECTRE agent, and uses chess analogies in their latest plan to outwit and destroy 007.
  • Jason and the Argonauts has several scenes where the gods play a chess-like game with pieces representing the heroes and villains of the movie. This is probably the ur-example of the Chess Motif in film.
  • Lolita: In the Stanley Kubrick adaptation, Professor Humbert is shown teaching the rudiments of chess to Charlotte Haze as her beautiful underage daughter enters the room.
    Charlotte: You're going to take my queen.
    Humbert: That is my intention, certainly.
  • In Night Moves, private investigator Harry Moseby takes a little chess board with him wherever he goes. He shows someone part of a game played by K. Emmrich and Bruno Moritz in 1922, where Moritz could have won by sacrificing his queen and making three knight moves, but he didn't see it and lost the game. (This symbolizes Harry's own inability to see what's really going on in the mystery he's investigating until it's too late.)
  • Oliver Parker's film version of Othello has fun with this. Iago (Kenneth Branagh) keeps putting a white queen next to a black king, getting angry, and then throwing the pieces away.
  • Quite frequently in Revolver (2005), with the similarity between chess and cons being a pervasive theme.
  • Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Returning Crusader plays Chess with Death!
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Professor Moriarty plays with his chess set and holds up the black queen while telling Holmes that he has murdered Irene Adler. Later, Moriarty leaves behind a black king for Holmes to find at a scene he was lured to by a Red Herring, to taunt him that he's been checkmated. Finally, the Grand Finale of the film consists largely of Holmes and Moriarty playing chess (both on a physical board and in their own heads) while discussing their plot and counterplot and referring to their respective sidekicks Watson and Moran, who are actually carrying them out, as their "bishops".
  • Miles Cullen of The Silent Partner is a Type One Chessmaster, and much screentime is given to the chess set he keeps in his apartment.
  • In Son of a Gun, Lynch, JR and Sam all play chess at a high level. They often discuss their crimes in chess metaphors, and a white king is often used as Trust Password. When Sam betrays them, Lynch breaks into Sam's house and leaves the king lying on the chessboard as a warning that he is coming for him. Additionally, the phrase "Never trust a pawn" could almost be considered Arc Words.
  • The Thing (1982): MacReady destroying the chess computer by pouring whiskey into it mirrors the metaphorical game of chess played through the rest of the movie, and how he will destroy the game, or burn down the entire facility, to prevent his opponent from winning. Notice how in the end, he hands Childs a drink — and then laughs when Childs doesn't refuse it?
  • Cardinal Richelieu from The Three Musketeers (2011).
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The various possible double agents are all assigned chess pieces with photographs taped to them.
  • Uncovered is a movie about a woman who restores paintings. The painting that is the focus of the movie has two people playing chess with clues about the history of a family.
  • Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice: The Final Battle deals with an invasion from a Mechanical Monster army seeking to wipe out all of humanity and reset planet Earth from scratch, named Gloker Pawns (most common and weakest unit), Gloker Rooks (stronger than pawns, but still manageable by Ultraman Cosmos and the good monsters), and Gloker Mother/Bishops (most powerful and leader of the bunch).
  • Where Are We Going?: A plays a brief game with Elliott, to show him he's outmatched.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, Xavier and Magneto play chess frequently. Since the former is the Big Good and the latter is the Big Bad of the franchise, Charles usually plays the white side while Erik has the black pieces.
    • X-Men: Professor X and Magneto play chess in the latter's prison cell, and Xavier wins the match, which parallels the X-Men's victory over the Brotherhood earlier in the story.
    • X-Men: The Last Stand: Magneto holds back Pyro, The Dragon, and sends in the Mooks, saying "in chess, the pawns go first." note  After the first wave gets mowed down, he adds "that's why the pawns go first." After being depowered, a civilian-dressed Lehnsherr is seen playing chess by himself in a park (he refuses to play with someone else because he is grieving over Xavier's death), and concentrating on the metal chess pieces. One moves, ever so slightly, and then the credits roll.
    • X-Men: First Class: Charles and Erik are seen playing chess a few times. The one move that is actually shown is Erik taking Charles' Queen with his King. The chess game is almost directly followed by scenes showing that Erik is able to understand Raven and consider her natural blue state beautiful while Charles does not. At the end of the movie, Raven, Charles' foster sister and closest ally, leaves Charles' side and joins Erik in his anti-human agenda. Oddly enough, the villains of this movie are the Hellfire Club, which used chess pieces as rank names in the comics, but this isn't addressed in the movie.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: During the plane ride to Paris, Erik tries to convince Charles to play chess for old time's sake; the latter refuses at first (it's an indicator of their practically non-existent friendship), but eventually relents. Xavier tells him, "You have the first move," a rare instance where Lehnsherr is assigned the white side for the game, which apparently symbolizes that he's on the X-Men's team. The first thing Magneto does once they reach the Parisian hotel is betray them.

  • Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking-Glass takes this rather farther than most, to the point of having all the events represented by actual chess moves. It also has an interesting variant, in that the two sides are called White and Red. It's not merely that the pieces are white and red (which is not unknown); by convention, the two sides in chess are referred to as White and Black even if the physical pieces used are other colors. The Red Queen from this book is often confused with the Queen of Hearts from the first Alice book. They are, in fact, wholly different characters, though they get merged in some adaptations. This results in an egregious mixed metaphor in the 2010 film version: the White Queen's army of chess pieces fights the Red Queen (of Hearts)'s army of playing cards.
  • The Belgariad, which carries the metaphor into the titles.
  • The cats from The Book of Night with Moon have their own strategy game depending on position, ownership of people and things, etc.
  • In The Castle in the Attic William gets the idea for shrinking Mrs. Phillips when he holds a pawn in his hand.
  • The Chess Team series by Jeremy Robinson has an elite military team as main characters who go by chess pieces for their callsigns: King, Queen, Knight, Bishop, and Rook. Temporary additions are given the name "Pawn". The anonymous man who pulls the strings for the team is "Deep Blue", named after the famous chess-playing computer.
  • Harry invokes this in Cold Days after defeating Summer Knight Fix and declares, "Knight takes Knight. Check."
  • In the works of Vladimir Nabokov:
    • The Defense brings this out in full force, even having other stand ins for chess boards and pieces, such as the checked bathroom tiles in the hotels that Luzhin visits. Of course, the book is about a famous chess master going insane as chess takes over his life.
    • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight has several of those motifs in the surnames of the characters. There's not only the titular character's surname (which matches his erratic behavior), but his former lover and "almost wife" is also named Clare Bishop. Sebastian's said last love, the russian Femme Fatale he leaves Clare for, has the maiden name of Toorovetz, with tura (тура) being the Russian word for the Rook in chess.
  • The Demonata is fond of this trope, following Grubbs' playing Chess with Death in the first book.
  • Discworld:
    • There are several mentions of the gods playing a chess-like game with the fates of men (as well as at least one claim that gods actually prefer games like Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders to chess). In actuality the game is closer to Dungeons & Dragons, which makes perfect sense considering their 'gameboard' is a full-on Medieval European Fantasy (with a good bit of Cloud Cuckooland mixed in, of course).
    • Many mortal characters with the game Thud. Obviously, Thud! contains the most blatant examples of this.
    • In The Last Hero, Cohen is compared to a pawn that has made all its way up the board.
    • Small Gods: Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where they're not expected...
    • Death, on the other hand, doesn't like chess much, in subversion of expectation. He can never remember how the little horse-shaped ones move. In fact, Death seems to have trouble with games in general. In The Light Fantastic, Twoflower is shown to have only limited success teaching the Four Horsemen how to play Contract Bridge.
    • Vimes hates Chess:
      Vimes had never got on with any game much more complex than darts. Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks round, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves.
  • The whole plot of The Eight.
  • The witch Senna Wales of Everworld has a penchant for chess. She compares her manipulations of the other characters and Everworld in general to a game of chess, and muses on the differences involved.(Playing humans requires less of a focus on predicting things long in the future and more of an emphasis on adapting quickly to situations.) She also makes several chess references throughout the ninth book, such as "The occasion had arisen, and chess player that I am, I had to take advantage of the movement" and "A pawn that crosses the entire board can become a queen. Not perhaps the title that David would appreciate, but the principle was clear."
  • Ron in Harry Potter plays chess, and this is a major plot point in the climax of the first book. There aren't any obvious metaphorical implications, which just means this was fertile ground for a number of (now mostly jossed) Epileptic Trees. The most spectacular example is probably the Knight-to-King theory (which, in brief, uses the chess game to conclude that Dumbledore is actually a time-travelled version of Ron).
  • Barely noticeable in the first book of Incarceron, but emphasized more in Sapphique.
  • In "Liberty's Crusade", a StarCraft novel, Mengsk discusses over a Chess match how he prefers Chess to real war- in Chess both sides are equal at the start, and you don't have to worry about a massive wave of green pieces coming in from the side to suddenly wipe everyone out.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf describes the coming war in chess terms: "The board is set, and the pieces are moving [...] But the Enemy has the move, and he is about to open his full game. And pawns are likely to see as much of it as any, Peregrin son of Paladin, soldier of Gondor. Sharpen your blade!"
    • The strategy used against Sauron also translates quite well into chess. The good guys launch a final desperate attack on Mordor that they know won't succeed. However, the true purpose is simply to attract the attention of Sauron so that he doesn't notice the pair of hobbits as they sneak past his lines and get into position to checkmate him.
  • Subverted in The Lords of Creation in that atanj, the Martian chesslike game from which many a motif is drawn, is vastly more complex than mere Earthly chess. With ships, merchants, boycotters, bribes, the possibility of pieces defecting on their own, as many as eight players, and the use of dice, it's more like Dungeons & Dragons motifs in some ways.
  • The Lymond Chronicles. The books are called The Game of Kings, Queen's Play, The Disorderly Knights, Pawn in Frankincense, The Ringed Castle, and Checkmate.
  • All over the place in Mediochre Q Seth Series, though some of it is Faux Symbolism.
  • Mailed Fist follows the fortunes of a British tank unit in NW Europe after D-Day. The author relates a complex movement order that saw his regiment of heavy tanks effectively switch positions with a regiment of medium tanks. the two tank columns therefore passed each other on the same road travelling in opposite directions. The exchange between their respective commanding officers was "Just castling!"
  • Morevi: the Morevian game of par-stern is both actually played and used as a metaphor for elaborate court intrigue. It is never described in detail but seems to be something like chess, Risk, and Go all rolled into one.
  • Done humourously in "Murphy" by Samuel Beckett, which has the title character play an extremely passive game with the eschatologically named Mr Endon, who habitually employs "Endon's Affence". After eight moves, Endon's pieces have all returned to their starting positions, a tactic which Beckett's comic annotation describes as a "pipe-opener".
  • Prince Vladimir in the Nightfall (Series) uses chess metaphors when he teaches Myra how to play the power games at court.
  • Done in the Paradox Trilogy. The titles of the books, Fortune's Pawn, Honor's Knight, and Heaven's Queen, reference chess pieces of increasing value, reflecting protagonist Devi's rise in importance from a mere pawn in the first book to bearing the fate of the galaxy in the last. Devi also notices that Creepy Child Ren often plays chess games by herself. Ren always sets up the board with the black queen already captured; this represents Maat's imprisonment.
  • The Set from The Poster Children, consisting of the Queen (Amira), the Rook (Corbin), and the Knight (John). Also, little pictures of chess pieces break the gap between POV switches.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil uses shatranjnote  as a fantasy name for chess, but otherwise uses and plays with it quite a bit:
    • The game that Above and Below play is often compared to a shatranj match. The Black Knight, Amadeus of the Green Stretch, notes that he finds such metaphors inaccurate—if it were a shatranj match, why does only one side ever truly win? Finding ways to break the game or at least change it becomes a theme of the series.
    • At least three characters feature chess motifs directly, to varying degrees:
      • The Black Knight's pragmatism and lateral thinking let him grab far longer-lasting victories than most other villains do, often finding solutions that the rest of the Dread Empire has difficulty matching.
      • Catherine promotes from being a perennial pawn as the Squire under the Black Knight to the Black Queen of Callow, though not as Named. She later starts to unravel the motif a bit, befriending the White Knight and later uniting both sides of the board under a single Truce and Terms—and she eventually claims a new Name outside chess motifs entirely.
      • The White Knight, Hanno of Arwad, plays with the usual implications—on one hand, his Recall aspect lets him temporarily utilize knowledge and abilities from hundreds of dead heroes, letting him come at fights and problems from any number of angles. At the same time, he's probably the hero least likely to charge in without thinking—and as he relies on the creativity of those he Recalls, he's far less creative at using his own powers than Amadeus or Catherine. He later ends up befriending Cat, then becomes the representative for heroes under the Truce and Terms—complementing the Black Queen's position as the representative for villains.
    • One villain attempts to one-up the chess motifs by claiming to be playing baduknote  instead.
    • Two arcs primarily use chess terms for chapter titles, often referring to the events of the chapter in some way:
      • A Book 4 interlude arc that sees Amadeus Out Gambited, losing the Name of Black Knight starts with Queen's Gambit, Offered, and ends with Queen's Gambit, Denied.
      • The Battle of Maillard's Boot arc in Book 6 begins with King's Fianchettonote , and ends with Book Drawnote 
    • Characters play shatranj many times, with skill and playstyle often reflecting character traits.
      • In one particularly notable example, Catherine and another villain play shatranj while trading information about a common enemy and plotting possible alliances. Creation and the ways it fits and doesn't fit the idea of a Cosmic Shatranj Game are discussed, including the idea that the game needs a referee who can make sure the pieces actually play their roles. Given one villain is a Card-Carrying Villain who delights in treachery in general while Cat has long grown into a Magnificent Bastard and both know the other will inevitably betray them, both sides cheat or play in bad faith all game. When Cat loses, while leaving she blows up a pawn she secretly charged with Night, along with the board itself.
      • At another point, during a "game" played against the Intercessor with tarot cards, Catherine pulls out a black pawn whenever her opponent makes a mistake.
    • The climax of Book 7 sees all sides march to defeat the Dead King, hoping to checkmate him before the Grand Alliance collapses entirely.
    • Even the official Discord server for the series uses this, with a black knight dissolving on a white background as a server icon, paired with a white knight dissolving on a black background for the server background.
  • In the Relativity story "Master Blankard's Pawn", a villain named Rasmas commits a series of chess-themed crimes. At the end of the story he reveals that he's been receiving messages encoded in chess moves from another villain, Master Blankard, who's currently in jail and having his communications monitored.
  • The Rook: Pawns are powered indivduals that don't hold Court office. The Court offices are Rooks, Chevaliers (Knights), and Bishops. King and Queen had to be changed to "Lord and Lady" so as not to offend the actual royalty. One of the protagonists has a rant about how foolish this is — the Bishops aren't actually ecclesiastical, sometimes the Lord or Lady ends up being the wrong gender because that's just who the Court needs filling the role, and in general having two people in each job is a recipe for coordination problems.
  • Six Days of the Condor has most chapters start with a chess textbook quotation, relevant to the book's plot.
  • In the Robert A. Heinlein novel Sixth Column (AKA "The Day After Tomorrow"), the hero is having a game of wits with the villain. The villain shows the hero a chess problem and asks how he would solve it. To play with the villain's mind, the hero gives a false answer. At the end, after the villain is captured the hero drives the point home by admitting that he lied. The villain subsequently kills himself out of shame for being tricked.
  • In the classic John Brunner novel The Squares of the City, both sides of a banana republic are being manipulated as if in a game of Chess. The novel's plot mimics this Chess game.
  • In A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison, wannabe criminal mastermind James "Slippery Jim" De Griz decides to lure "The Bishop", a retired criminal mastermind, out of retirement in hopes The Bishop will teach him some of the higher points of interplanetary bank robbery, etc. He does this by staging big heists and leaving behind a copy of The Bishop's calling card which has a clue on it (written in chess notation) as to the next heist. Jim hopes the master thief will translate the clue and invite Jim to be his apprentice, but it doesn't quite work out that way...
  • Sword of Truth: Show up in The Omen Machine, with the titular contraption's prophecies "Queen takes pawn," and "Pawn takes queen." Most of the main characters don't recognize them at first, as in this 'verse, Chess is an obscure game played only in the far reaches of the empire.
    • Also, the Caro-Kann River, named after a moderately common chess opening.
  • In The Traitor Game, the eponymous game is Evgard's version of chess where betrayals play a key role, just as they do in the story. Also, Michael is described as "playing a game that no one else knows the rules to" by Francis.
  • Elleston Trevor wrote a series of mysteries in which the investigator was Hugo Bishop; each book had a chess piece title (Knight Sinister, Queen in Danger, Bishop in Check, Pawn in Jeopardy, and Rook's Gambit), and the chapters were labelled "First Move," "Second Move," etc.
  • The Turkish Gambit: The "gambit", as reflected in the title and explained by Anwar towards the end. A "gambit" in chess is a maneuver in which one sacrifices a piece to gain a strategic advantage. Anwar uses this metaphor to explain how he is prepared to sacrifice his own country, Turkey, to deal a blow to Russian power.
  • The Twilight Saga: The Breaking Dawn cover shows a chessboard with a red pawn overshadowed by a towering white queen, symbolizing Bella's transformation from a weak, flesh-and-blood human to a strong and inhumanly beautiful vampire.
  • Villains by Necessity: "In chess, someone has to take the black pieces," is used as an analogy of the fact that the book's universe has Good Needs Evil as a cosmic principle.
  • The Westing Game:
    • Sixteen heirs, or eight pairs, which Theo notices is the same as the number of pawns in a game of chess.
    • Sam Westing, as well as being The Chessmaster, is reputed to be extremely skilled at the actual game of chess.
    • Judge Ford recalls that during her final chess game with Sam Westing, he tricked her into letting him checkmate by giving her the opportunity to take his queen. She later draws a parallel between the "Queen's Sacrifice" and the Westing Game, since exposing Crow as a murderer would distract most of the heirs from the real objective.
  • Whateley Universe: The Chessmaster uses a lot of these, shockingly enough given his name. His normal Mooks are called the Chessmen (cyborgs), his backup are the Rooks (floating Dalek type things), his battlefield planning table is the Chessboard, and all his plans are various gambits, openers etc.
  • The Will O The Wisp Mystery: The six escaped prisoners are compared to chess pieces; one had used the role of a clergyman as a cover (the bishop) to the mob boss (the king). It's eventually subverted: the detective realizes that the chess motif (all the men protect the king) was wrong and that a checkers motif (first man across becomes the king) was correct.
  • Phillipa Gregory's two-part series comprising The White Queen and The Red Queen tells the stories of Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort, respectively: two noblewomen on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses (the titles reflect the signature colours of the houses of York and Lancaster) and the mothers of the future Henry VII and his wife.
  • Wyrm: The Armageddon battle is very clearly structured on a chess game: the infantry are pawns, the cavalry are knights, the black dragon is the black queen, and so on. According to the novel's afterword, the events of the battle specifically correspond to a particular chess game played in 1961 between Tigran Petrosian and Ludek Pachman.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the later seasons of The 100, Sheidheda is shown to be very fond of chess, highlighting his nature as The Chessmaster. In one episode he plays with Murphy, and the two of them spend the whole game discussing chess moves as a thinly veiled conversation of threats, plans, and counter-plans. Murphy figures out that even he is a pawn after noticing that Sheidheda makes moves that extend the game rather than going for a win, because he already had a plan in motion that required Murphy's absence.
  • Alice (2009): The architecture of the White Knight's kingdom resembles giant chess pieces.
  • Alphas: Marcus played chess with Rosen in the past, and part of his world view is that every single thing a person does is like a chess move on their part to accomplish a goal.
  • Babylon 5: "Endgame"'s episode title comes from the term for the final phase in a game of chess where there are very few pieces left on the board to play. At this point, the only pieces left to play for are Mars and Earth.
  • The Cape: The manipulative villain Peter Fleming... well, he doesn't have a chess motif such as an overwhelming obsession with it. He compares real world actions to specific chess strategies, wears contact lenses that make his pupils look like chess pieces, and uses a holographic interface hidden under a chessboard that when activated arranges itself into a chessboard layout. And of course his supervillain name is Chess.
  • The Daily Show: One episode aired after Barack Obama's inauguration features this exchange between Jon Stewart and his interviewee, openly gay bishop Gene Robinson, in which Stewart makes a pun about Robinson's job.
    Stewart: Washington was so crowded today. There were so many people. You, as a bishop, were sort of doubly handicapped in that situation because you are only allowed to move diagonally. How is that, negotiating the crowds?
    Robinson: Jon, you have to understand there's a queen on the board as well.
  • The Day of the Triffids (2009): Chess pieces on a map of London show the expansion of Torrence's empire.
  • Doctor Who: Sylvester McCoy's run has a few of these.
    • "Silver Nemesis": When the Doctor and Ace try to keep a weapon away from the Cybermen, they announce chess moves during the battle.
    • Then there's the following exchange in "Battlefield":
      Doctor: You haven't won the game yet, Morgaine.
      Morgaine: I could always defeat you at chess, Merlin.
      Doctor: Who said anything about playing chess? I've been playing poker. And I have an Ace up my sleeve!
    • Culminating in "The Curse of Fenric", where Fenric has a significant chess motif and several of the earlier chess references are said to be foreshadowing his return.
  • Toyed with, punningly, in the opening titles of Ellery Queen. These show a series of period- and place-establishing objects laid out on a checked surface. The next-to-last image is a pawn sitting next to a typewriter; the last is a broken, overturned queen. (The DVD menus continue this, with a silhouetted queen superimposed on the currently-selected title on the episode selection screens.)
  • Endgame: But of course! Arkady's languages tends to be full of things like "Concentrate on the move at hand." and so forth.
  • In Have Gun – Will Travel, Paladin's card and the design on his gun holster feature a white knight. Richard Boone, his actor, once explained it as "It’s a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it’s always unexpected"
  • It Takes a Thief (1968): "The Great Chess Gambit", strangely enough. The episode features Al getting into a chess match with the Villain of the Week, and several comparisons are made between their chess moves and the activities of the American and Russian agents vying for that episode's McGuffin.
  • Prince John and his retainer share exposition over a game of chess in Ivanhoe.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Plenty in the Leverage episode "The Juror #6 Job", in which Nate is inspired by a chess set on their target's table to describe the entire con in terms of chess metaphors. The show itself could arguably be a metaphor for chess with the characters representing the pieces, sometimes directly mentioned in dialog. (More on show entry.)
    • Then there is the episode, titled "The Queen's Gambit Job" which includes an entire chess tournament.
  • The 4th season episode of Lexx which has a literal chess game between Kai and Prince.
  • In Merlin King Alined (a one-shot villain) was seen demonstrating his secret plan with the pieces of a chess set (and throwing them when he was thwarted).
  • In one episode of Monk, the killer was a genius grand master chess player. As he's being arrested, he tries to complement Monk on being the better player. Monk reprimands him for treating real human lives as a game, but consents to a victorious "Checkmate."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus - in their parody tough-guy crimefighter tv show "The Bishop", an opening title sequence has the title character (appropriately) on a giant chess board.
  • A season 2 arc of Mr. Robot has Elliot and Mr. Robot playing each other in chess for ultimate control over the other. Each time, despite the astronomical odds, they reach a stalemate, which leads Elliot to the conclusion that he cannot live without his alter-ego.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Queen Regina often refers to other characters as "pawns" or "playing pieces".
  • The Red Queen’s castle in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is designed around chess pieces (which oddly enough are silver instead of red), and she likes to use game metaphors: "setting up the board", "change of hand", etc.
  • Payback: Eun Yong and Joon-kyung are playing chess as they talk about Tae-choon (Eun Yong's nephew and a Crusading Lawyer) and Ki-seok (the villain and an Amoral Attorney), and how they had to use the latter as he's willing to use dirty tricks to advance their goals. Eun Yong says that his nephew is "a pawn," the weakest piece on the board. But then Eun Yong advances his pawn to the last rank and makes it a queen, and says that in chess the weakest pieces can become the strongest. This is followed by a cut to a scene where Tae-choon is investigating the supposed suicide of CEO Oh (in fact, Ki-seok murdered him).
  • "Check Mate", an episode of The Prisoner (1967).
  • In Robin Hood the Sheriff of Nottingham was occasionally seen fiddling with a chess set.
  • Parodied in Slings & Arrows, which has a hysterically awful production of Romeo and Juliet in which all the characters wear chess piece hats:
    Cyril: It's a chessboard, ducky.
    Frank: Why?
    Cyril: They're pawns, aren't they? In the game of life.
    Frank: Are we pawns?
    Cyril: I'm the Friar, so I'm a bishop; you're Capulet, so you're a king.
    Frank: I don't move like a king. I don't move at all.
    Cyril: I don't think he's taking the metaphor that far, ducky.
  • Smallville: Checkmate, an agency introduced in Season 9 that attempts to weaponize superpowered beings, uses chess terms and puns. Their leaders are codenamed White Queen and Black King, Mooks are called pawns, etc. Their base even has black and white squares all over the place. All agents are assigned a chess-themed codename (Pawn, Knight, Rook, etc.) that denotes their rank within the organization. Moreover, Checkmate itself is split into two halves — intelligence (headed by the White Queen) and field operations (under the Black King).
    • Martha Kent/The Red Queen in Season 9's "Hostage."
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Episode The Corbomite Maneuver. The Enterprise is trapped by an alien spaceship and facing destruction.
      Kirk: There must be something to do, something I've overlooked.
      Spock: In chess, when one is outmatched, the game is over. Checkmate.
      Kirk: Not chess, Spock. Poker!
    • Spock plays chess on a special three-dimensional board with three playing levels.
    • In Whom Gods Destroy, Kirk implemented chess moves as code phrases to prevent unauthorized transports from a mental hospital. "Queen to queen's level three." "Queen to king's level one."
    • Kirk himself plays 3D chess extremely well - often better than Spock. This is not necessarily unreasonable: Vulcans may be capable of superhuman feats of calculation, but calculation alone is no way to win at chess. Even computers cannot exhaustively analyse all positions to checkmate as the number of possible positions increases far too rapidly with increasing levels of look-ahead. Kirk, as with strong players of the real game, could merely have a superior talent for focusing on the relevant, known to chessplayers as "Sight of the Board".
    • Spock's talent for chess comes in handy in Court Martial, where it allows him to deduce that the computer has been tampered with.
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers:
  • The Walking Dead:
    • As "Brian" teaches Megan chess in Live Bait, the lessons that you can lose all your pawns but win the war, and that victory is only ensured by capturing the king, are highly relevant. The white king even has a little eyepatch drawn on, and White moves first in chess.
  • The "Hartsfield's Landing" episode of The West Wing sets up a chess motif at the beginning as Bartlet returns from a state visit to India where the Indian Prime Minister had gifted some antique chess sets (India being the birthplace of the game) to him. Bartlet then plays a few chess games simultaneously with several staff members while in the middle of a couple of larger-scale "games" both foreign (a diplomatic crisis with China over Taiwan) and domestic (the start of Bartlet's re-election campaign) which the episode presents as metaphorical chess matches.
    Sam: How does it work?
    Bartlet: See the whole board!
  • In the The Wild Wild West episode The Night Of The Hangman Artie uses a chessboard to map out the crime scene and takes some trouble to choose an appropriately symbolic chess piece for each participant.
  • The Wire:
    • In "The Buys", Bodie and Wallace play checkers with a chess set. D'Angelo comes over and tries to teach them chess in terms of the drug trade and the characters, with plenty of subtext. He likens himself and his fellow hoppers to pawns, who can make it to the edge of the board to become more powerful Queens, but will never get to be King. He admits with some regret that pawns are chumps and get killed fast, but his youthful audience has faith that "smart-ass" pawns can get ahead. By the end of the show, everyone in the conversation has been killed in conflicts between greater forces than themselves, and shortly before his death the last surviving member of the trio makes a Call-Back and explicitly says that they really were pawns.
    • This metaphor about the drug game being a chess game between the cops and the criminals reaches its conclusion in "Sentencing", when Avon and Stringer (the King and Queen) are the last pieces on the board, waiting for a mass of SWAT units to raid their compound. The criminals are both wearing white, the cops are all either dressed in black or wearing black flack jackets. Avon quietly surrenders when he's faced with a checkmate.

  • "Knight Jumps Queen" from the album "Set the World on Fire" by Annihilator.
  • The german Rap-group "Blumentopf" has a song called "Am Schachbrett" ("On the chessboard") which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • "Only a Pawn in Their Game" by Bob Dylan applies a chess metaphor to the slaying of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
  • The Cruxshadows’s "The 8th Square".
  • In the music video for D’s "In the name of justice"; the chess board and pieces are supposed to represent a battle plan.
  • EXO: In the musical video of "Obsession", the conflict between the Tree of Life's guardians, aka EXO, and their Red Force evil counterparts, aka X-EXO is shown with a shot of a chess board — the black pieces are EXO while the red ones are X-EXO. Two knights, one from each side, are facing each other.
  • Fiona Apple's second album featured an eight-line poem as its title. The first line of the poem reads, "When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king..."
  • The album "Red Queen To Gryphon Three" by the British Progressive Rock band Gryphon is a concept album about a game of chess.
  • "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane contains a few direct references to the Chess Motifs used in Through the Looking-Glass.
    When the men on the chessboard / Get up and tell you where to go...
  • Kudai has an album Shah Mat. It's about the fun stuff that you can see coming "When the pawns cross the chessboard", as the title song says.
  • Nicki Minaj, in her song "Monster," refers to the power of the most versatile piece:
    You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer!
  • "Knight Moves" by Suzanne Vega.
  • "I've Seen All Good People", by Yes starts out with the section called "Your Move". The song features lyrics like:
    "Move me onto any black square, use me anytime you want."
  • XTC's video for "The Mayor of Simpleton" is in the style of an 'Avengers' style '60s spy show, some of which involves posing on a giant chess board.
  • Chlöe Howl's video for "Rumour" takes place in a large room with people playing chess, both with each other and with Chlöe.
  • LacunaCoils video for "I Forgive(But I Won't Forget Your Name" features singer Cristina Scabbia playing chess (and winning) against the other (male) band members.
  • Poets of the Fall has made use of the motif in promo art.
    • The album art for Clearview features a silhouette of a knight piece filled with a flat black marble texture, while the booklet maps out a chess game.
    • The album art for the radio edit of "Drama for Life," a song about a Battle in the Center of the Mind, features a red silhouette of a king piece topped with the band's Morpho logo instead of the usual cross-shaped finial.
  • Ava Max's "Kings & Queens", a song with a feminist message, features the lines "In chess, the king can move one space at a time/ But queens are free to go wherever they like".


    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost features the Contracts of The Board, which allow a character who serves as head of a number of forces (such as a general or one of the seasonal Monarchs) to understand the conflict in terms of a game of chess, allowing him to transmit strategies and direct forces by manipulation of the board itself. Granted, the game in question doesn't have to be Chess. A general could just as easily direct his forces via the intentional play of the game Candy Land.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Forgotten Realms campaign setting has the deity "Red Knight", whose portfolio is strategy and whose symbol is a red knight piece.
    • In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, certain maneuvers for Martial powers have Chess names like the Rogue maneuver 'Kings Castle' and the Warlord maneuver 'Knight's Move'.
  • GURPS has an optional "cinematic" rule that skill in chess can substitute for the Strategy skill used to plan actual battles.
  • In New Vindicators when Michuru and Halogen play a game of chess they debate on which students are which pieces.
  • The manual for Twilight Struggle draws the chess analogy to the manueverings of the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War, outright comparing most of the countries in the world as pawns to be gained in the struggle against the other superpower. Battleground countries like France (controlling more in a region grants Dominance in a region when it is scored) the status of a bishop, while China, which has its own card with a bonus in Asia, gets to be a rook or queen.
  • Ranks within the Central Headquarters of Espionage for the Secret Service in Villains & Vigilantes.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Archfiends have a chess-themed subset. Their most useful support card is arguably 'Checkmate', which allows the rather powerful Terrorking Archfiend to strike the opponent directly rather than wasting time with the foes' array of monsters.

  • The ballet Checkmate focuses on a chess game between Love and Death, with the pieces reflecting human behaviour. The red pieces reflect human emotion and act accordingly, in contrast to the black pieces which move in accordance to strategy. As a result the red side (Love) does very badly, eventually losing to black (Death).
  • The 80s rock musical Chess is pretty much all about this. In particular, "Prologue (The Story of Chess)" has what it describes as a "vague report" — and then goes into detail about a prince whose advisers had no clue about how a mother's mind works.
  • Samuel Beckett's post-apocalyptic (maybe) Endgame refers eponymously to the final stage of a chess game. No one legitimately knows what Beckett's plays actually mean so any reader can take a stab at what this motif means and how deep it might be.
  • The Lion in Winter:
    Alais: Kings, queens, knights everywhere and I'm the only pawn.
  • In Man of La Mancha, Cervantes, repositioning Antonia, the Housekeeper and the Padre to the corners of the stage, calls them the queen, the castle and the bishop, respectively. "And now—the problem of the knight!"
  • In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, the show-within-the-show whodunnit uses chess motifs to an exaggerated extent. The setting is a remote country house named Checkmate Manor, decorated with black-and-white check patterns. It is home to the Bishop family, their cousins the Kings and the Rooks, and the butler Pawn and maid Regine. The murderer marks his kills with chess pieces that match the name of the person he kills.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat
    • In the opening to the Japanese version of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, Gilbert Park is seen playing a game of chess, foreshadowing how he intends to seize control of the UPEO.
    • Edgar's squadron in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy has formations based on chess piece names.
      Bird's Eye: Now then, Phoenix. What should my first move be? How about ... The Knight.
    • In the SP Missions for Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Alex uses a chess board to run a simulation on how an engagement between Matias Torres and Trigger would pay out. The first simulation fails because of how Torres is described as a ‘singularity’. When David North gives Alex data on Trigger before he joined the LRSSG, Alex runs the simulation again, but the pieces that represent Torres and Trigger don’t follow normal rules, and says that it would take months before Alex would be able to come up with a conclusion on who would win between Torres and Trigger.
  • The Chessmaster from AdventureQuest has been shown using a chess board to represent ongoing plans, and has mused onscreen as to whether the player is better represented by a bishop or a rook.
  • Used in the opening of Age of Empires II. Two kings are playing a game of chess, and the pieces fade in and out from "real" military events, each represented by different pieces till it all comes into a big castle siege. And then the last soldier standing (or kneeling, rather), drops a chess piece - a king - out of his hands.
  • Three levels of American McGee's Alice (Pale Realm, Castling, and Checkmate in Red) are entirely chess-based. In the first two, you have to rescue the beleaguered White King; in the third you exact vengeance on the evil Red King and his cronies. There are even a couple of sections where Alice turns into a Bishop or Knight, and takes on their movements.
  • ORCA strategist Malzel from Armored Core has a chess piece for his emblem and refers to his protégés Hari and Vaoh as Pawns.
  • Biomechanical Toy, an arcade action game with Living Toys, have sentient chess pieces as enemies. A chess Queen serves as the first boss, the Rooks and Bishops are Giant Mooks, while the Knight is a dangerous airborne enemy who can drop projectiles all over the area.
  • BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger: Carl's dolls are likely base on chess pieces. The small doll is a pawn, the doll with a flag is the bishop, the lance-wielding doll on a horse is the knight, the large doll with a shield is the rook, Ada is the queen and Carl himself is the king.
  • In the first game of Broken Sword, there's a puzzle involving a chessboardwhich reveals a hidden chalice from de Vasconcellos' mausoleum.
  • Counter Side: The leaders of the Replacer Syndicate, the main antagonists of the first half of the story, are named and themed after chess pieces. Replacer Knight is a Blood Knight and frontline leader. Replacer Bishop is a schemer bent on revenge. Replacer Queen is their strongest fighter, going out in the open. Replacer King is the leader who stays behind on the ship. Replacer Rook is kept as backup should their main force fail. And Replacer Pawn is a Hate Sink villain who was Reforged into a Minion and cloned as needed.
  • The Conquest Victory cut scene from Civilization 4.
  • Cuphead has the King of Games and his Champions introduced in the DLC, each of whom are based upon a piece in chess.
  • In the second game of Death Smiles, the first half of the final stage is covered in chess patterns and contains animated chess pieces as enemies.
  • Deltarune seems to be shaping up to have antagonists with Chess Motifs. In the first chapter there are enemies modelled after pawns and the final boss is a King. However, there is also mention of a Knight pulling the strings. In the second chapter, the antagonist is a computer that goes by the name Queen, who was manipulated by the Knight. The Knight corrupted both the King and Queen and seems to be a Greater-Scope Villain.
    • The two also act like how their pieces go in typical chess games. King is an Orcus on His Throne and tends to stay in his castle and let his minions do all the hard work, as most kings do in chess. Meanwhile, Queen prefers to appear before the heroes on several occasions to mess with them, since skilled players know to use the queen piece to cause massive damage.
  • The Rook from Demigod is reminiscent of the Rook chess piece.
  • Devil May Cry series:
  • One of the many mysterious themes in Don't Starve, it’s present here in the form of Clockwork Bishops, Clockwork Knights, and a single Clockwork Rook, all of whom guard the Teleportato to the next world in both Sandbox and Adventure Mode.
  • Doom Eternal: Word of God describes the Marauder as equivalent to the Queen on the chessboard, being the one piece with unparalleled mobility and game ending potential that requires an extraordinary amount of your attention on the battlefield, and who creates an absolute ton of openings for the other, less maneuverable pieces while you are distracted trying to deal with it.
  • The DS localization of Dragon Quest V is full of these. The Big Bad Grandmaster Nimzo is named after a chess grandmaster, his minions after the pieces, and their organization is named the Order of Zugzwang.
  • Elona: Pieces, as in literal mechanical enemies fashioned after chessmen are a prominent enemy in the mid-game. They are presumably under control of Wynan, one of the bosses of the main quest, and while the might seem weak during the later game, large amounts of pawns can overwhelm city guards which are over four times their level.
  • In Ensemble Stars!, this is naturally the province of the unit Knights - previously there was a unit named Chess which became so internally conflicted it split off into multiple smaller units based on different chess pieces, with Knights being the sole survivor of this battle. And the erratic movement of a knight in chess perfectly reflects the eccentric and unpredictable behaviour of Knights' leader, Leo - though it's the new first-year student Tsukasa who plays chess as a hobby, and fittingly he himself will someday become the unit's leader.
  • Freespace: "Why did we attack the Iceni? Why did we destroy that cargo? I can live with being a pawn if the game makes sense."
  • F-Zero (1990) has its grand prix series named after chess pieces (Knight, Queen, and King). F-Zero: Maximum Velocity continues the trend with different chess pieces for that game's grand prix series by using Pawn, Knight, Bishop, and Queen. Other games would use either Playing Card Motifs or precious gems for their names.
  • Gabriel Knight: Near the end of GK3, there's a puzzle involving a chessboard. In order to solve it, Gabriel must move in the style of the Knight piece.
  • Genshin Impact:
    • The Archon's source of divine power are their Gnosis, which are shaped like Chess Pieces. Venti has a Queen, Zhongli has a Rook while the Raiden Shogun/Ei's is a bishop and Nahida's is unknown.
    • The video introducing many of the Fatui Harbingers as they mourn the fallen Signora has the Harbingers and the Archon's represented by a chess board. Analyzing it would show that it is based on a famous chess match where a human grandmaster was defeated by a computer, symbolizing that the Fatui are working to overthrow the gods. There are differences but victory for the Fatui is still possible and that crucially the death of Signora at Ei's hands is the turning point in their favor in the long run. However, the fact that Ei has a Bishop Gnosis instead of a knight is probably a good hint that their intelligence and planning isn't all knowing and has flaws.
  • Groove on Fight: The stage of Gartheimer and Damian has a chessboard floor and giant pieces in the background.
  • Halo: As first revealed in Halo: The Fall of Reach, Cortana's first words in her life were "The king and the pawn go in the same box" in Italian. This is an actual proverb.
  • Hexen seems rather fond of these. Korax mentions "Sweeping you off the board" at one point (which is also the player's death message if they're killed by him,) and the player getting the Chaos Orb is described as being like a pawn getting promoted to a queen. The last shot of the game is of a chess board with pieces for the player(s) and Korax, and Eidolon pulling the Korax piece off the board.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic uses chess piece icons for difficulty settings. Easy is represented by a pawn, Normal by a knight, Hard by a rook, Expert by a queen and Impossible by a king.
  • The Idolmaster: Fuka Asano. The black queen capturing a white king on her S Rare+ card.
  • Inazuma Eleven: GO's Final Boss Dragonlink has one. All of the members of the team have avatars that are based off of chess pieces, with their captain Senguji having The King. They also operate like a game of chess.
    • Some members of Dark Forest in GO's movie also have a chess motif with avatars that are dark themed chess pieces.
  • It's been proposed that all the personalities in Killer7 correspond to different chess pieces. Kun Lan and Harman are definitely playing a literal chess game, and possibly a figurative one as well.
  • Kingdom Hearts III uses chess boards and chess like pieces to show Master Xehanort planning his moves and there is a lot of black and white squares on character's outfits. However the pieces are each one of a kind, topped with a symbol that represents a character (Sora's pieces is topped by his crown, Luxord has his die, etc), and we haven't seen how the pieces move yet.
  • The majority of Hein's special moves in The King of Fighters XIV are named after chess pieces or terminology. Each of the moves tend to reflect the piece they're named after (Pawn is a straightforward slash, Knight has Hein leap over his opponent to deliver a strike, Bishop is a diagonal divekick, Rook has him use his Gravity Master powers to set a trap, which he can manuever around with his Castling follow up, Queen is a multi-hit combo at various angles, and King has him surround himself with a gravitational forcefield).
  • For Silvanoier the chess-lover in Knights in the Nightmare.
  • A Hold Your Hippogriffs variety in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. After pulling a nasty Mind Rape on Atton, Kreia decides he's useful after all and blackmails him into sticking around. When Atton questions why Kreia would bother she simply states that "no game of dejarik [Star Wars chess] can be won without pawns, and this could be a long game indeed."
    • Also used be Goto in regards to Force-user secrecy at the time. "It is like a dejarik board where neither player can see the other... nor see all the pieces."
  • Last Scenario: Most enemies and all bosses in the Black Mausoleum are themed after chess pieces.
  • Lord Fain of Lusternia has an aesthetic that is a cross between Chess Motifs and a Masquerade Ball, courtesy of his manipulative, chessmaster nature and his own iconic crimson mask, or rather, his face. However, it's all obfuscation - everyone is a pawn to Fain, and calling his trusted followers "rooks" and "bishops" is mere flattery designed to ingratiate himself to them.
  • In the Mass Effect 3 "Omega" DLC, General Oleg Petrovsky uses a chessboard to illustrate Aria and Shepard's movements and their progressive assault on the station. Regardless of Petrovsky's fate after the final mission, Aria will gift Shepard with his chessboard as a cabin accessory.
  • Tora from the third Mega Man Battle Network games uses a chess themed Net Navi, KingMan.EXE, and makes chess puns. In battle, KingMan doesn't attack directly, instead relying on three chess piece minions modeled after Pawns, Knights, and Rooks, the exact combination of which he can change at will.
  • President Johnson uses some effective chess analogies during his speech in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
  • MouseHunt: Zugzwang's tower and associated traps. His name is also a chess term.
  • Two of the memories in Myst IV: Revelation pertain to a Légal Trap that Sirrus fell into.
    Sirrus: What kind of a move is that? You had me, father, you totally had me. And now you're leaving your Queen wide open?
  • One of the Nancy Drew games, The Phantom of Venice, uses a chess puzzle in an original way. The central plot of the game is about a ring of criminals who've been stealing priceless Italian artifacts. At one point, Nancy breaks into the private offices of Fango, the ring's Information Broker who gathers data on the group's next heist. Nancy snoops around his computer and discovers that he's an avid chess player—but the games in his log make no logical sense if they're mapped out. It turns out that the matches are actually a secret code that imagines the whole board with a series of letters on twenty-six squares; Fango spells out the addresses of the group's next target this way, and his opponent Scaramuccia, who works as the team's hacker/security system expert, responds by remarking that the chess game reminds her of one she recently saw at some other location. This spot is the drop-off point for the override system that Scaramuccia develops to crack whatever security is guarding the coveted item. Naturally, this turns into a puzzle: Nancy must send the location of a fake heist to set up the ring by playing a game.
  • Pawniard and Bisharp, the Dark / Steel Pokémon from Pokémon Black and White. Their attack strategy is to have the Pawniards gang up on the opponent (like pawns) while Bisharp deals the finishing blow. Notably, this is a case of Woolseyism, since they're also based on Japanese bandits, but since this reference would be lost on overseas players they were given chess associations to make up for it. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet adds a further evolution to the line in the form of Kingambit, which serves as the leader for an entire group of Pawniard and Bisharp.
  • In the sequel to Pokémon Trading Card Game, the Game Center on GR Island has a challenge where you can face a gauntlet of matches to earn coins. Your opponents are based off of chess pieces and are fought in order of ascending strength: Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, and Queen. Interestingly, there’s no King — either because, as per chess rules, a King would be an Anticlimax Boss, or because GR Island as a whole is ruled by King Vilrich.
  • Grandmaster Rodamus from Pokémon Reborn is apparently very good at chess and his gym has you attempt to checkmate the enemy king to get to the next room. He also talks about El putting himself in check when he kidnaps his Gossip Gardevior.
  • Robin and Macaw from Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. They were named Bishop and Rook in the UK.
  • [PROTOTYPE 2]: Rooks' call-sign is "Checkmate" and his lieutenant's is "Castle".
  • The first room in the trippy final level of Prince of Persia 2 is a giant chessboard.
  • In Radiant Historia chess pieces can be worn as stat boosting accessories. Pawn is the first and King is the best.
    • Also, the Black and White Chronicles can be seen as opposing chess masters, trying to outmaneuver the other.
  • Skill Points in Resident Evil 6 are obtained by collecting chess pieces. Higher value pieces are worth more points.
  • Ruphand: An Apothecary's Adventure: The Hidden Library enemies are Chess Golems, with Rooks, Knights, Bishops, and Kings, in Ebon and Argent versions. Pawns are only seen in the Challenge Tower, as Challenger Pawns which vary by color but not in name, and Queens are presumed to exist by Brill.
  • Several puzzles in both The 7th Guest and 11th Hour utilize chess pieces, usually requiring the player to swap the white and black pieces' positions.
  • Shadow Hearts:
    • Koudelka's "Formation" screen opts to depict the three main characters as chess pieces. Koudelka is a Queen, Edward is a Knight, and James is (of course) a Bishop.
    • The Queen's Garden in Covenant has a puzzle around using Chess pieces. The keys to doors are even chess pieces!
  • A battle in Shining Force II takes place on a chess board. The pieces move like regular enemies though.
  • In Silent Bomber, Benoit the final boss uses chess analogies the whole game. Then right before the climactic showdown with him, you fight lots of chess pieces on a chess board in what is probably the hardest moment in the game, except for maybe the fight with Benoit himself
  • Many of Parasol’s attack names in Skullgirls are named after Chess, such as Queen's Gambit.
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm contains a chess metaphor to describe just how far Emperor Arcturus is willing to go to take out Kerrigan—spoken by his own son, who's on a ship being attacked by his father's forces:
    Valerian Mengsk: My father is willing to sacrifice any piece on the chessboard, so long as he takes the queen.
  • In Suikoden Tierkreis, robotic enemies called Pawns start appearing after the battle with Valfred at Rarohenga, followed by more and more robotic enemies as you approach The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, which has nothing but enemies with names like Pawn, Rook, Bishop, and Queen (and some non-robotic Knights). The Final Boss? The One King. Yeah, exactly.
  • Superliminal: With the sheer amount of chess pieces everywhere one must wonder if Dr. Glenn Pierce is some kind of huge chess fan.
  • Just about everything in Tex Murphy: Overseer revolves around chess, due to both the Well-Intentioned Extremist and the Big Bad being chess nuts. The final puzzle of the game is even a chess match where the player is hopelessly out-manouvered and only one sequence of moves can checkmate the enemy king. Which is probably metaphorical as well.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, the Player Character keeps receiving anonymous emails (their sender is later revealed to be Jack) that comment on the recent developments in the main quest exclusively in chess metaphors. Thus, metaphorically, the PC is said to progress from a Pawn to a Queen by the end of the game.
  • The Pegaso set of pins in The World Ends with You does this, with pins like Aqua Pawn, Lightning Rook, Swing Bishop, and Queen's Knight.
  • World of Warcraft has the Chess Event in the original Karazhan raid. It plays sort of like Battle Chess, except the rules of chess really don't apply. Each player in the raid has to assume control of one side of chess pieces, and fight the opposing side (controlled by Mediv, the antagonist of the scenario) and defeat Mediv's king, which in this case, is the strongest piece. Unfortunately, the pieces move with vehicular controls, making it difficult until you get used to it, and Mediv cheats, casting spells at random times to heal or buff his pieces or with damaging magic.
  • Nessiah (who else?) from Yggdra Unison occasionally speaks in chess metaphors.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Quite a few characters in the first case of the second game of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth. Teikun Ō (Fan Translation name: Di-Jun Huang), the president of Zheng Fa, resembles a lion, the "king of animals", and also has the character of king in his name. His bodyguards, Gai Tojiro and Manosuke Naitō (Fan Translation names: Ethan Rooke and Horace Knightley) physically resemble the rook and knight pieces, and have the characters of castle and romanization of knight in their names respectively. Also the rest of the bodyguards are very generic and all look the same, perhaps being "pawns". The diagram for the crime scene uses knight and rook icons for Knightley and Rooke's positions.
    • The game also has a gameplay mechanic called "Logic Chess". When witnesses refuse to talk, Edgeworth must ask the right questions(or remain silent if he doesn't have anything helpful to say) to get them to loosen their tongues, with each question causing him to attack with a chess piece. The more chess pieces an opponent has, the more well-guarded their secret is, and Edgeworth destroys a chess piece for every significant breakthrough he makes until he captures the king.
    • On a less serious note, Miles Edgeworth has a custom-made chessboard, upon which a bunch of red knights with sharp-edged swords surround a spiky-haired blue pawn, symbolizing his fixation with Phoenix Wright.
  • Chess pops up sporadically in Katawa Shoujo, but Hanako's path is the one that makes the most use of this trope. Not only is chess one of her hobbies, it's symbolic of her connection to Hisao. Her Act 3 is called "Castling". Castling is a move in chess that places the Rook and King pieces next to each other. When you consider that the King is a "weak" piece that needs to be defended, and that the Rook is a "stronger" piece, this could be almost directly applied to how their relationship develops within that Act. In fact, the entire path is determined by how much Hisao acts like a White Knight, or, if you're aiming for her good ending, how he does not.
  • The factions respective strategists in Koihime†Musou are often shown playing Xiangqi, the Chinese version of chess. One's skill at Xiangqi is used to demonstrate intelligence and level of strategic ability.
  • Umineko: When They Cry. Beatrice and Battler are involved in a very elaborate game of chess, with the pieces being the other Ushiromiyas, various witches, and the demons they summon. The WMG page has some speculation about which pieces are which. It has extended references to chess pieces and chess terms, and are also used in proper context. The chessboard has also been alluded to when referring to the various games that Beatrice creates. To the meta-players, check and checkmate hold a very special significance in argument. It also helps that Kinzo's favorite game is chess.

  • Cloudscratcher: Alice has a quite a few similarities in role to the Queen, naturally making The Captain the King, Burt and Sally being Rooks and Sogaat a Bishop.
  • Debugging Destiny uses these to represent different characters in the In-Universe simulation. Specifically, the symbols from Omega Chess (which adds the Champion and the Wizard). What piece is used for a character also has meaning:
    • Bishops and Wizards are magical.
    • Rooks and Champions are physical.
    • Knights tend to be tricksy.
    • Pawns are unimportant (usually).
    • The King and Queen are the only symbols with one copy of them.
  • Homestuck: The conflict between Prospit and Derse is essentially a gigantic chess match that gets more complicated with each prototyping. This spoileriffic video shows it best. See also Vimes above. This explains why PM gets her Awesome Moment of Crowning as a reward for making it all the way to Derse and back on her mission. She was a pawn that got promoted to a queen, a legitimate rule in chess if the pawn manages to reach the opposite side of the board.
  • Hoofstuck: Golden Rule’s legs are segmented in such a way as to evoke the base of a chess piece. She also has a sort of sweeping collar/neckline and a simple white crown, all driving home playing piece imagery.
  • S.S.D.D.: The different classes of Inlay are named after chess pieces; pawns are Action Bombs, bishops serve as heavy assault troops and have a thing for evisceration, rooks are like tanks, knights seem to be some kind of special forces (and are smarter than most units), and the few kings are field commanders. Inlay "queens" don't technically exist but the AI running the fabricator plants that build Inlay chassis are occasionally referred to as queens.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In "K'Z'K", Bun-bun plays at being The Chessmaster — not that successfully — with a chessboard with carved figures representing the characters involved. Zoe then manages to trick him into getting involved and gleefully indulges in a bit of her own chess motifs by acknowledging how she forced a powerful "piece" into position to take out their foe.
    • In "Full House,"note  the heroes use chess codenames in their secret operations: pawns are various people without much of a theme, the rooks are two allies that supply resources, the knights are two computer hackers, bishops are, well, maybe people in charge of getting others onboard or something, the king is Riff ("our best hope and the biggest target of the other side"), and the queen is Oasis, who is unstable but absolutely deadly and the most important piece in the plan.
  • Zokusho Comics: Spoofed when Akira is explaining his plan to take down a fortress full of goblins to his team using chess pieces.
    Raz: That's your piece?
    Akira: Yeah?
    Raz: Ha! You're a queen.
    Akira: Now you're a queen.

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: In the Sleepwalker arc, Linkara is shown playing chess against himself. This is actually part of him being possessed by the Entity, which is playing elaborate games instead of using its vast power to actually act on its threats because it fears the futility of its own purpose.
  • Berserk Abridged: Charlotte asking Griffith how he sees the other Hawks, and he says that they are (paraphrased) "like those pieces in chess which aren't that useful, but later in the game you can sacrifice them to bring a more important piece back to live" (i.e. pawns).
  • Hands of Chaos: Morkeal's minions are named after chess pieces — but there isn't one called a "king," presumably because Morkeal is the "king."
  • Hotel Haven: The round challenge is a giant game of chess of death (literally) with life size players.
  • HvH MUGEN: The strongest chess piece is the queen. In VQM, Queen Nila demonstrates just how powerful she is. Even Gill is afraid of her.
  • lonelygirl15: Jennie uses chess pieces to illustrate a military strategy in "Cold War Revisited".
  • NES Godzilla Creepypasta: In the sequel, the player comes across a chess-themed level where he must find and capture a king to win... said King looks a lot like King Harkinian.
  • SCP Foundation: The Black Queen, a GOI character, is, quite obviously, representative of the black queen in chess, and many different expansions for her group use other pieces as well.
  • Tribe Twelve presents the Collective with each member represented by a chess piece.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Both Ozpin and Salem use chess motifs to allude to their long-running Secret War.
    • Ozpin's academy initiation involves students travelling through a dangerous forest to locate 'relics' in the form of chess pieces; when Qrow cryptically texts 'Queen has pawns' to Ozpin, he's referring to Cinder's forces in Vale, who are carrying out Salem's plan against Beacon. Ozpin's relic hunt foreshadows the later reveal that the four Huntsmen Academies protect four ancient, divine Relics from Salem. Salem's Volume 3 reveal also makes it clear that she treats Ozpin as the White King: she believes that defeating him wins her the game, a belief explored in Volume 6 through Jinn's vision, where Oz is revealed to be all that stands between Salem and the destruction of the world.
    • Salem uses the Black Queen as her Calling Card. When Cinder infects Beacon's computer network with Watts' virus, the hack leaves behind the image of a black queen chess piece. The way this image is used to symbolise Salem's reach during the Battle of Beacon and her ability to destroy even the air superiority of Atlas's military due to the hacked network, haunts Ironwood. Cinder exploits this in Volume 7 by leaving a glass black queen on Ironwood's office desk, triggering his PTSD and sending him into a spiral of doubt and fear that leads to him taking such draconian action to prepare his kingdom for the arrival of Salem's forces that he and the heroes end up turning on each other.
    • The volume 8 intro shows the battle between Salem's forces and Atlas' army playing out on a chess board. Salem and Ironwood are the only two characters on the board, with Salem standing next to the Black Queen (her symbol) on the Black King's square and Ironwood standing next to the White King on the White Queen's square; the pieces and chessboard are destroyed, leaving Ironwood all alone. Salem is normally the Black Queen but gets put into check by Oscar as if she's the Black King, while Ironwood behaves like the White King because he squanders the power of the White Queen, causing all of his allies to abandon him.

    Western Animation 
  • Alfred J. Kwak: The White Queen feels constrained on the chessboard, despite being the only piece able to move in any direction, and so asks Alfred to show her the world outside.
  • In Amphibia, the local equivelant of chess is known as Flipwart, though Marcy insists that it's quite different. The rules aren't known, but it's considered a sophisticated strategy game. It comes up several times in the show;
    • Grime compliments Sasha's skill in predicting Anne's movements by saying that she's "playing flipwart while everyone else is playing bog jump". The reference is lost to her, and he has to awkwardly explain it.
    • The final challenge in the temple representing Intelligence is a game of flipwart, with the twist that the temple cheats, and the only way to win is to give up.
    • Marcy brags that she is the only one who has beaten king Andrias at the game. This turns out to be why the Core, a Mind Hive of Andrias' ancestors, wants to use her as its host and latest assimilee. Whether she wants to or not.
    • In "True Colors", the Awful Truth is revealed and Andrias gloats that Marcy shouldn't have poured her heart out to him over a game of flipwart.
  • The chess equivalent in Avatar: The Last Airbender is Pai Sho. A parallel can be drawn between Iroh — an old, overweight, disgraced ex-prince — and his favorite playing piece, the White Lotus. Most people consider it weak and of little value, but can be cleverly used to create an unexpected strategy.
  • In a Batman: The Animated Series episode, the Riddler trapped Batman in a virtual reality simulator. At one point, Riddler had Batman chase him across a giant chessboard, only to have the squares slowly disappear beneath Batman's feet. Robin deduced that Riddler was playing with Batman's nickname The Dark Knight, and that in order to avoid disappearing squares, Batman had to move like a knight; two forward, one to the side.
  • In Episode 3 of Beware the Batman, a villain called Anarky challenges Batman via two not-so-bright artists. After a game of chess with Bruce, Alfred remarks the two thugs are pawns and Anarky, who is dressed fully in white, later remarks that he and Batman are the kings of their respective colours.
  • The Betty Boop cartoon "Chess-Nuts" has chess pieces morph into our characters including Bimbo as the White King and Betty Boop as the Black Queen; unfortunately, the Black King, Old King Cole kidnaps Betty and tries to force her to love him.
  • In an episode of Danny Phantom, Vlad Plasmius used Danny, Valerie and the Fright Knight to help him defeat Pariah Dark, ruler of the Ghost Zone and steal Jack Fenton's power suit. When Danny confronted Vlad, he simply retorts, (paraphrased) "What, you mean using a couple of teen-aged pawns to turn a Knight and topple a King? It's chess dear boy, of course you don't know. But then you never really did."
  • The Fillmore! episode "Of Slain Kings on Checkered Fields" centers around chess-playing Bad Boy Check Matey receiving death threats.
  • Repeatedly parodied in Futurama.
  • In Gargoyles, Xanatos and Fox play both a literal and figurative game of chess with the clan (pieces belong to Fox) and a group of bad guys known as the Pack (played by Xanatos) because they can (their inclusion in the story serves very little to the plot). The figurative and literal games seem to take a turn favoring Xanatos, when Fox tells him not to be so certain. Cue a public service announcement sponsored by Fox that, through clever drops of the right words, leads the clan to the location of a captured Goliath, Hudson, and Bronx thus defeating the Pack. Off screen, Fox makes a move that places Xanatos in checkmate.
  • White Knight and Black Knight in Generator Rex. Black Knight even has her personal army of Black Pawns.
  • In Gravity Falls, a flashback shows the Author and the Big Bad Bill Cipher playing a game of chess when they first meet, with the former playing the white side and Bill black. Bill starts the game by immediately cheating and going first,note  and the Author responds by moving his queen in front of the pawns.
  • Miss Censordoll from Moral Orel has a miniature model of Moralton and its inhabitants so she can evoke this trope. Also to play God.
  • Rupert and Bill in Gameland.
  • The Simpsons has this exchange:
    Bart: Hey Lisa, what do you call those guys in chess that don't matter?
    Lisa: Well, a blockaded bishop is of little value... but I think you're referring to a pawn.
    Bart: I am a pawn.
    • Also this one:
      Bart: Lis, Skinner's using you like a pawn in his unholy chess set.
      Homer: In my chess set, the pawns are all Hamburglars.
  • Teen Titans (2003): During the climax of season five's Story Arc, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah play a game of chess. Mallah represents the Titans, the Brain represents... well, himself. The game is frighteningly accurate as to how everything goes down.
  • At one point in Young Justice (2010), Arsenal refers to Deathstroke as a pawn of the villains. Luthor corrects him, saying that Deathstroke is "more of a bishop actually."

    Real Life 
  • The branch insignia for US Army Psychological Operations is a knight chess piece, presumably because the goal of PSYOPS is to "skip over" the enemy's "pieces" by convincing them not to fight.
  • English has a number of idioms and words derived from chess, but the most impressive has to be the word "check", all of whose uses derive from chess. A king in check is under serious restrictions, and so is a person or thing "kept in check". From this usage came things like "checkpoint" and "checking your hat at the door", and from that came the notion the when you examine something, you "check on it" or "check it out". Meanwhile, the pattern of the chessboard gives us the word "checkered", and from that, the name of checkers. On other branches of the etymological tree are "cheque"/"check" (as in, the thing that's in the mail right now, I swear) (because accounting in the old days would often be done on a checkered cloth—why do you think the British finance minister is called the Chancellor of the Exchequer?).
    • So does German (like Hängepartie, Bauernopfer or Zugzwang), and they are more often used incorrect than correct.
  • Infantry refer to themselves as the "Queen of Battle", meaning that they are able to go anywhere, and do anything. When you factor APCs and Helicopters taking them to where you need them, this does become a very true statement.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Chess Motif


Fortstopher IV

Fortstopher IV lurks in the depths of the world born from Cal's heart, embodying his warped emotions. This Negati is made from two parts that make up the whole, and he attacks by shooting chess pieces and missiles.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChessMotifs

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