Chess and Music

Edward Winter


Anthony Santasiere, Chess Review, April 1943, page 111

The following non-exhaustive list of items about chess and music in older chess periodicals intentionally leaves aside the innumerable articles on Philidor.


‘Chess and Music. P.P. Sabouroff, who was once president of the Pan-Russian Chess Federation, and also of the Petrograd Chess Club, has composed a Love Symphony for big orchestra, which was played for the first time on 6 May in the “Concert Classique” at Monte Carlo and proved a great success.

The Scherzo (third part) of the symphony is called “Simultaneous Games of Chess”.’

saburov sabouroff

Peter Petrovich Saburov (Sabouroff), American Chess Bulletin, November 1911, page 246

‘... chess has much to recommend it to the notice of practical musicians and composers. For instance, the mental alertness, the rapid decision, the almost instantaneous abandonment of a preconceived plan in order to counter-act an unexpected move on the part of an opponent or to profit by any observed peculiarity in the play of the lat[t]er, would be but familiar procedures or conditions to, let us say, organ recitalists accustomed as they are, or should be, to vary registration, tempo and even style to meet the exigencies or defects of a strange building or unfamiliar instrument.’

‘From The Road to Music by Nicolas Slonimsky (Dodd, Mead and Company) we find a curious bit of chessiana.

“Also in a humorous vein are such musical pieces as A Chess Game, in which chess moves are imitated by melodic intervals. The pawn moves two spaces, and the melody moves two degrees of the scale. The knight jumps obliquely, as knights do in chess, and the melody moves an augmented fourth up. When the bishop dashes off on a diagonal, the music imitates the move by a rapid scale passage. Play this piece for a chess expert, and the chances are he will name the moves without a slip.”’


Finally, we mention that two musical scores (‘Schach-Marsch’ by F. Kerkhoff and ‘Schach-Walzer’ by C. Noack) took up 11 pages of the Barmen, 1905 tournament book. They were performed in Barmen on 16 August 1905, i.e. during a presentation of Richard Genée’s Der Seekadett. This operetta, which gave its name to the ‘Sea Cadet Mate’, began with a Prologue recited by Frau Adolf Keller attired as Caissa:


Regarding Mischa Elman, Moriz Rosenthal and other musicians, see pages 222-224 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters by Edward Lasker (New York, 1951). Rosenthal was discussed too in C.N.s 6171 and 6184.

Pages 254-255 of CHESS, August 1951 reproduced the score of the FIDE Anthem, with music by Count dal Verme (1908-1985) and words by Marcel Berman (1895-1960).

fide anthem


An article ‘Chess and Music’ by D.G. McIntyre was published in the March 1958 South African Chessplayer and reproduced on pages 154-155 of the October 1984 issue.

Wijnand Engelkes (Zeist, the Netherlands) points out the score and text of a march written in honour of Max Euwe.


Pages 17-20 of the Brooklyn Chess Chronicle, 15 November 1884 published Ai Scacchisti Americani, Una Lagrima Sulla Tomba dell’immortale Scacchista Americano, Paolo Morphy by Giuseppe Liberali:






The photograph of Loman from this page of The Tatler, which was provided by Gerard Killoran (Ilkley, England), was shown in C.N. 10362:


Myron Samsin (Winnipeg, Canada) owns an LP record featuring music composed by André Danican Philidor (1652-1730), the chess master’s father (known as Philidor l’aîné and Philidor le père):


The reverse of the record sleeve has the following note (with an incorrect year of birth for the composer):


For information about la dynastie des Philidor two particularly detailed books are François André Danican Philidor. La culture échiquéenne en France et en Angleterre au XVIIIe siècle by Sergio Boffa (Olomouc, 2010) and Les Philidor by Nicolas Dupont-Danican Philidor (Bourg-la-Reine, 1997).


Information is sought by Avital Pilpel (Haifa, Israel) about a musical entitled Șah Mat (‘Checkmate’). It was an Israeli production in Romanian, and an advertisement in the National Library of Israel’s collection of posters and other ephemera states that the opening night was on 30 September 1967 at the Ohel Shem Theatre in Tel Aviv.


There are further references to music in the Factfinder. See too our feature article Sergei Prokofiev and Chess.

Latest update: 15 March 2020.

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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.