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Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Musicians and Chess

Jon Anderson (1944- ), former lead vocalist of Yes, is a chess player. In 1971, he wrote the lyrics to Your Move, which was included in The Yes Album. The song uses various allusions to the game of chess.

Paul Badura-Skoda (1927- ), an Austrian pianist, is a chess player who wrote that chess was his main passion. He mentions chess in his book, Interpreting Bach at the Keyboard. He and his wife both play chess.

Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) was an English conductor associated with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic. He was highly proficient at chess and carried a small chess board with him on many occasions. He learned chess from George Morley, a harp-maker.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), the German composer and pianist, was a chess player. He was a good friend of Johann Maelzel, the builder of one of the first chess automatons.

Tony Blackburn (1943- ) began his career as a singer (Tony Blackburn and the Rovers), then became a British disc jockey. He is also a chess player, who passed the time on his pirate station ship Mi Amigo, playing chess.

Art Blakey (1919-1990) was a jazz drummer and bandleader. One of his songs was called “The Chess Players.”

Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) was an English composer and conductor.He wrote a ballet for chess, called checkmate.

Bono (1960- ), or Paul David Hewson, is an Irish singer and the primary vocalist and lyricist for the rock band U2. When he grew up, he wanted to be a professional chess player and studied many of the grandmaster games. He learned the game of chess from his father around age 12, during the Fischer-Spassky world championship match. Bono was the chess champion of his school. When he became interested in music, chess took a back seat.

Sonny Bono (1935-1998), of Sonny & Cher, was a chess player. Cher was also a chess player. Sonny played chess with a few guests on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in the early 1970s.

Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) was a Russian composer, doctor, and chemistry professor. He was also a chess player.

Chris Botti (1962- ) is an American trumpeter and composer. He was once offered an Honorary Board membership to FIDE, the World Chess Federation. He has played against Garry Kasparov. Botti has also played chess with Sting.

David Bowie (1947- ) is an English musician and chess player. His love of chess is well documented. During the making of the movie, The Hunger, Bowie played chess with co-star Catherine Deneuve. (see picture above)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a German composer and pianist. He played chess with Robert Schumann.

Anthony Braxton (1945- ) is an American musician who has released over 100 albums since the 1960s. For a time in the 1960s, he gave up music and became a professional chess hustler, playing in Washington Square Park in New York. He has lectured on the connections between chess, math, and music. He discovered that literature, chess, and music were antidotes to his feelings of alienation.

Adolf Brodsky (1851-1929) was a violinist and the conductor of the Halle Orchestra and Principal of the Manchester College of Music. He was a first-class chess player.

Clifford Brown (1930-1956), an American jazz trumpeter, was a chess player and had an interest in mathematics. He called chess his only vice.

John Cage (1912-1992) was an American composer. He took lessons and played chess with the artist, Marcel Duchamp, and with Duchamp’s wife, Teeny. In 1944, he recorded a piano sonata called Chess Pieces. He always carried around a magnetic chess set and could be found playing chess with anyone who would give him a game. In 1972, at the age of 60, he took chess lessons from John Collins. He contributed money to various chess organizations.

Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) was an Italian tenor opera singer. He took chess lessons from the Yugoslav master Boris Kostic (1887-1963).

Pablo Casals (1876-1973) was a Catalan cellist. He often played chess.

Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) was a Russian opera singer. Chess was one of his diversions.

Ray Charles (1930-2004) was a blind musician (born Ray Charles Robinson) who learned chess in 1965 after being busted twice and hospitalized for heroin addiction. He learned chess in the hospital where he went cold turkey after 17 years of drug use. He used a peg set made for the blind. He appeared on the cover of Chess Life in September 2002 and was interviewed by Larry Evans after a game of chess. Ray Charles stated that chess was his favorite game. One of his chess opponents was Willie Nelson, who mentioned Ray Charles’ chess skills at his funeral. He also played chess with Dizzy Gillespie. In the film, Ray, there is a scene of Ray Charles playing chess in the hospital with the doctor while recovering from his addiction. He often played chess against fellow band members. His chess set was displayed in the Rock and roll Hall of Fame.

Cher (1946- ), or Cherilyn Sarkisian, is an American singer and actress, and was part of Sonny & Cher. She plays chess.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He was a chess player and often played chess with other pianists and composers.

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), was an American musician who formed the band Nirvana. He was an avid chess player. He once carved his own chess set. He once mentioned that he hadn’t been writing too much music because he was playing so much chess.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was an occultist who made black magic recordings and appeared on the cover of the Beatles album, Sergeant Pepper.. He was a member of the Cambridge University chess club and tried to become a chess master. However, he became preoccupied with occultism, and game up on the idea of becoming a chess champion. In 1897, his visit to an international chess tournament in Berlin convinced him not to play serious chess after seeing the shabby and poor chess masters.

DJ Green Lantern (1975- ), or James D’Agostino is a Hip Hop DJ and music producer. He is a chess player and has sponsored chess tournaments.

Bobby Darin (1936-1973) was an American singer who loved to play chess. He was about to sponsor one of the largest chess tournaments in the United States when he died after heart surgery. The Darin Classic would have been a $25,000 prize tournament. Darin often played chess on his weekly TV show, the Bobby Darin Show.

Neil Diamond (1941- ) is an American singer-songwriter. He is an avid chess player. He went to the same high school, Erasmus Hall High School, as Bobby Fischer

Dilated Peoples is an American hip hop group. One of its members, Rakaa Iriscience (Rakaa Taylor), is an avid chess player.

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) was a Czech composer. He was a chess player.

Bob Dylan (1941- ) is an American musician and singer-songwriter. He is an avid chess player who used to play chess for hours at the Café Figaro in Greenwich Village in New York.

Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) was a prolific Austrian composer and chess player

Mischa Elman (1891-1967) was a Russian violinist. He often played chess with Sergei Prokofiev and other notables. He was elected an honorary member of the Brooklyn Chess Club in the early 20th century.

Ferenc Erkel (1810-1893) was a Hungarian composer, conductor, and pianist. He was president of the first Hungarian chess organization in 1864. He was an internationally acknowledged chess player.

Adam Faith (1940-2003) was a British rock and roll singer. He was an avid chess player.

Eddie Fisher (1928-2010) was an American singer. He played chess and was able to beat Artie Shaw.

Richard “Kinky” Friedman (1944- ) is a Texas singer and songwriter. In 1952, at the age of 7, he played Samuel Reshevsky in a chess simul. He has played and beaten Willie Nelson.

John “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993) was an American jazz trumpeter and bandleader. He was an avid chess player and played correspondence chess. He played chess with Ray Charles and had a winning record with Charlie Parker. He defeated U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren in 1954 during an airplane ride together.

Gerry Goffin (1939- ) is an American lyricist. He is a chess player and has played in a few chess tournaments.

Alexander Goldenweiser (1875-1961) was a Russian pianist and composer. He once defeated Mikail Chigorin in a game, played in Moscow in 1900. He also played chess with Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910).

Sir Charles Halle (1819-1895) was an Anglo-German pianist and composer. He enjoyed a game of chess.

Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) was a songwriter, producer, and director. He was an avid chess player.

Jerry Harrison (1049- ) is an American songwriter jazz pianist living in Beverly Hills. He is a chess player.

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) was an American jazz singer. She played chess with Dizzy Gillespie.

Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) was an American classical pianist and composer. He played chess with Isaac Stern. Horowitz played for fun and was not a particularly skilled chess player.

Bruce Robert Howard (Dr. Robert) is the lead singer and guitarist of The Blow Monkeys, a British New Wave rock group.

Immortal Technique (1978- ), or Felipe Coronel, is a Peruvian born American rapper. He is a chess player and supports the Hip Hop Chess Federation.

Jay Z (1969- ), or Shawn Carter, is an American rapper. He learned chess from his father and has promoted the game by sponsoring tournaments.

Jefferson Airplane was an American rock band formed in San Francisco in 1965. One of their songs, “White Rabbit,” sung by Grace Slick, refers to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and chess. International Master Kim Commons gave chess lessons to the entire Jefferson Airplane members.

Nic Jones (1947- ) is an English folk singer. He developed a passion for playing chess.

Leo Kahn (1909-1996) was Polish-born American violinist. He was chess aficionado and was on the board of directors of the Manhattan Chess Club.

Fritz Kreisler (1865-1962) was an Austrian-born violinist and composer. He was a chess player and played chess with other musicians.

Gene Krupa (1909-1973) was an American jazz and big band drummer. He was a chess player.

John Lennon (1940-1980), one of the Beatles, was a chess player, along with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Sean Lennon (1975- ) is an American musician and composer. He enjoys chess and has played a lot of chess in Washington Square Park in New York. His mother, Yoko Ono, used to beat him at chess, so he secretly took chess lessons.

John Lill (1944- ) is am English classical pianist. He is a chess player.

LL Cool J (1968- ), or James Todd Smith, is an American rapper. He is an avid chess fan.

Ludacris (1977- ) or Christopher Bridges, is an American rapper. He is a chess player.

Phil Lynott (1949-1986), was a founding member of Thin Lizzy. He was a chess player.

Lorin Maazel (1930- ) is an American conductor, violinist, and composer. His father taught him chess.

Madonna (1958- ), or Madonna Louise Ciccone, is an American singer-songwriter. Chess is featured in some of her videos. She was tutored in chess by Alan Norris, a Scottish chess champion.

Johnny Marks (1909-1985) was an American songwriter (Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer). He was a member of the Marshall Chess Club in New York for many years.

Wynton Marsalis (1961- ) is an American trumpeter. He has played chess with Grandmaster Maurice Ashley. He has supported chess events in Harlem.

Dean Martin (1917-1995) was an American singer. Claude Akins (1926-1993) taught chess to Dean Martin.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor. He was also an accomplished chess player.

Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) was an American violinist and conductor. Louis Persinger gave Menuhin violin and chess lessons at an early age. After a recital at the Paris Opera, 12-year-old Menuhin gave interviews while playing chess.

Dominic Miller (1960- ) is an Argentine-English guitarist who has worked with dozens of musicians. He has played chess against Garry Kasparov.

Joni Mitchell (1943- ) is a Canadian musician, singer, and songwriter. She plays chess.

Moby (1965- ), or Richard Melville Hall, is an American singer and songwriter. He is a chess player.

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was a Russian composer. He was a chess player.

Graham Nash (1942- ) of Crosby, Stills & Nash, plays chess. He participated in a celebrity chess tournament in Mazatlan, Mexico in 1988 and played Helen Reddy.

Nelly (1974- ), or Cornell Haynes, Jr. is an American rapper. In an interview, he mentioned that he played chess.

Willie Nelson (1933- ) is an American country singer and songwriter. He played a lot of chess with Ray Charles, who was better than Willie, even though Ray was blind.

David Oistrakh (1908-1974) was a renowned Soviet classical violinist. He was very fond of chess. He would spend several hours a day playing chess. He played many chess games with Sergei Prokofiev.

Yoko Ono (1933- ), was the wife of John Lennon and a musician. She has sponsored chess tournaments and plays the game of chess.

Elaine Paige (1948- ) is an English singer. She is a chess player.

Charlie Parker (1920-1955) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He was an avid chess player. He played chess with Dizzy Gillespie.

Louis Persinger (1887-1966) was one of the greatest violinists who ever lived. He played chess against David Oistrakh and Louis Persinger. In 1941, he won the first USCF Open postal chess chournament.

Francois-Andre Danican Philidor (1726-1795) was a French composer (Tom Jones) and the strongest chess player in the world during his lifetime.

Phish is an American rock band whose members play chess. In one concert, the band challenged its audience to two games of chess. Phish won one game and the audience won the other.

Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976), a Russian cellist, sponsored two Piatigorsky Chess Cups. His wife played in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship several times.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He was an avid chess player, around master strength. He beat Capablanca in a simul. He always had a chess set on his piano, ready to play anyone at chess.

Jason Rebello (1969- ) is a British jazz pianist and a band member of Sting. He has played Garry Kasparov in a game of chess.

Helen Reddy (1941- ) is an Australian American singer (“I Am Woman”). She plays chess. She played Graham Nash in a celebrity chess tournament in 1988.

Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012) was an American violinist. He was a chess player.

Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) was a Soviet pianist and a chess fanatic.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer (Flight of the Bumblebee). He was a chess player.

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was an African-American singer. He was a chess player.

Moriz Rosentthal (1862-1946) was a Polish pianist. He was a chess player. He played chess often and for long periods of time. Chess was his favorite game.

Leon Rosselson (1934- ) is an English songwriter. Some of his children’s books that he has written mentions chess.

Giochino Rossini (1792-1868) was an Italian composer (The Barber of Seville). He was a chess player.

David Lee Roth (1955- ) is an American rock vocalist and songwriter. He was the former Van Halen front man. He took a few chess lessons at the Chess Forum in New York.

Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982) was a Polish-American classical pianist. He had a love for chess.

RZA (1969- ), or Robert Diggs, is an American rapper, and one of the founders of the Wu-Tang Clan. He is a huge chess fan.

Ernest Schelling (1876-1939) was an American pianist, composer, and conductor. He often played chess with Fritz Kreisler.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a German composer. He was an avid chess player. He added a few chess puzzles in his diary. He taught Johannes Brahms how to play chess.

Ronnie Scott (1927-1996) was an English jazz tenor and saxophonist. He was a chess player and played guests at his jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s.

Artie Shaw (1910-2004) was an American clarinetist, composer, and bandleader. He played chess with Grandmaster Larry Evans. He was married to Ava Gardner and hired a chess master to teach her chess in 1946.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was a Soviet pianist and composer. He loved chess and collected chess problems from newspapers and tried to solve them. He learned the game around age 9.

Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) was an American singer. He played and enjoyed chess. He had his own chess pieces made for him. Humphrey Bogart got Sinatra interested in chess. He played chess with Grandmaster Walter Browne in Las Vegas.

Grace Slick (1939- ) was a singer and songwriter for Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. She played chess and took chess lessons from International Master Kim Commons.

Will Smith (1968- ) is an American rapper and actor. He received chess lessons from Chicago’s National Master Marvin Dandridge. Smith learned chess from his father at age 7.

Ringo Starr (1940- ) was the drummer for the Beatles. He claimed to have learned to play chess during the tedious recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band. During breaks in the music studio, he played chess with one of the engineers. He had a chess set modeled on his hands and fingers. The set sold for $36,000.

Isaac Stern (1920-2001) was a Polish-born violinist and conductor. He played chess with Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall.

Sticky Fingaz (1973- ), or Kirk Jones, is an American rapper. He likes to play chess.

Sting (1951- ), or Gordon Sumner, is an English musician and previous band member of The Police. He has played chess with Kasparov. Sting is an avid chess player. Sting’s estate in France has a giant chess board in the grounds.

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was a leading German composer. He once played Edward Lasker.

Mark Taimanov (1926- ) is a concert pianist and a Soviet grandmaster.

Bjorn Ulvaeus (1945- ), a former member of ABBA, plays chess.

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was an Italian composer known for his operas. He was a chess player.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a Brazilian composer. His usual custom was to invite a friend over every night for a game o chess, followed by dinner.

West Indian Girl is a rock band from Los Angeles. Its members play chess and became involved in the India Rock Chess Federation. Their coach is International Master Jeremy Silman.

Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) was an American bandleader and orchestral director. He was known as the King of Jazz. He was an avid chess player.

Rudolf Heinrich Willmers (1821-1878) was a Viennese pianist and composer. He also composed chess problems. He won several problem chess tournaments.

Wu-Tang Clan is an American hip hop group. They are active in chess activities and promote the game. Its founder, RZA, won the first Hip-Hop Chess Federation championship.



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