Hot romance amid the Cold War

Gugu Sibiya

Gugu Sibiya

Chess, the romantic story set against the backdrop of the Cold War, premiers at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino on March 22 and runs until May 25.

It will then move to the Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town.

Set during the Cold War, Chess involves a romantic triangle between two players in a world chess championship, and the woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. Although the protagonists were not intended to represent any specific individuals, the characters' personalities are loosely based on those of Victor Korchnoi and Bobby Fischer.

The show is not so much about the game of chess, but rather about how the Cold War affected the lives of those it touched.

Freddie, an American, is supported by Florence. During the course of the championship, Florence falls in love with the Russian Anatoly, and leaves Freddie. This sets off a sequence of events that tear Anatoly from his wife Svetlana and his manager Molokov, who happens to be connected to the KGB.

Who wins the world chess championship? Do the politics of the Cold War have the last say? Chess is very dark, portraying a world where you can trust no one and love cannot survive.

From the Alpine heights of Merano, Italy, to the sultry heat of Bangkok, Thailand, Anatoly and Freddie find themselves swept towards the show's climactic conclusion.

Tim Rice teamed up with Abba's Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus in 1984 and following the formula of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, a concept album of Chess was recorded.

The cast for the album included Elaine Paige as Florence, Barbara Dickson as Svetlana, Tommy Korberg as Anatoly and Murray Head as Freddie. The Chess album contained the chart-topping hits One Night in Bangkok (sung by Murray Head) and I Know Him so Well (sung by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson).

Chess debuted on the London stage in 1986 and played for three years.