Chess champion Garry Kasparov lost to the chess-playing computer program Deep Blue in 1997. In Jonah Bleicher’s short film THE KING’S PAWN, a vindictive chess prodigy has spent the past 12 years as a computer programmer training a computer-chess program. He finally has the chance to challenge his one-time opponent, but this time from behind the scenes. Director Jonah Bleicher is a graduate of Columbia University School of the Arts where he received his MFA in film.
Bleicher worked with Dr. Eli Vovsha to make THE KING’S PAWN. A computer science PhD candidate at Columbia, Dr. Vovsha was, according to Bleicher, someone with a “very clear understanding of how these period computers worked, and on the other hand he was also ranked ‘International Master’ in chess. Eli was very interested in the filmmaking process. He told me he thought very few films got chess right. He was very involved in all stages of [THE KING’S PAWN], and even designed a realistic fictional game of chess to correspond with the dramatic beats I needed for the film. He was on set for most of the shooting helping me instruct the actors on the thought process of chess players.”
THE KING’S PAWN is available for streaming in its entirety below and will henceforth be available in the growing library of Sloan-supported short films:
Director Jonah Bleicher received a $30,000 production award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to make the film. Sloan has a partnership with Columbia University to challenge students to tackle science and technology themes and characters in their work.
For more about computer chess and the field of artificial intelligence, Science & Film interviewed computer scientist Clare Congdon about Andrew Bujalski’s satire COMPUTER CHESS.