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Chess State: The Movie Print E-mail
By Betsy Dynako   
February 9, 2015
Chess movie alert! A new chess documentary, "Chess State," drops on February 10. The film had an advanced screening at the end of last year, and will be released digitially later this month.

CHESS STATE - Official First Trailer from Chess State on Vimeo.

"Chess State" is the brain child of videographer and second-time documentary creator Rick (The Beard) Rysso. Between the years of 2007-2013 he worked in Illinois for Naperville Community Television. His main task was to shoot and edit Naperville High School sports for a weekly sports show. In 2010 he was sent out to cover the chess teams of Neuqua Valley and Naperville North High Schools. Though this assignment was outside of a sports reporter’s comfort zone, Rysso was pleasantly surprised to learn that his report was going to practically write itself.  He shared, “When interviewing the players, I was impressed and excited that they could re-tell key moments in the match by looking at their notation or not. . .  I know very little if nothing about chess strategy so they basically told me the key moves and the result of those moves.”

This first report was well received, and it turned into weekly updates as the high school team chess season in Illinois progressed. Rysso followed his local teams down to the final tournament of the year, the Illinois High School Association Team Chess Championship. Looking back Rysso recalled, “I was blown away by the state tournament the first time I went in 2010.  My high school didn't have a team so I think that's what made the high school chess scene even more fascinating.  I knew I could tell a really unique story, and I was so confident it would be appealing to even the non-chess enthusiast.”
Rick Rysso

With the full support of Naperville Community Television, Rysso spent more than three years covering the high school chess scene in Illinois to create the "Chess State" documentary. Rysso said, “ It's been my mantra all along as a sports journalist that the event itself would be the main source of drama. I edit a player talking about the matches in a way that is understandable. Someone who knows nothing about chess strategy can understand, 'going down a pawn,' 'attacking on the king side,' 'losing a piece,' 'active play,' 'time trouble.' " 


For the chess enthusiast, Rysso serves up amazing eye candy with cutting edge graphics intermixed with live game footage. In addition, Rysso also takes the time to share the rich history of chess in Illinois, the depths of which will likely surprise you.  Another element of this film, which for me is the most intriguing, are the various character studies. Instead of focusing in on just a couple of key players, viewers are treated to a kaleidoscope of characters. While the drama comes from the chess matches, the depth unfolds through the personalities of the people to whom we are introduced This makes a chess-heavy film accessible to those who do not have an inherent interest in the game.

This is a chess documentary that has something for everyone: history, drama, suspense, and more. Proponents of the benefits of chess for young people will find this film inspiring and may even use the film to help them found a club or team in their local school.
GM Yury Shulman

People in the film who you may recognize include: Grandmaster Yury Shulman; Grandmaster Mesgen Amanov; University of Illinois chess team founders Eric Rosen and Michael Auger; National Tournament Director Michael Zacate; poker star Scott Abrams; and many players such as Aakaash Meduri, Saagar Gupta, and Sam Schmakel.
TD Michael Zacate

Find more info on "Chess State" at http://chessstate.com/