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What makes chess unique among all games throughout human history?

That’s just one of the thought-provoking questions explored in a new four-part documentary series produced by Ideas Roadshow called Through the Mirror of Chess: a Cultural Exploration.

It’s a wide-ranging master class into the game’s impact on culture, art, science and sport. Using interviews, imagery and snippets of chess games, the films are among the most comprehensive examples of chess exploration in documentary format.

The series was created and produced by Howard Burton, whose diverse career includes acting as the founding executive director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo. Irena Burton is the series’ senior editor.

Burton considers the possibility that chess is unique because of its origins as a warlike game, its enormous complexity and the fact that no luck is involved in playing. But other games, such as the ancient game of Go invented in China more than 2,500 years ago, have all those characteristics too.

He concludes chess owes its uniqueness to play that requires simultaneous manipulation of a wide range of pieces with different powers, a feature lacking in other complex war games.

The series is available on Vimeo and the Ideas Roadshow app.

Paul Morphy v. Duke of Brunswick and Comte Isouard, Paris, 1858

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How does White end the game?

White played 15.Bxd7+ Nxd7 16.Qb8+ Nxb8 17.Rd8 mate, one of the immortal games featured in the Ideas Roadshow documentary.

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