An Exploration of Music, Ballet and Chess
by Jason Kouchak

Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.
—Siegbert Tarrasch, The Game of Chess (1931)

Music is my first love and I have always had an affinity for chess, a sense of harmony and the similarities between music, ballet and chess. It is a combination to inspire and inform children of the importance of coordinating together and moving forward in the future.

I started to promote chess through music in 2012 by performing at the London Chess Classic opening ceremony. In 2015 I established the concept Queen's Journey to encourage particularly more women and girls to play chess. Through music, ballet and chess the Queen's Journey educates and entertains in equal measures. In addition to being a fun and social activity, chess improves the players' generic life skills by developing their logical thinking, situational awareness and planning ahead, as well as their communication skills. Music, ballet and chess are gender neutral activities that connect people through time and space. They are a profound medium of communication that has no barriers of language, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, physical ability or social status.

Since its establishment, the Queen's Journey has toured in the United Kingdom and internationally including the United States and Hungary in various events promoting equality and encouraging women and girls to play chess as a means of building life skills that help them to be strong, look forward and strive towards their own goals. Thanks to its pioneering concept i.e. educating and entertaining through music and ballet the Queen's Journey can adopt different themes and be always relevant.

So far, the performances have included a ballet-chess music production at the British Museum in 2015 as well as a brief history of the evolution of the queen and an explanation of how chess can inspire. I believe that ballet is a way to encourage girls to make their moves on the chessboard and would like to see more girls to be involved in chess. In 2016 the theme of the Queen's Journey was "power and grace" to mark the Queen's 64 years in reign. This included a printing of a 3D chess queen design project to inform and inspire more girls to see chess from different and new exciting perspectives. To illustrate the power of women and girls supporting one another the theme in 2017 was "chess connects". This included a special artistic moment at Judit Polgar's Global Chess festival in a format of a human display in which eight chess queens danced at a giant chess board following their own paths and without obstructing each other.

In 2018 the Queen's Journey toured under the theme "empowerment" to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of women's rights and empowerment in the United Kingdom. The piano performances that year included "1000 Faces of Chess" and "Music Mosaic" at Judit Polgar's Global Chess festival's opening ceremony and directing a chess-themed ballet performance at Holland Park, London. In 2018 I also published an homage to Carlsen and Caruana on the eve of the World Championship match entitled "Victory Moves".

This year's theme is "white knights" to expand the Queen's Journey concept to Nordic countries. This has included a performance at the closing ceremony of Norway chess and the opening of the Heart of Finland international chess tournament. In Norway I performed Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor as well as unveiling the world premier of "Queen of the Knight" based on Philidor's "Princess of Norway" and Mozart's "Queen of the Night" opera coupled with a James Bond theme to reflect the fusion of classical chess with blitz Armageddon that characterised this year's Norway Chess tournament. In Finland I performed my own classical composition "Across the Water" and "Anthem" from the Chess musical in honour of Nordic inspirations.

While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.
—Marcel Duchamp (1952)

Each game of chess is like a new melody which beautifully resolves at the end of a journey and this is how chess inspires some of my music. I hope by using a combination of chess, music and ballet we can inspire and inform children of the importance of coordinating together and moving forward in the future together.

As a proud Goodwill Ambassador of Artistic Values of Chess awarded by Judit Polgar I hope to continue the visual aesthetic, melody and movement to remind us that the game is always greater than the player.

Jason Kouchak is a classical pianist and composer based in London and Paris. He has performed worldwide in the United States, Europe and Japan. He has an awareness of the many similarities between music and chess and has launched large outdoor chess sets in London and Edinburgh. His other projects include a chess-themed ballet project at the British Museum, a printing of a 3D chess queen in honour of the Queen Elizabeth's 64 years reign, a ballet and children's choir performance in New York and performances at various international chess opening and closing ceremonies including London Chess Classic, Judit Polgar's Global Chess festival, the Norway Chess tournament and the Heart of Finland. He has also composed and directed several chess-inspired songs and dance performances.

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