In 1952, “The Game of Chess,” starring Vincent Price (1911-1993), was one of the episodes (Season 2, Episode 25) in the Lux Video Theatre (TV series from 1950 to 1959).
On December 15, 1953, an episode (Season 6, Episode 12) called “Cagliostro and the Chess Player,” starring Jack Palance (1919-2006), appeared on Suspense (TV series from 1949 to 1954). Count Alessandro di Cagliostro engages Poland’s King Stanislaus in a game with his mechanical chess player.
On November 12, 1954, an episode (Season 8, Episode 49) called “The Chess Player” appeared on Topper. Cosmo Topper is expecting a visit from his pen pal chess partner, whom he has never met. When he meets him for the first time, he is surprised that his correspondence chess opponent was a young boy genius who doesn’t believe in ghosts. Topper was a TV series from 1953 to 1955, starring Leo G. Carroll.
On August 31, 1955, an episode called “The Chess Game” appeared on Kraft Theatre (TV series from 1947 to 1958). It’s a mental chess game of John Green, suspected of murder that he did not do, trying to evade the law.
In February 1956, Grandmaster Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) appeared on You Bet Your Life (TV series from 1950 to 1961) with Groucho Marx (1890-1977). Groucho kept calling him Mr. Ash Can. Kashdan's partner was the mother of Tony Curtis. They did not say the magic word and failed to answer all the questions.
In June 1956, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) first appeared on television. He was a guest on the Home Show with Arlene Francis (1907-2001) on NBC. Home was on TV from 1954 to 1957.
On December 16, 1956, “The Chess Game,” with Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) as the host, was one of the episodes (Season 5, Episode 12) on General Electric True Theater (TV series from 1953 to 1962).
On August 19, 1957, an episode called “The Chess Player,” starring David Janssen (1931-1980), appeared on Richard Diamond, Private Detective (TV series from 1957 to 1960). However, only checkers was mentioned.
On May 12, 1957, an episode (Season 2, Episode 33) called "A Man Greatly Beloved" appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV series from 1955 to 1962). There is a chess scene with a young girl, Hildegarde Fell, playing chess (she has been playing for years) with Judge John Anderson, but with mistakes (illegal chess moves). He gives check, and she next takes a piece and says mate. The story was by A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh.
On December 30, 1957, an episode (Season 5, Episode 13) called “The Chess Game” appeared on The Danny Thomas Show (Make Room for Daddy). It was a TV series from 1953 to 1965. Nurse Kathy's Uncle Sean, who has been carrying on a chess game by mail with Paddy McCormack in Ireland, visits the Williamses. He is on the verge of losing the game, which would solidify his feelings of inferiority to Paddy, so Danny tries to help him out by writing to Paddy to tell him that Uncle Sean has died, thus ending the game. Trouble ensues when Paddy announces his plans to attend the funeral.
On March 26, 1958, Bobby Fischer appeared on Garry Moore’s I’ve Got a Secret (TV series from 1952 to 1967). He stumped the panel, which included Dick Clark (1929-2012). His secret was that he was the U.S. chess champion. For stumping the panel, he received two complimentary airline tickets to Europe.
In 1960, a TV series called Checkmate aired on CBS, starring Sebastian Cabot, Doug McClure, and Anthony George. Guest stars included Charles Laughton, Peter Lore, and Lee Marvin. It was cancelled after 70 episodes in 1962.
On June 11, 1961, an episode (Episode 27) called “Ed Cries Wolf,” where Mr. Ed, the horse, plays Wilbur in a game of chess on Mr. Ed (TV series from 1958 to 1966).
On November 13, 1961, an episode (Season 4, Episode 7) called “Knight Errant,” starring Chuck Connors (1921-1992), appeared on The Rifleman (TV series from 1958 to 1963). Two of Lucas’ oldest friends ask him to observe a chess match to prevent any cheating. One of the players, Colonel Charles Black, says, “I’m going to watch a chess game between you two gentlemen. The winner gets fired, the loser gets dead!”
On May 21, 1961, Lisa Lane (1938- ), appeared on What's My Line? (Season 12, Episode 38), and stumped the panel as a professional chess player and the reigning U.S. women's chess champion during the first game. What's My Line? was a TV series from 1950 to 1967.
On October 9, 1962, an episode (Season 4, Episode 3) called “The Chess Game” appeared in The Untouchables (which happened to be GM Igor Ivanov’s favorite TV program he once told me). The TV series lasted from 1959 to 1963. A blind fish and seafood wholesaler (and bootlegger), Ira Bauer (Richard Conte), plays chess as a way of keeping his mind sharp. He and Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) play a game of chess and the game ends in stalemate. The board with the fancy chess pieces was set up wrong.
On November 10, 1964, an episode (Season 1, Episode 7) called “the Giuoco Piano Affair,” starring Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, and Leo G. Carroll, appeared on The Man from U.N.C.L.E (TV series from 1964 to 1968). There is a party and a man (Norman Felton) is playing chess by himself. Illya tries to make a moves and the man knocks over the pieces and leaves.
On December 16, 1964, an episode (Season 13, Episode 20) called “Chess Set” appeared on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (TV series from 1952 to 1966). Ozzie gets a large-scale chess set in the mail. He ordered a chess set, but the fine print neglected to state the size of the set. Ozzie discovers a neighborhood kid with a talent for chess. The two play chess. The boy then challenges Ozzie to a bet and Ozzie loses $50 playing chess with the boy.
On September 29, 1965, an episode (Season 1, Episode 3) called “Island in the Sky” appeared on Lost in Space (TV series from 1965 to 1968). Jonathan Harris (Dr. Zachary Smith) plays chess with the robot.
On February 19, 1966, an episode (Season 1, Episode 22) called "Smart the Assassin" appeared on Get Smart (TV series from 1965 to 1970). Smart is hypnotized to kill the Chief during their nightly game of chess at the Regency Club.
On August 13, 1966, an episode (Season 2, Episode 7) called “Works with Chess, Not with Life” appeared on Public Eye, a British television series (1965-1975).
Star Trek (TV series from 1966 to 1969) ran from 1966 through 1969 with several episodes showing its version of 3D chess. In Season 1, Episode 3, Kirk and Spock play chess at the beginning of the show. In Season 1, Episode 21, Spock said that he had won 5 chess games against the computer.
In the 1967, George Koltanowski (1903-2000) did a TV series entitled Koltanowski on Chess for KQED on PBS. It was a half hour segment devoted to chess.
On September 29, 1967, an episode (Season 1, Episode 1) called “Arrival” featured live chess in a village on The Prisoner (TV series from 1967 to 1968), starring Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009). The Prisoner gets checkmated by the Admiral, but beats the General in the next episode.
On November 24, 1967, an episode called “Checkmate” (Season 1, Episode 9) appeared on The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan (Number 6). The Villagers are the chessmen and the players sit in elevated chairs calling out moves with megaphones playing living chess. The game ended in checkmate. The escape secret word was Rook to Queen Pawn 6, check.
On January 14, 1968, “A Game of Chess” was one of the episodes (Season 2, Episode 17) of Mission: Impossible (TV series from 1966 to 1973). Their target was an international chess grandmaster (Nicholas Groat). The GM is also planning to steal $1 million in gold bullion seized by a Soviet bloc country. The gold was originally sent by the USA to the underground movement in a Socialist country, but was seized by the Soviets. Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) poses as an amateur chess player (P. Anderson) with a hearing aid, helped by a computer that Barney Collier (Greg Morris) is running and transmitting the move to Hand. Cinnamon (Barbara Bain) wears a broach that sends the video back to the motel room to the computer. The computer program is unbeatable at chess (the show was way ahead of its time for chess computers and cheating). The chess clocks were not set right and every game ended in checkmate. All the chess players smoked at the table.
On April 15, 1969, an episode (Season 2, Episode 25) called “The Great Chess Gambit,” starring Robert Wagner, appeared on It Takes a Thief (TV series from 1968 to 1970). A “Black Box” failsafe device from a B-52 bomber has fallen into the hands of a chess player. Al Mundy (Robert Wagner) must play chess with the chess player in order to try to negotiate the purchase of the computer part. Al loses the chess match.
On October 12, 1969, an episode (Season 2, Episode 4) called “Deadly Pawn” appeared on Land of the Giants (TV series from 1968 to 1970). The Earthlings are forced to compete in a life-and-death chess game with a Giant chess expert. The little people find themselves bound to the chess pieces. Fitzhugh asks Mark, “You programmed a chess machine. Surely you must be a chess expert?” Mark replies, “Not really.” Fitzhugh says, “Why not?” Mark replies, “Does using an adding machine make you an expert at math?”
In the summer of 1971, Bobby Fischer appeared on The Dick Cavett Show (TV series from 1968 to 1972). He also appeared on the show on December 21, 1972.
On October 2, 1971, an episode (Season 1, Episode 3) called “The Chess Game” appeared on The Good Life (TV series from 1971 to 1972), starring Larry Hagman and Donna Mills.
In February 1972, CBS’s 60 Minutes did a segment of Bobby Fischer, interviewed by Mike Wallace.
In July-August 1972, most of the TV networks covered the Fischer-Spassky world championship match. WNET/PBS (Channel 13) covered the match, which became their most watched program, with millions of viewers. The PBS coverage, produced by Mike Chase, was the first-ever live, real-time American TV coverage of a chess championship match. The PBS coverage has hosted by Shelby Lyman and Edmar Mednis. Lyman was paid only $10 per diem to cover the match.
After Fischer returned to the United States, he appeared on a Bob Hope television comedy series (October 5, 1972, with Mark Spitz) and The Tonight Show (November 8, 1972) with Johnny Carson.
On September 22, 1972, Jerry Lewis played chess with Sonny Bono in one of the episodes (Season 3, Episode 2) on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (TV series from 1971 to 1974). Jerry appears as a chess champion whose annoying habits distract his opponent (Sonny).
On November 14, 1975, an episode (Season 2, Episode 9) called “Chicken Little is a Little Chicken,” Jim Rockford (James Garner) gets checkmated by his father, Rocky Rockford (Noah Berry), while Angel (Stuart Margolin) tries to explain the end of the game in his lingo.
From 1972 to 1980, Florencio Campomanes (1927-2010) of the Philippines, who would later become president of FIDE, produced the only daily chess television in the world. It appeared nationwide in the Philippines.
On November 5, 1972, “A Game of Chess” was one of the episodes (Season 8, Episode 8) in The F.B.I (TV series from 1965 to 1974), starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (1918- ) as Inspector Erskine. Erskine poses as a blind chess master in order to infiltrate a spy ring.
On January 8, 1973, an episode called “The Chess Game” appeared on The Black Arrow (TV series from 1972 to 1975) in the UK.
In January 1973, the Bobby Darin Show debuted (1972-1973), starring Bobby Darin (1936-1973). He always had a chess set while on the air and sometimes explained tricky chess moves. He featured a chess problem every week on his show. He planned to sponsor a huge chess tournament, the First Annual Bobby Darrin Chess Classic, but died before the event took place.
On March 4, 1973, “The Most Dangerous Match” was one of the episodes (Season 2, Episode 7) on NBC’s Columbo (TV series from 1971 to 1978 on NBC), starring Peter Falk (1927-2011). A chess player, Emmett Clayton murders his Russian chess opponent, Tomlin Dudek, before a big match.
On December 14, 1974, an episode called “Mike’s Friend” appeared on All in the Family (TV series from 1971 to 1979). Mike’s college friend, Stuart Henderson (Greg Mullavey), comes over to the house to spend the evening playing chess with him. Stuart checkmates Mike 3 times in a row and calls him the worst player in chess.
In the UK, chess appeared on TV from 1975, the time of the first Karpov-Korchnoi world championship match, until 1995, the time of the Kasparov-Anand match. After 1995, British television producers lost interest in chess. They did not even cover the 2000 Kasparov-Kramnik world championship match, held in London a few miles away from BBC headquarters.
The Master Game series ran on BBC2 from 1976 to 1982. It was presented by Jeremy James, Leonard Barden, and Bill Hartston. The programs were cheap to make and got excellent viewing figures. Many of the episodes can be found on YouTube. The 1983 series was never shown in England, but did appear on German TV.
On December 7, 1979, an episode (Season 3, Episode 9) called “The Snare” appeared on The Incredible Hulk (TV series from 1978 to 1982). Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) is invited by a millionaire, Michael Sutton (Bradford Dillman), to play a game of chess on his private island after Banner (David Bennet) beats Sutton in a game of chess while waiting at an airport. They play at the millionaire’s home and it is tied 2-2. They start the next game, but Banner’s wine is drugged and he passes out on the chess table. The man turns out to be a hunter, and David is the prey. The episode was a variation on the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.
In 1983, a TV series called Chessgame appeared in the UK. It was a drama series about the activities of British counter-intelligence agents. The show lasted 6 episodes.
In 1984, an episode called “The Best Chess Player in the World” appeared on Tales of the Unexpected (UK TV series from 1979 to 1988).
On November 27, 1984, an episode (Season 3, Episode 8) called "Puzzled Steele" appeared on Remington Steele (TV series from 1982 to 1987), starring Pierce Brosnan. A game of chess was played.
The Cosby Show appeared with many chess references. In an episode (Season 1, Episode 8) that aired on November 8, 1984, called “Play it Again, Vanessa,” Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable (Bill Cosby) and Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), his son, are playing chess with a chess clock. However, Theo never starts the clock to start his turn. He just moves and stops the clock which rings a bell. His son beats him twice in chess. Later, Cliff wins 4 games in a row. Bill Cosby appeared on the cover of Chess Life with a chess set in the living room of the TV show. The board was set up wrong (white corner square on the left). It was a TV series from 1984 to 1992.
In 1986, a made-for-TV mini series called If Tomorrow Comes appeared. It was based on a crime fiction novel by Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007). It had several chess references about grandmasters at an international tournament.
On January 30, 1986, an episode (Season 4, Episode 20) called “Checkmate” appeared on Family Ties (TV series from 1982 to 1989). Alex (Michael J. Fox), the Leland Chess Club champion, is competing in a chess match with a Russian master named Ivan Rozmirovich,
In 1986, the Karpov-Kasparov world championship match was shown on 120 public TV stations, hosted by Shelby Lyman.
On April 30, 1986, an episode (Season 1, Episode 21) called “A Prisoner of Conscience” appeared on MacGyver (TV series from 1985 to 1992), where Marvin Kaplan (1927- ) plays a chess master.
On March 20, 1986, an episode (Season 6, Episode 19) called “Who Is Don Luis Higgens…and Why Is He Doing These Terrible Things to Me?” appeared on Magnum, P.I. (TV series from 1980 to 1988) where a man claiming to be Higgins’ half brother shows up to play in a Hawaii chess tournament.
On February 23, 1986, an episode (Season 2, Episode 17) called "One Good Bid Deserves a Murder" appeared on Murder, She Wrote (TV series from 1984 to 1996), starring Angela Lansbury (1925- ) . The plot centers on a diary found in a secret compartment of a chess set.
In 1987, a TV drama called The Mighty Pawns appeared on TV. Inner city kids were given new direction when they joined the school chess team. Inspired by a special teacher, kids from an inner-city junior-high school form a winning chess team.
On March 27, 1989, an episode (Season 1, Episode 3) called “Blind Chess” appeared on B.L. Stryker (TV series from 1989 to 1990), starring Burt Reynolds (1936- ).
In 1989, a documentary appeared on TV called American Gambit, featuring Kasparov giving a simultaneous exhibition.
On February 22, 1990, an episode (Season 8, Episode 19) called “Indoor Fun with Sammy and Robby” appeared on Cheers (TV series from 1982 to 1993). Robin Colcord (Roger Rees) challenges Sam Malone (Ted Danson) to play a game of chess for a week’s salary. Sam accepts despite not knowing how to play chess. However, Sam gets help from some transmitting equipment with Norm and Pete sitting in front of a computer with a strong chess engine running.
In 1990, The Chess Show began appearing on public television in Portland, Oregon. It was on the air from 1990 to 1998. Players called in to make the chess moves.
On August 9, 1990, an episode (Season 1, Episode 5) called "Russian Flu" appeared on Northern Exposure. A game of chess was being played and one of the spectators said it was more fun watching slush melt than watching chess.
On March 26, 1991, an episode (Season 18, Episode 21) on computer chess called “Chip vs. the Chessmaster” appeared on NOVA.
On November 29, 1991 an episode (Season 3, Episode 9) called “The Nose Job” appeared on Seinfeld. There is a dream sequence in which Jerry’s brain and penis play a game of chess to decide whether he should dump his girlfriend or not.
In 1991, an episode (Season 3, Episode 7) called “Check Your Mate” appeared on Saved by the Bell (TV series from 1989 to 1993), where Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond) plays in a chess championship. Screech is the undefeated chess champion of Bayside and he has to play against Valley for the chess championship. Zack and Slater bet $300 that Screech would win, but Screech gets distracted when one of the attractive Valley girls steals his lucky beret before the match.
In 1993, the BBC had 60 hours of chess on television during the Kasparov-Short world championship match in London.
On September 20, 1995, an episode (Season 1, Episode 2) called "Chess Moves" appeared on Central Park West (TV series from 1995 to 1996).
On March 26, 1996, an episode (Season 3, Episode 18) called “Chess Pains” appeared on Frasier (TV series from 1993 to 2004). Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) buys an elaborate antique chess set, but he can’t beat his father, Martin Crane.
In 1996, a documentary called Chess Kids appeared on 125 PBS stations. It was about the World Youth Championship, held in Wisconsin in 1990.
On May 17, 1998, an episode (Season 5, Episode 20) called "The End" appeared on The X-files (TV series from 1993 to 2002). During a chess tournament, a young boy named Gibson Praise becomes the center of an investigation concerning aliens. Mulder and Scully investigate the assassination of a chess grandmaster.
On April 17, 1998, an episode (Season 2, Episode 9) called "The Chess Game" appeared on Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (TV series from 1997 to 2002). Does a spirit show up to play chess?
In June 1999, the TV game show Jeopardy had an entire category devoted to chess called Chess Mania. In May 2000, Jeopardy had another category devoted to chess called Chess Nuts.
On February 27, 2002, an episode (Season 3, Episode 58) called “Hartsfield’s Landing” appeared on The West Wing. President Bartlet (Martin Sheen), an avid chess player, received some nice chess sets from the Indian Prime Minister. He plays two of his top advisors simultaneously in different rooms.
On April 8, 2003, an episode called "Chess Wars" appeared on The Bernie Mac Show (TV series from 2001 to 2006). Jordan tries to butter Bernie Mac up by playing chess with him so that he can later play paint ball.
In 2004, an episode (Season 5, Episode 5) called "Chess Champ to Football Manager" appeared on the UK reality-TV show called Faking It (TV series from 2000 to 2006). Maximillian Devereaux is already a chess champion, but can he fake it as a football (soccer) manager in 4 weeks?
On January 21, 2005, an episode (Season 4, Episode 11) called "Observer Effect" appeared on Star Trek: Enterprise (TV series from 2001 to 2005). The episode begins with a discussion of the triviality of chess while Travis Mayweather and Malcom Reed play a game of blitz chess. They happen to be under the control of two noncorporeal aliens.
On October 19, 2005, an episode (Season 2, Episode 4) called “Corporate Warriors” appeared on CSI:NY. A game of chess helps solve a case.
On February 28, 2006, an episode (Season 4, Episode 11) called "Gone" appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (TV series from 2001 to 2011). Detective Goren finds himself matching wits with a paranoid chess master suspected of murdering a young woman.
In 2005, Knights of the South Bronx appeared on the A&E channel. Richard Mason (Ted Danson of “Cheers”) teaches chess to a group of low income students who end up winning the national championship. Mason’s character is based on David MacEnulty, who did take his Bronx elementary school students to a national chess championship.
In April 2006, an episode called “The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer” was shown on Anything to Win, a TV series documentary. It was narrated by Jeremy Schaap.
On May 15, 2007, an episode (Season 3, Episode 23) called "The Jerk" appeared on House. A chess player named Nate beats up another chess player using a chess clock.
On December 1, 2007, an episode called “Capture the Queen” appeared on CBS 48 Hours.
On July 25, 2008, an episode (Season 7, Episode 2) called "Mr. Monk and the Genius" appeared on Monk (TV series from 2002 to 2009). Monk matches wits with a chess master who is suspected of murdering his wife.
In 2009, a musical episode called “Chess in Concert” appeared on Great Performances.
On April 9, 2010, an episode (Season 9, Episode 16) called "Checkmate" appeared on Smallville (TV series from 2001 to 2011). Amanda Waller has a chess set in her office at Checkmate headquarters.
In March, 2011, a TV series called Endgame appeared on Canadian drama television. The series follows former Russian world chess champion Arkady Balagan (Shawn Doyle), a genius who uses his analytical skills to solve crimes. It appeared on Showcase Television. In early June 2011, Showcase announced that it would not renew Endgame for a second season.
On May 3, 2001, an episode (Season 7, Episode 21) called “The One with the Vows” appeared on Friends. Joey and Phoebe seem to be engaged in a blitz chess game, each moving pieces and hitting a chess clock in turn. Neither knows how to play chess.
On November 10, 2004, an episode (Season 1, Episode 9) called “Chess Lessons” appeared on Jack and Bobby. Benedict discovers that Bobby is a talented chess partner.
On March 7, 2007, an episode (Season 3, Episode 11) called “Enter 77” appeared on Lost. There is a computer called DHARMA that has a chess program on it. John Locke plays the computer and loses.
On May 15, 2007, an episode (Season 3, Episode 23) called “the Jerk” appeared on House M.D. A teenage chess player assaults his opponent.
In 2011, a documentary film called Bobby Fischer Against the World was shown on TV in the UK on BBC and the United States on HBO.
On May 5, 2011, an episode (Season 4, Episode 22) called “The Wildebeest Implementation” appeared on The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon invents a three-payer chess game.
On February 19, 2012, 60 Minutes on CBS presented “Mozart of Chess: Magnus Carlsen.” Bob Simon interviewed Magnus Carlsen at the London Chess Classic, held in December, 2011.
On February 19, 2013, an episode (Season 1, Episode 52) called “Chess Cake” appeared on the reality TV show Nerdy Nummies.
Chess has also been mentioned in other TV shows such as 24, Banacek, Cagney and Lacey, Doctor Who, Family Matters, Fantasy Island, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, General Hospital, Happy Days, Grey's Anatomy, Hart to Hart, Longstreet, Have Gun: Will Travel, Lexx, Lost, Love Boat, Malcolm in the Middle, Matt Houston, McMillan and Wife, Miami Vice, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Perry Mason, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, Spearfield's Daughter, Spin City, Stargate, The Avengers, The Edge of Night, The Muppet Show, The Simpsons, The Young and the Restless, Three's Company, Tucker's Witch, and Twin Peaks.