The Living Chess Game

Fine Arts Activities for Kids 9–14

by Alexey W. Root


Living chess games are theatrical performances where human actors portray the game pieces. Human chess games have been performed for 1300 years and are still staged at schools, libraries, festivals, and renaissance fairs around the world. Beyond pure entertainment, living chess games can bring music, dance, visual arts, and chess to life for participants and audiences.

Print Flyer
Cover image for The Living Chess Game

December 2010

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 102
Volumes 1
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics Children's and Young Adult Programs/General

This book provides comprehensive information and guidance for successfully staging a theatrical living chess game for children ages 9–14. It also prepares student to succeed in University Interscholastic League (UIL) Chess Puzzle.

Living chess games have been referenced in works from classic authors such as Lewis Carroll and Kurt Vonnegut; this theater art was also mentioned in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. With The Living Chess Game: Fine Arts Activities for Kids 9-14, any parent, librarian, teacher, or after-school instructor can successfully stage an educational and entertaining living chess game. This book will also help educators and librarians prepare students to succeed in University Interscholastic League (UIL) Chess Puzzle.

The book's chess instruction enables children to perform, with understanding, as living chess pieces. The activities not only instruct students on how to research chess, but also teach a myriad of fine arts skills such as acting, composing music, choreographing movements, designing scenery, and scriptwriting, and the activities address content standards from the National Standards for Arts Education. The author has also provided a "resources and materials" section that explains the cultural reference of each activity's title and lists opportunities for parental involvement, such as tech support and attending students' performances.


  • Includes nearly 60 chess diagrams, illustrations of musical notation, publicity materials, and useful forms for visual art and theatrical evaluation
  • Instructs readers on writing scripts for famous chess games such as the Immortal Game, the Evergreen Game, and the Opera Game
  • Helps educators and librarians prepare students to succeed in University Interscholastic League (UIL) Chess Puzzle
  • Provides the national content standard, objectives, resources and materials, procedure, and assessment in all 12 music, dance, visual art, and theater activities
  • An annotated bibliography identifies additional source materials
  • A glossary defines 69 chess terms


  • This is the only resource currently available for librarians and educators interested in staging a living chess game
  • The living chess game serves as a unique, fun theme for a fine arts unit that is aligned with arts education standards
  • A background in the fine arts or knowledge of chess in not necessary to successfully teach the suggested activities
Author Info

Alexey W. Root, PhD, is senior lecturer in education at The University of Texas, Dallas. She was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion. Her published works include Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators; Science, Math, Checkmate: 32 Chess Activities for Inquiry and Problem Solving; Read, Write, Checkmate: Enrich Literacy with Chess Activities; and People, Places, Checkmates: Teaching Social Studies with Chess.

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