Chess (the musical): 1990 versus 2023

by Alexey Root
7/19/2023 – I bought an airplane ticket for the same July 13th flight that my husband Doug took to St. Louis for the 2023 U.S. Senior Championship. But I didn’t join Doug on that flight. ‘Chess’ (the musical) was in St. Louis and my son William wanted to see it. | Photo: Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis

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Before William was born in 1996, Doug and I had seen Chess on tour twice. At the first performance we attended, in Long Beach, California, I convinced several chess players to join us to promote chess. I am wearing a blue, chess-themed sweatshirt. In the pink shirt next to me is five-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion Diane Savereide. Behind me, wearing glasses and a light blue shirt, is Doug Root. In the red shirt is Spomenka Zeljkovic, a speed chess whiz who I later wrote about in this essay. Sharon Burtman’s husband Joel Friedman is at the far right, in a white shirt and wearing glasses. If I remember correctly, Burtman, who became a U.S. Women’s Chess Champion in 1995, took the photo.

Chess Musical

Back in 1990! | Photo: Sharon Burtman

At our chess promotional table, located in the theater’s lobby, I gave away back issues of Chess Life magazine. However, theater patrons visiting our table showed little interest in the game of chess. The most frequent question we got was “Where is the restroom?” The second most common question was, “Is this where I can buy season tickets?” Some names from that 1990 production may be familiar today. Jodi Benson (the voice of The Little Mermaid) starred, with the arbiter being played by Eddie Mekka (Carmine on the television show “Laverne & Shirley”).


On July 10th, William and I drove from Denton, Texas, to St. Louis for William’s first time to see Chess. The production we attended on July 10 and July 11 was at the MUNY (Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis). Here are three reviews: Chess at the MUNY, Chess at the MUNY (another review), and Chess at the MUNY (one more review). Summing up, reviewers praised this production. Here is William’s glowing review of the 2023 musical.

As partners with the MUNY on this production of Chess, the Saint Louis Chess Club (SLCC) and World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) each had chess promotional tables at the MUNY. Behind most tables were life-size chess boards with two-foot to three-foot tall chess pawns and pieces.

World Chess Hall of Fame

Alexey (left) and William (right) visit the WCHOF table | Photo: Alexey Root

The SLCC had several additional tables equipped with regular-sized chess sets and boards. The SLCC’s Bobbie Fox said the most common question she got was “Can we play at these tables?” Second most common was the statement, “I can’t really play chess.” An improvement from the questions my 1990 chess promotional table received!

The SLCC staff taught chess beginners the rules of the game while also letting visitors experiment with the chess sets and boards. Two older women had pawns jumping over each other to capture, as in checkers.

To quote lyrics from Chess:

Everybody’s playing the game

But nobody’s rules are the same

The MUNY seats 11,000 people, so the odds of William and I being seated near someone we knew seemed low. But, on July 10th, seated immediately behind us were Jason Simontacchi and Carol Meyer. Simontacchi is a former pitcher for the Major League Baseball team the St. Louis Cardinals. He now works for the SLCC. Meyer is the Executive Director of US Chess.

Saint Louis Chess Club

Jason Simontacchi (blue shirt) and Carol Meyer (dress) | Photo: Alexey Root

Juniors, Girls, and Seniors

The SLCC and WCHOF staff keep busy, moving from Chess (July 5–11) to running the U.S. Junior Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, and the U.S. Senior Championship from July 15–25, 2023.

William drove my car back to Denton and I stayed in St. Louis. Doug joined me on July 13 for his debut in the U.S. Senior Championship. Here is my Chess (the musical)-themed report from Round 2 of the championships. Find all the championships’ games and results at

All games - U.S. Senior Championship

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Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.