Eleven years of chess in Holland Park in London

by André Schulz
8/3/2021 – In October 2010, on the initiative and with financial support of London-based French pianist, composer, singer-songwriter, and chess fan Jason Kouchak, a large chess set was installed in Holland Park in London. Recently, and with a long Corona-related delay, Kouchak celebrated the ten-year anniversary of this event with a few friends. It was not the only public celebration of chess in London this summer: In July, Trafalgar Square saw a big chess festival with references to Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland who was also a big chess fan. | Photos: Julian Paix (if not otherwise indicated)

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Holland Park lies to the west of Hyde Park in the London borough of Kensington. The affluent residential area with many Victorian mansions and upmarket shopping, is now also named after the park. Because of the many rich and prominent residents, Londoners also call the streets in Holland Park "Millionaires Row". Holland Park residents include film stars as David and Victoria Beckham, Robbie Williams, Jimmy Page, Elton John.

In the north of Holland Park stands the ruin of Holland House, which was destroyed by bombing during World War II. The southern part of the park is used for sports activities. There is a cricket field and, more recently, a chess set. The chess set was installed in 2010 on the initiative of Jason Kouchak and it was to become a meeting place for all outdoor chess lovers in London. Kouchak also helped to install such chess sets in parks in Edinburgh and Paris. 

After the nationwide lockdown had ended in England, Kouchak was able to celebrate the tenth anniversary of chess in Holland Park with a one-year delay and a dance and music performance at the beginning of June.

In the audience and among the supporters of the project were Rolling Stones musician Ron Wood...

Ron Wood and Jason Kouchak

...and the author and lyricist, multiple Oscar and Emmy winner Don Black (Donald Blackstone). 

Jason Kouchak and Don Black

Going back in time: In 1966 Don Black (born in 1938) won an Oscar for writing the lyrics for the title song of the movie "Born Free"

The English weather celebrated in typical fashion – the skies over London "wept with joy".

Singing in the rain: Jason Kouchak celebrates the jubilee of the Holland Park chess set

Wow in White' Queen of Power and Grace

This was followed in mid-July by a three-day chess festival in London's Trafalgar Square, organised by the London "Chess in Schools and Communities Foundation", with a live chess game using pieces from Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. About 6000 spectators attended the chess festival.

As music director Jason Kouchak contributed the theme song of the chess party: "Into the Light".

"Into the Light is a song of hope and positive spirit to celebrate the end of the Lockdown," says Jason Kouchak. The song was already performed during the exhibition "Curiouser and Curiouser" in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Into the Light

Jason Kouchak has made it his personal task to combine chess with dance and music and has already been able to realize this with various projects. Under the motto "The White Queen", he also tries to make chess more attractive for girls.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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