Remembering Ennio Morricone (November 10, 1928 – July 6, 2020)

by André Schulz
7/6/2020 – Initially, Ennio Morricone wanted to become a chess professional. But then he realized that his musical talent was much greater than his talent for chess and he became a composer, whose music added a special touch to many famous films. But Morricone was always passionate about chess. On July 6, 2020, he died in Rome at the age of 91. | Photo: Comune Turin

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Ennio Morricone

In "Ennio Morricone Plays Chess", an interview from 2019 with the Paris Review, Morricone spoke at length about his passion:

"Well, I would say that chess is the best game precisely because it’s not a mere game. Everything is put at stake—the rules of morality, of life, the wariness and the determination to fight without bloodshed, the resolution to win and do so correctly—with talent, rather than sheer luck. In fact, when you hold these tiny wooden statuettes in your hands, they become powerful as they absorb the energy you are willing to transfer to them. In chess, there is life and there are struggles, too. It’s the most violent sport one could think of, it can be compared to boxing, although it is much more chivalrous and sophisticated."

When he was eleven years old Morricone learned to play chess but at the age of 18 he gave up his efforts to become a professional chess player. Instead, he studied choral music and trumpet at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he graduated in 1946. He then worked as a theatre composer and for a radio station. Further training followed at the Conservatory, which Morricone successfully completed in 1953 with a diploma in composition.

Ennio Morricone, Franco Evangelisti and Egisto Macchi  (1959)

In 1961 Morricone composed his first film scores and in 1964 he was approached by director Sergio Leone, a former classmate, to write the music for Sergio Leone's western "A Fistful of Dollars".

Morricone's music for Leone's westerns became famous and very influential. In the course of his career Morricone created the music for more than 500 films, and his compositions for films such as "A Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" or "Once Upon a Time in the West", have long been absolute classics of film music.

Morricone has been nominated more than once for the Oscar, and in 2007 he received it for his life's work. Clint Eastwood, who played the main role in some of the films that made Morricone famous, presented the trophy to the composer.

Masterpieces by Morricone

With his western "The Hateful Eight" director Quentin Tarantino revived the genre and he asked Morricone to compose the music.

"I must confess that, when I was composing the music for Tarantino’s latest movie, The Hateful Eight, as I went through the script, I recognized the tension that silently grows among the characters, and I thought of that like the feelings one develops over the course of a chess game. Unlike what happens in Tarantino’s films, neither bloodshed nor physical harm is part of this sport. Still, there is nothing aloof about chess. Quite the opposite, this game is dominated by a spasmodic and silent tension. Some even say that chess is silent music, and playing is a bit like composing for me", Morricone revealed in his interview with The Paris Review.

For "The Hateful Eight" Morricone received his second Oscar but over the years the composer has received countless awards for his music.

During his long career as a composer and conductor, Ennio Morricone has always cultivated his love of chess. Morricone followed the national and international tournament scene with the help of chess magazines, gladly accepted invitations to simultaneous performances and occasionally played in tournaments. He even took chess training, among others from IM Stefano Tatai. Morricone reached a playing strength of about 1800. "If I had trained more consistently, I would certainly have become better than Kasparov," he once said with a wink in an interview.

Morricone was particularly proud of a draw he once played in a simul against Boris Spassky. Two of Morricone's games, one against GM Sergio Mariotti and one against GM Judit Polgar, have been preserved.


The game against Judit Polgar was played in 2004, when Polgar was in Rome as her country's ambassador on the occasion of Hungary's entry to the EU. Judit Polgar is an avid lover of Morricone's music and was delighted to meet the star composer.

Judit Polgar and Ennio Morricone


Morricone regularly attended tournaments in Italy as a prominent chess lover and guest of honour and he composed the "Inno degli scacchisti", the "Chess Players’ Anthem" for the Chess Olympiad in Turin in 2006.

A prominent spectator

Morricone is interviewed by Adolivio Capece. Left: Michele Cordara, Presidente de Società Scacchistica Torinese

Ennio Morricone plays against Mario Fabbri, a master from Turin

Ennio Morricone died on 6 July 2020 in a hospital in Rome as a result of a fracture of the neck of his femur which he had suffered a few days earlier in a fall.


Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


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


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register