TV series <i>Endgame</i> – World chess champion turned detective

4/3/2011 – If we had posted on April 1st that a new TV series had started in which a World Chess Champion was now using his superior analytical and visualization skills to solve crimes, well... you would have known that was the April Fools prank of the day, right? That is why it is not being posted on the first, because it is not a prank. Read about this unique chess champion turned detective.

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Endgame – World chess champion turned detective

If we had posted on the 1st that a new TV series had started in which a World Chess Champion was now using his superior analytical and visualization skills to solve crimes, well... you would have known that was the April Fools prank of the day, right? That is why it is not being posted on the first, because it is not a prank.

Incredible, but true, Canadian TV channel Showcase has started a new TV series called Endgame, scheduled for an initial run of thirteen weeks, in which the former World Chess Champion, Arkady Balagan, is the star and inadvertent detective on scene.


Shawn Doyle stars as Arkady Balagan, chess grandmaster, in
the TV detective series "Endgame".

Arkady Balagan, played by Shawn Doyle, finds himself confined to a hotel due to a debilitating case of agoraphobia. Unable to leave his hotel and running out of money, the arrogant and charismatic Russian inadvertently becomes a detective - using his fierce analytical skills to solve crimes - and relies on friends and hotel employees to do his legwork; from conducting interviews and trailing suspects to bringing back clues. Balagan then uses his strategic thinking to stage imaginative reenactments in his own mind until he finds the solution.


Ex-world chess champion Arkady Balagan in the TV series "Endgame"

So far three episodes have been shown, and while some themes are still being toyed around with such as the mental projections, which he sometimes looks at and sometimes actively participates in, while details of the stories are unraveled. In terms of chess, each episode so far has highlighted his actual chess skills, albeit in unorthodox ways, such as the timeless simul, to online gambling (in chess), to clock blitz simuls for wads of bills, though inevitably, it comes down to how these skills translate into helping him solve crimes. The issue of agoraphobia is used as a bit of a gimmick to force Arkady to use the full extent of his visualization skills, since his mental block prevents him from leaving the luxury hotel where he stays and thus more direct participation.

As a character, he doesn't suffer from many of the mental foibles that have often been labeled to players (such as Fischer), and apart from some blatant arrogance, and the need to walk around everywhere barefoot, even when in a suede suit, he is quite balanced. He is aided by several others such as Sam Besht, a graduate student sporting a 2200 FIDE rating with an understandable admiration of the champion, Pippa Venturi, the sister of his recently murdered wife, to the hotel detective with whom he often finds himself at ends with, and a couple of others.


Cast shot with L-R Venna Sood, Melanie Papalia, Torrance Coombs, Shawn Doyle,
Katharine Isabelle, Patrick Gallagher, and Carmen Aguirre.

The filming and the reenactments are often the highlight of the storytelling, allowing creative scenes where he slowly tries each possibility and eliminates them, much as refuted moves in a variation, and others where he constructs elaborate scenes and actively interacts with his imaginings while he tries to figure things out.

A trailer and pictures of the series can be found at the site of Thunderbird Films responsible for its production.

Pictures copyright of Shaw Media

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