Rock and Roll on the Chessboard

by Mike Papapavlou, Founder of Guitar Guide Guru 


  • When the men on the chess board
    Get up and tell you where to go…..

    -White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane 

    1. Love for the Challenge

    A true chess player & guitarist, in other words, someone committed and passionate, both love the challenges of each form. They both smile when they realize they’re in over their heads.
    You can’t get better at anything unless you take on a challenge that’s above your skill set. Playing stronger opponents will lead to improvement and learning a jazz guitar solo when you’ve mainly played rock & roll is like learning a complicated opening, for example.

    2. Love for Experimentation

    Trying new things out and taking a chance or two, in short experimenting, is the second thing a true chess player & guitarist have in common. They wouldn’t settle on one opening or genre before exploring as many as possible!

    3. They both INSPIRE us to be our Greatest Self!

    As human beings, we are not truly happy unless we are constantly growing and both the guitar & chess are forms that can keep us busy for many many lifetimes.

    Many legendary guitarists and other musicians have also loved chess with equal passion and commitment.

    Here are a few:

    Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) was an avid chess player. He once carved his own chess set. He once mentioned that he hadn’t been writing too much music because he was playing so much chess.

    Bob Dylan (1941- ) plays chess. He is an avid chess player who used to play chess for hours at the Cafe Figaro in Greenwich Village in New York.

    Graham Nash (1942- ) of Crosby, Stills, and Nash plays chess. He participated in a celebrity chess tournament in Mazatlan, Mexico in 1988 and played Helen Reddy.

  • Phish is an American rock band whose members play chess. In one concert, the band challenged its audience to two games of chess. Phish won one game and the audience won the other.

  • Sting (1951- ), Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, plays chess. His original ambition in life was to be a chess grandmaster. He has played chess with Gary Kasparov, lasting 45 moves. Sting’s estate in France has a giant chess board in the grounds.

  • Willie Nelson (1933- ) plays chess. He once played Ray Charles in the dark! 

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