Celebrities and Chess

  • billwall
  • | Jun 30, 2007

In the film industry, there are many names of movie stars and other folks that have played chess.  These celebrities include: Claude Akins (Sheriff Lobo) Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), Woody Allen, Lauren Bacall (once married to Humphrey Bogart), the Barrymores, Polly Bergen, Sarah Bernhardt, Humphry Bogart (Casablanca), Richard Boone (Have Gun, Will Travel), Shirley Booth (Hazel), Charles Boyer, Marlon Brando, Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar, Nicholas Cage (his children also play chess), Charlie Chaplin, Cher, Lee J Cobb, Charles Coburn, Bill Cosby, Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone), Timothy Dalton (James Bond), James Darren, Dustin Diamond, Marlene Dietrich, Hugh Downs, Erik Estrada (CHIPs) Douglas Fairbanks Sr, Peter Falk (Columbo), Mike Farrell, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Michael J Fox, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene (Bonanza), Sydney Greenstreet, Woody Harrelson, Rex Harrison, Katherine Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Hope, Anthony Hopkins, Dennis Hopper, John Huston, Kate Jackson (Charlie's Angels), Sam Jaffe (Dr. Zorba on Ben Casey), Don Johnson, Al Joson, Boris Karloff, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Kubrick, Jude Law, David Letterman, Peter Lorre, Myna Loy, Bela Lugosi, Marcel Marceau, Dean Martin, Steve Martin, the Marx brothers, James Mason, Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver), Walter Matthau, Patrick McGoohan, Ray Milland, Carmen Miranda, Yves Montand, Rick Moranis, Frank Morgan (Oz in Wizard of Oz), Paul Neuman, David Niven, Chuck Norris, Maureen O'Sullivan, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Walter Pidgeon, Jason Priestley (90210), Dennis Quiad, Anthony Quinn, Tony Randall, Basil Rathbone, Keanu Reeves (Matrix), Chris Rock, Cesar Romaro, Jill Saint John, Susan Sarandon, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, George C Scott, Tom Selleck, Peter Sellers, Omar Sharif, Will Smith, Jimmy Stewart, Oliver Stone, Barbra Streisand, Rod Taylor, Shirley Temple Black, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Rudy Valee, Rudolph Valentino, Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian), John Wayne, Orson Welles, James Whitmore, Guy Williams (Zorro and Lost in Space), and William Windom.

In the sports world there are a few sports figures that also play chess. These include: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Boris Becker, Larry Bird, Jim Bouton, Jim Brown, Kobe Bryant, the Bryan twins (tennis doubles), Jennifer Capriati, Reggie Carter, Bill Cartwright, Michael Chang, Sean Elliot, Roger Federer, Ron Guidry, Evander Holyfield, Bobby Jones, Chuck Knox (football coach), Ivan Lendl, Lennox Lewis, John McEnroe, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Barry Sanders, Latrell Sprewell, Gene Tunney, Bill Walsh (football coach), Bill Walton, and Emil Zatopek.

In the music business, chessplayers include: Beethoven, Bono (U-2), Sonny Bono, David Bowie, Enrico Caruso, Pablo Casals, Ray Charles, Chopin, Bobby Darrin, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Sticky Fingaz (Onyx), Dizzy Gillespie, the entire group in Jefferson Airplane including Grace Slick, Gene Kupra, Lohn Lennon, Sean Lennon, LL COOL J, Madonna and her husband, Johnny Marks (wrote several famous Christmas songs) Yehudi Menuin, Moby, Grahan Nash (of Crosby, Stills, and Nash), Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Louis Persinger, Gregor Piatigorsky, Helen Reddy, Tim Rice, David Lee Roth, Arthur Rubinstein, Schumann, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra, Ringo Starr, Isaac Stern, and Sting.

Writers who had time for chess include: Cleveland Amory, Isaac Asimov, Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz), Art Buchwald, Lewis Carroll, Cervantes, Charles Dickens, Dostoevsky, Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), George Elliot, Goethe, O. Henry, Ibsen, Ben Jonson, Kipling, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Norman Mailer, Hermann Melville, Vladimir Nobokov (Lolita), George Orwell, Edgar Allen Poe, Pushkin, Peter Roget (thesaurus), Salman Rushdie, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Singer, John Steinbeck, Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), Tennyson, Walter Tevis (The Hustler), Tolstoy, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, William Yeats, and Stefan Zweig (The Royal Game).

In government and politics, chessplayers include: John Quincy Adams, Spiro Agnew, Yasser Arafat, Menachem Begin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Willy Brandt, Zbigniew Brzesinski, Aaron Burr, Jimmy Carter and family, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Grover Cleveland, Francisco Franco, Benjamin Franklin, Muammar Gadaffi, James Garfield, Joseph Goebbels, Ulysses S Grant, H.R. Halderman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ivan the Terrible, Thomas Jefferson, John F Kennedy Jr, Henry Kissinger, Lenin, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, Ferdinand Marcos, Karl Marx, Juan Peron, Richard Riordan (former mayor of Los Angeles), Theodore Roosevelt, Anwar Sadat, Pierre Salinger, Josip Tito, Leon Trotsky, and Woodrow Wilson.

Artists include: Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Rembrandt.

There have been at least 20 Nobel Prize winners that also have played chess, including Albert Einstein, Richad Feynman, John Nash, and Bertrand Russell.

Other personalities include: Bill Gates, Bob Guccione (publisher of Penthouse), George Custer, Robert E. Lee, John Pershing, P.T. Barnum, Al Capone, Casanova, John Hinkley (tried to assassinate President Reagan), Harry Houdini, Timothy Leary, Lee Harvey Oswald, Willie Sutton (bank robber), Sigmond Freud, Voltaire, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking, Robert Oppenheimer, Charles Kuralt, Hernando De Soto, Francisco Pizarro, Atahualpa, and Auguste Piccard.

These are but a few of the well-known personalities that have played chess in the past.

For a complete list of celebrities and famous people who play chess, see:



  • 3 years ago


    i want to play Ringo on here

  • 4 years ago


    I don't think Bono is a strong player.  Celebrity masters alive include Peter Thiel and perhaps Natan Sharansky.  The Klitschko brothers may be strong (in more ways than one).  Dead celebrity may be Duchamp as the strongest player.  Bogart may have been 1900-2000 in strength.  I have not heard of Bono winning against any strong player.   Not sure of GZA or members of the Wu-Tang are that strong. 

  • 4 years ago


    Nice article, I feel the GZA should be mentioned though. Even though a few members of the Wu-Tang are big chess players, chess appears throughout GZA's lyrics and album artwork. HIs knowledge of the games history and culture is also rather vast!

  • 6 years ago


    CoolVery interesting trivia.

  • 8 years ago


    I have listed what I think are the ratings of celebrities here


  • 8 years ago


    It would be interesting to see a reality show on celebrities and chess matches. Bill, I wonder if you would know which celebrity has the highest Elo rating alive and dead? My guess, BONO and Bogart.

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