Entertainment & Arts

Chess chat show comes to BBC Radio 4

A game of chess featured in new Radio 4 series Across the Board
Image caption The last BBC radio series featuring chess ended in 1964

Chess is returning to the BBC airwaves for the first time in 50 years, with boxer Lennox Lewis among the chess players being challenged to a game.

Radio 4's Across the Board will see chess author and aficionado Dominic Lawson take on five public figures in a game against the clock.

They include shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves, the former British girls under-14 chess champion.

The series of 15 minute shows starts on 30 December and will run for a week.

Lawson will find out how British-born heavyweight champion Lewis' love of chess has helped him both in and out of the boxing ring.

Current Women's World Chess Champion, Hou Yifan, 19, who is one of just a handful of women to have become an elite Grandmaster, will also take part.

Former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky and writer and former homeless alcoholic, John Healy, who believes that the world of chess is harsher than life on the street, complete the line-up.

"I've found it fascinating talking to remarkable people about their obsession with chess and how it has changed and influenced their lives," said Lawson.

"I hope the listener finds it equally compelling."

Each programme will be edited from an interview conducted over an hour-long game, with players allocated half an hour each to complete their moves.

The last BBC radio series dedicated to chess ran from 1958 until 1964 on what was then called Network Three, and featured world chess champion Bobby Fischer.

Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams said the new series featured "a surprising list of chess devotees from all walks of life".

"Chess is much more than a game - it provides a different perspective on the way we live. Talk of endgames, pawns and checkmate has become part of everyday life, war and politics," she said.

The interviews will be available permanently on the Radio 4 website after transmission.

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