Through the Golden Ages: the History of Chess

Through the Golden Ages: the History of Chess is an animated film that explores the ancient game from its origins in India as it spread across Persia to its adoption in the Middle East, and its migration into Europe and around the world.

Chess is a game that is surrounded in mystique and intrigue, and where its champions are hailed as society's brightest and most intelligent. Through wars, chess has both been spread and adopted by the conquerors, each empire influencing the game and being influenced by it, whilst attaching it to bold symbolism.

For Harun Al Rashid’s empire, chess reflected the teachings of Islam and its emphasis on intellect over luck. For the mighty Queen Isabella of Spain, co-sponsor of Christopher Columbus’ voyage that discovered America, the game evolved to reflect her ruthless power. For the U.S.A. and Soviet Union, the Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky became a proxy battle in the midst of the Cold War.

Through 15 centuries, from its ancient roots to the silicon age, chess has endured and found its way into the modern day as it continues to be played by millions of people around the world.


Narration available in: English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi.

Subtitles available in: Chinese, Russian, Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Hindi.


Listen to/buy the evocative soundtrack, composed by MAias Alyamani:

Cover Image

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Cover


Director's Note

I have loved chess since I was young, playing with and being taught by my father. If I had a previous life, it was as a chess player.

In this life, I pursued stories, content and technology that I aspire to positively impact our world.

These two "lives" collided one day.

My love for chess was rekindled by Bruce Pandolfini (and who the ‘coach’ character in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was based on) in New York City on April 28, 2010. Bruce eloquently spoke about François-André Danican Philidor, the great 18th Century French composer/chess player, and the intersection of his chess and music careers, including with performances of his most well-known pieces.

After that lecture, I gravitated to the parks of NYC to watch the street games being played out, irrespective of class, by the homeless, the high powered executives, and everyone in between, dueling each other for a bit of ego and a few dollars.

Game of chess in the park

Moi (right), most likely getting hustled at chess in the Tompkins Square Park, NYC

In 2011, I moved to Qatar where I serendipitously met a chess coach who told me about the members of the women’s Qatar National Chess team that she trains. She detailed how she was preparing them for the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, a competition bringing the best players from around the world to fight for their country. There was an ‘Olympics for chess’, I curiously wondered to myself?!

I started researching and diving deeper into the sport, and was fascinated by the chess (under)world as I learned more and more. I met the male and female players of the Qatar National Chess teams and was captivated by their stories. When I thought chess players, images of nerdy introverts conjured in my mind; these players were not that at all. They were hip, witty, with ebullient personalities – and yes, there were also very smart.

I knew I had to tell their story – the story of chess in Qatar and the journey of its national chess teams as they competed on the global stage at the World Chess Olympiad with its sub stories: the mental preparation, the intensity of 6-hour games, and how they handled the pressure.

But there was also a bigger story. The story of this medieval game being played in the modern day. A game, which for professional players, carries with it an immense weight of history on their shoulders. A board game that was less game and more an all-encompassing way of life.

I enlisted many friends and colleagues to help me bring two passion projects to fruition. The first was a documentary on Qatar's National Teams, "Kings & Queens of Qatar". And the second is "Through the Golden Ages: the History of Chess", an animated short film on the roots, evolution and spread of the game through time and throughout the globe.

In March 2014, both films premiered at the Museum of Islamic Art as part of their chess exhibit and Kings & Queens of Qatar has gone on to screen at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (UAE) and the Ajyal Film Festival (Qatar).

Post-screening discussion

Me (second from the left), with members of/my friends in the Qatar chess teams, at the post-screening discussion on stage.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

The premiere of the films took place at the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar as part of their exhibit on chess. Image courtesy of Hammad Iqbal.

Thank you to the many people who supported the productions.
And thank you for your interest in the film.
--Shamir Allibhai



Shamir Allibhai

Rajat Sharma

Visual and Character Design
Regine Marie Clarke

Robin DeRoubaix

Mike Walker (English)
Dorjee Sherpa (Hindi)
Jan Peter Richter (German)
Jordi Armisén (Spanish)
Dino Spinella (Italian)
Sari al-Khalili (Arabic)
Michel Rousseau (French)

MAias Alyamani

Sound Engineer
Linus Bergman

Ourouba Hussein (Arabic)
Marine Picamoles (French)
Alex Warren (German)
Alexa Romero (Spanish)
Carmen Louis (Italian)
Pei-Xin Liu 刘珮馨 (Chinese)
Suprun Natalya (Russian)
Virendra Singh Rawat (Hindi)
Nazia Hirani (Hindi)
Nadia AbuKhousa (Arabic)

Arturo Ramirez

Ritz Tampos

Special Thanks
Abdul Allibhai
Nora Elsheikh
Mohamed Al-Modiahki
Qatar Chess Association

Film Poster