Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice and Benny Andersson on the left,
Elaine Paige, Tommy Korberg and Murray Head on the right.


A Dangerous Game

Director Jim Sharman told Tim Rice that he and Andrew wrote great shows together because Tim was so cynical and Andrew was so romantic. Rice says, "It's because I had too much love as a child and Andrew had too little." Whatever the reason, Andrew's rather simplistic and familiar-sounding style of music eminently suited Tim's intellectual and complicated style of lyric writing. As the pair went their separate ways after Evita, finding other collaborators with the same qualities proved to be difficult for both men.

Rice's prior work reflected his fascination with larger-than-life figures, but he had little chance in Joseph, Superstar or Evita to do more than comment on these historical lives. He did have things to say. Andrew's music usually came from the heart and his scores' lush romanticism mirrored inner feelings. Tim had never really had the opportunity to use his lyrics to express himself. Chess may have been inspired by real events but the opinions, emotions and characters were his own. Rice is very private about his personal feelings and will almost never divulge anything below his engaging surface personality, except in his lyrics.


In 1972, the eyes of the world--and of Tim Rice--were on the Boris Spassky-Bobby Fischer match in Reykjavik as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. battled it out for supremacy on the chessboard. Rice had an idea that a story about people's relationships set against an international chess match would illustrate and illuminate the Cold War's East/West conflict. But other things-- Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita--intervened. It was 1980 before he got an outline down on paper and presented his ideas to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was immersed in Cats, his first show without Rice.

When a New York producer approached Tim about meeting Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, late of the rock group ABBA, he was intrigued. Ulvaeus and Andersson were looking for a new venture and liked Rice's Chess idea. They formed a company, Three Knights Ltd., to produce Chess.

The Album - November 1984

Andersson and Ulvaeus were master record producers and it was agreed they would follow the procedure Rice had used successfully in the past with Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar. They released a double concept album in 1984. Tim was hopeful, "If it's a mega-hit or even a small one we'll go for the show version in London in early 1985. If all this happens according to plan I shall then retire forever! If it all goes wrong I shall retire forever!"

The two-record set was introduced with five one-night concerts throughout Europe (see more about these and other concerts of Chess in the Variations section). One song, "One Night in Bangkok" became an international hit. The album and the concerts were rapturously received and there was no question if it would be staged, only when.

© 1991, 2001 - Sylvia Stoddard