A scene from a Covent Garden production of the ballet ‘Checkmate’ with music by Arthur Bliss, choreography by Ninette de Valois and costumes and scenery by McNight Kauffer, London, 1947
Checkmate is a one act ballet created by the choreographer Ninette de Valois and composer Arthur Bliss. It was first performed on 15 June 1937 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris. Checkmate is widely regarded as de Valois’ signature ballet and a cornerstone of the British ballet repertoire, being performed regularly by the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet.
The premise of the ballet is that the chess pieces become animated and act out human emotions. The main conflict of the story concerns the Red Knight’s love for the Black Queen. In the Prologue, two chess players are shown, ready to do battle. The player in gold represents Love and chooses the red side. The player in black represents Death and takes the black side.