A Most Unconvincing Replicant
Allegory and Intelligence
in Blade Runner's Chess Game

Published in:
The Lifted Brow 20 (December 2013)

Pages: 71-73.

Editor: Sam Cooney

Published: Melbourne, Australia

ISBN: 978-0-9805954-8-2



Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, 1982) is set in a world rich with background texture. In terms of creativity the film demonstrates considerable attention to detail. Yet, in one of its more mundane depictions Blade Runner is found wanting: the game of chess between Sebastian and Tyrell has been rendered with a level of intent and accuracy sufficient only to draw attention to its flaws.

Stimulus Response:

Although it doesn't take any great chess knowhow to follow what's going on (or rather, going wrong) with Blade Runner's chess game vis-à-vis its function within the film, the construction of a position that did the job properly was, I thought, likely to be a tad beyond my sub-master capabilities (yet necessary, for it would be cruel to stick the boot into Ridley Scott without offering up a more plausible alternative). With this in mind, I did what Ridley himself should have done back when synthpop was coming into its own; that is, consulted a grandmaster. Australia's David Smerdon wasn't born when Blade Runner came out, but he's pretty au fait with the 80s and was able to remix Ridley's basic track in about the same time it would take Gaff to fold up an origami unicorn. David's musings on chess (and allegedly lesser things) can be found at:


  - random selection from the unpublished memoire, Freefall