Modern day sermons and internet blog references to
the “Checkmate” painting by Moritz Retzsch

Many Christian internet blogs and sermons posted on-line refer to the title of Retzsch’s painting as "Checkmate". Though that was not the painting’s official title it certainly seems appropriate given the posture of Satan’s young opponent and the apparent advantage of Satan’s pieces on the chess board.  The scene depicted by Retzsch in paint and recreated faithfully in bronze by our great, great grandfather Anthony W. Jones is literally filled with religious symbolism discussed in detail elsewhere on this site. But the two reasons pastors and motivational speakers continue to refer to the Retzsch painting in sermon after sermon are:

1) The mistaken impression from the painting that the young man is about to lose the chess game; and,

2) the optimistic message in the story of the chess master who easily defeats Satan’s chess position.

Billy Graham's 1955 Sermon

The most famous of all of those sermons “Is There An Answer?” was delivered by the great evangelist the Reverend Billy Graham before the Empire Club of Canada at the beginning of their 1955-56 season. To review Graham’s entire sermon click here. For only that part of the sermon that describes the “Checkmate” painting click here.

Pastor Rick White

On Easter Sunday April 8, 2012 Pastor Rick White of the People’s Church in Spring Hill and Franklin Tennessee referred to Billy Graham’s 1955 sermon story of the “Checkmate” painting. The April 8, 2012 Easter service can be found online here. Pastor White begins the “One More Move” story as it is traditionally told today by describing  two men who happen visit an art museum. The Checkmate story begins 36 minutes and 36 seconds into the video and continues for about 4 minutes.

Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer

On Sunday, September 12, 2010 the Senior Pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer delivered a sermon from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral which aired that day on Hour of Power entitled “The King Still Has One More Move”.  It is found on here.  

For the text of the part of his sermon referring to the painting click here. The seven minute video of the relevant part of that sermon about the painting can be seen on youTube here. Or play the video below. 

Pastor Robin Steele

Pastor Robin Steele of Promiseland Church in San Marcos tells a similar story about the “Checkmate” painting on his blog post here. To view the text of his version of the story click here.

Pastor Dennis Bloodworth

Dennis Bloodworth, serves as a neighborhood Media Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria Arizona. On February 2, 2012 his blog page posted a beautiful version of the story under the title “The King Has One More Move” with a picture of Retzsch’s famous painting. Dennis mentions Billy Graham’s 1955 sermon as well as Bishop Ken Ulmer. The text of his post about the chess master’s encounter with the painting can also be viewed here.  

Pastor Cleo E. Jackson

Senior pastor Cleo E. Jackson of First Baptist Church, Lenoir City, Tennessee did considerable research on the “chess master” encounter with the Moritz Retzsch painting before posting on line. His most recent blog “It Ain’t Over Yet” is dated April 25, 2014 and can be found here. That posting indicates he is aware the name of the chess master in the story was Paul Morphy but for some reason places Morphy’s encounter with the painting in Cincinnati. His slightly earlier blog titled “Playing With One’s Destiny, dated April 7, 2014, also places Morphy in Cincinnati with the painting. That earlier post is found here.

Bentley Farm Gazette

On Thursday April 28, 2011 a similar story of the “checkmate” painting was posted by Bentley Farm Gazette here. According to this version of the story the chess master encountered the painting in a Russian Museum.

The LMLK Word Press Blog Titled “Checkmate” Posted In 2007

Click here for the full text of that blog which offers an additional final sampling of how often the modern Christian community has found inspiration from the telling of a chess master’s encounter with the Retzsch painting. PLEASE NOTE: Many of the links provided in the text of that 2007 blog to specific sermons no longer work. But that blog does reflect how often the story has been told and re-told to various Christian congregations.

The LMLK word press blog titled “Checkmate” posted in 2007


This blog's selected previous sermon references that refer to Retzsch’s painting as “Checkmate”

“While searching AiG’s website Monday morning (Labor Day), I noticed a link not relevant to what I was searching for:The King Always Has One More Move. It’s a 28-minute (6.6Mb MP3) lecture by David Crandall, & 16 minutes into it he takes off on Acts 16:16-26 & relates an anecdote about a painting entitled “Checkmate”.

It depicts 2 chess players, 1 of whom appears arrogantly confident, & the other (Faust? You? Me?) looks forlorn. A visitor to the museum exhibiting the painting studies the arrangement of the chess pieces, & determines that the title doesn’t fit the scene because the forlorn-looking player actually has the ability to defeat his opponent–though he obviously doesn’t realize it.

His king can still make another move!

Dr. Crandall didn’t cite his source or any specifics about the museum, other than that it happened “several years ago at a brand new museum”, so I immediately began some research & found a slew of similar retellings online–mostly by preachers, & at least 3 were considerate enough to cite Bishop Ulmer as their source.

… Other renditions of the story mention The Louvre  (obviously not brand new), but I did not find “Checkmate” in their database.

Jason Albelo of East Hill Church concluded his “Dismantling the Dungeons” series on 2007-8-19 with a sermon, "The King Has One More Move". You can download the 43:39 video (27.1Mb WMV) which takes off on Matthew 18:21–35, but he doesn’t introduce the Checkmate story until about the 30:20 mark (preaching concludes around 37:15).

Unlike the majority who save this story for the punch at the end of their message, Steve Wilbraham of Congregational-Presbyterian Church began his 2006-9-10 sermon, “The Word Became Human”, with it;… .

Glen Jackson of Faith Christian Church of Simi Valley (located on Royal Ave!!!) also uses it near the beginning of his sermon on Colossians 1:5 , The Power of the Gospel" (an undated sermon).

Jack Coldren of New Hope Church preached this sermon 2006-12-31. It’s available as a 23.5Mb MP3 at "The King Has One More Move". Its runtime is 33:28, & from about 14:45-18:30 he takes off on 2Corinthians 2:11, & adds a twist to the story that instead of being a painting in a museum exhibit, it’s seen by a chessmaster as a guest at a dinner. An additional twist is that he recreates the positions of the chessboard on his own, & then challenges the dinner guests to play the Devil/Mephistopheles/Satan role.

Richard Pfeil of White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church concluded his "My Life Should Be easier Than This!!!" (59kb Word Doc) sermon on 2007-6-10 after taking off from John 9:1-3. Now the painting moves to London, & instead of 2 men–one being a chess champ–it’s a teacher with school students on a field trip! But at least he admits up front that he doesn’t know if it’s a true story or not!

Jan Farley of The Village Community Presbyterian Church used it in a 2006-4-23 sermon, "Cracked Pots", which takes off on 2Corinthians 4:7-18 with a nice section on jar usage in antiquity.

One of the preachers who cited Ulmer was David A. Miller of Faith Presbyterian Church. He told the story in his 2006-4-16 sermon on John11:1-34, "Resurrection Poweer".

Another one who cited Ulmer was Rick Kirchoff of Germantown United Methodist Church. He told the story in his 2007-4-8 sermon on 1 Peter:3-8, "A Living Hope".


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