What Is the Meaning of the Chess Set in ‘John Wick 3’?

wick chess set 1

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John Wick is one of the best action movie franchises in history, with Keanu Reeves portraying the main character. Every John Wick movie is jam-packed with action, but there’s also tons of symbolism there – like the chess set we can see near the end of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. So, what was the meaning behind that chess set, and why was it there?

The chess set near the end of John Wick 3 that appeared in the glass room where John and Winston met symbolizes that everyone makes their moves and has a game to play to stay alive. Winston even says to John, ‘just don’t make the mistake of pretending this is personal.’

John might’ve felt betrayed by a friend, but the reality is there was nothing personal about their predicament. As members of the hitman society, they all have to make moves and, essentially, play chess to ensure their safety and survival. Let’s explore this notion a bit further.

When does the chess set appear in John Wick 3?

The chess set in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum appears near the end of the film when John Wick meets Winston in the big glass room. If you remember, Winston was the one who proclaimed John excommunicado, putting him at risk of being killed by every single assassin in the world.

However, things aren’t that simple. It might’ve seemed as if Winston simply betrayed his friend, but he actually did what he needed to do to survive.

As John approaches, we see Winston standing in front of a big, vintage chess set with a gun right before him. The two former friends talk, and Winston is aware that John was sent there to kill him. Yet, he knows that John is having doubts about what to do.

He tells him to do what he feels like he must do, just not to make the mistake of pretending any of it was personal. In the end, they both know what line of work they choose – the only question is what their actions will make of them.


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What was the meaning behind the chess set in John Wick 3?

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Now, the awesome chess set in front of Winston isn’t in the room accidentally, of course. It absolutely has a purpose and a meaning.

‘We use this room only on very special occasions,’ Winston says to John. ‘When you need to see what the opponent hides under the table.’ When you’re a part of the world of hitmen and assassins, you know the dangers of the game you’re playing.

The chess set symbolizes just that – their lives and actions are one big game of chess, with everyone making moves to try and win. Winning here means staying alive, and losing means, well, the opposite.

Those words we keep repeating – ‘don’t make the mistake of pretending this is personal’ – tell you everything you need to know. Even if John felt betrayed by Winston, he only did what needed to be done to survive. He was making his chess move, and John was entitled to make his move.


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That’s why Winston literally hands John the gun and tells him to do what he feels like he must do. Winston knows the High Table is out to get him anyways, and if he must die, he’d rather die at the hand of a friend – John.

That’s right, despite proclaiming him excommunicado, Winston still considers John a friend. It needed to be done because John broke the rules. Friends or not, those rules are there for everyone.

It’s all just a big game of chess, with each move having deadly consequences. But that’s what life is when you’re John Wick.

What chess set was used in John Wick 3?

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You’ve certainly noticed that the chess set in John Wick 3 looked rather peculiar, with long, pointy figures with symbols that depict each figure on top. Such a chess set actually exists in real life – it wasn’t just created for the set. If you want to have one, you can get one.

The chess set used in John Wick 3 is a vintage 1962 Alcoa Aluminum chess set created by Austin Cox. The chess pieces are made out of aluminum, with the black figures being anodized Aluminum. The pieces’ size ranges from 3 inches for pawns, and around 7 inches for the king and queen figures, which are the tallest.

You can check out more details here and even buy a set if you want to have it. Just note that it is a vintage, limited edition antique set, so the price certainly reflects that.

If you want something similar, you can always find a 3D-printed set that’s inspired by the original for a lower price.

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