Ivory Tower is an existential sports comedy, a story of two brothers and their unhealthy rivalry over both the chessboard and a woman. Hershell is a chess purist, the prodigal son, an artist. Thadeus grew to be a disciplined, fierce and ruthless competitor, commercially exploiting his chess notoriety. At the death of their father, Hershell spent four nomadic years travelling Europe in quixotic pursuit of his "Jazz Chess" theory: chess for chess' sake, reduced to pure movement without the element of competition and best played alone. There is no winner, no loser, only beautiful positions. The film starts at his return home to Toronto, where he finds that his brother Thadeus has become the Canadian Chess Champion. Successful but arrogant, Thadeus supports their sick mother, has a rising media profile and is engaged to marry Marsha, Hershell's former sweetheart for whom he still longs. Hershell finds that Jazz Chess doesn't attract the acclaim or investors he was hoping for; even kids playing chess in the park don't seem to understand "chess without checkmate". Discouraged by his prospects, and wanting Marsha back, Hershell finds himself drawn toward the competitive addiction from which he had run. He decides to challenge Thadeus for the upcoming Canadian Chess Championship. The gauntlet is thrown down and the two brothers undergo rigorous training, each according to their vision if the game. During the final match, Thadeus takes the lead but is flustered by Hershell's Zen-like demeanor. Thadeus blunders out of frustration and sets himself up for certain defeat at the hands of his brother in just one deadly move. Whose trophy will Marsha be? Will Hershell use his Jazz Chess principles and prove that art for art's sake can triumph?... "it's not about winning but about the beauty of each move" or will Thadeus' killer instinct prevail?... "chess is war".
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