Arthur Bliss was already a major composer when he was commissioned by the Vic-Wells Ballet in 1937 to provide a score for Checkmate. Although replicating something of the form of the conventional one-act ballet in being an episodic sequence of ensembles and solos within a basic non-narrative theme, Ninette de Valois' ballet used the classical divertissement to create a work of darkness and foreboding. With its striking Prologue, depicting the fateful game of good versus evil, and its violent, martial climax, it was uniquely a ballet for its time. Bliss, fresh from writing the score for the Wells/Korda film Things to Come, would have seemed the perfect choice it depict in music the contradictions of the 1930s and the Machine Age: the promise of scientific progress, aviation, mass communication and the menace of totalitarianism and world war. The score of Checkmate is engraved and published complete for the first time, with preface by Bliss scholar Andrew Burn.