A Gisborne chess club depicted in the New Zealand film The Dark Horse is recreating events in the movie by trying to raise funds to get its members to a national tournament.

But in a case of life not imitating art, they have a lot longer than the six weeks the movie characters had to get there.

The Eastern Knights Chess Club, whose players meet every Tuesday night at a church hall in Elgin, Gisborne, has set up a givealittle page with a goal of raising $4000 to get players firstly to a regional tournament, and then a national one. The club also wants to buy new boards and chess clocks for its members.

Gisborne City councillor Josh Wharehinga said that shortly after The Dark Horse began screening last week, some club members began receiving funds from people who were moved by the film.


"People were just wanting to give to 'the little club that could'."

Mr Wharehinga said the club was inspired by the film and wanted to get its members back to tournaments. It's just not sure where or when.

"But the movie excited us to do the same thing again and keep up that tradition. But we have been doing it through our own fundraisers like barbecues and so on," he said.

"It's kind of like our way of paying homage to the memory of Genesis - his whole whakaaro [idea] was engaging those on the fringes, the people who weren't well off and weren't doing great in class and engaging them in chess, which is by default a spatially based and mathematically based game."

In the film, which is based on real events, actor Cliff Curtis plays Potini, a bipolar chess genius who takes a group of misfit children under his wing and teaches them how to play the game. He tells the group he plans to take them to a national chess tournament in Auckland that is six weeks away, and they have to fundraise to get there.

Mr Wharehinga said that since the film being shown, began numbers at Eastern Knights had swelled.

Its members are mainly young Maori boys but Pakeha children and adults also attend. "At the last chess night we had about 40 people come in, which is a lot. The club is open to a wide range of people and everyone is engaged. We have doctors who will come in here and play."

The Eastern Knights' Givealittle page had raised $410 by last night.

Getting on board

• The Eastern Knights Chess Club featured in the New Zealand film The Dark Horse.
• The film is about bipolar chess genius Genesis Potini, who takes a number of misfit children under his wing to compete in a national chess tournament.
• Mr Potini always said he never wanted to attract the well-off, well-behaved children to chess. He always wanted to engage the misfits and those from families in need. He died in 2011.
• The club is fundraising via a Givealittle page to get its members to more tournaments, buy more clocks and purchase more chess sets.