Killer Moves
Killer Moves
Season 14
Number 16
Writer Mary Leah Sutton
Director Alec Smight
Original Airdate March 5, 2014
Previous Episode: Love for Sale
Next Episode: Long Road Home

Killer Moves is the sixteenth episode in Season Fourteen of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The CSIs investigate the murder of an Elvis impersonator and a bird that have a bizarre connection.


Victims: George Tabin, rook (both deceased)

On the case: D.B. Russell, Greg Sanders, Julie Finlay, Morgan Brody, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, Kevin Crawford

Elvis impersonator George Tabin is found dead on a bus bench. Since his money and credit cards are still there, robbery is ruled out as a motive. There are multiple head wounds under George's Elvis wig, but the lack of blood indicates that this isn't the primary crime scene. Greg and Sara follow a blood trail away from the body, eventually coming across a bird that's been stabbed to death with a screwdriver. Sara points out that the bird is actually a rook, and Greg makes the connection between the murders—both "The King" and the rook are chess pieces.

Greg, an expert chess player, looks at the street signs, noting that the rook was found at the corners of D Street and 1st Street (D1), while George was found at the corners of C Street and 1st Street (C1). He explains to Sara that the next move would be called "castling," which involves moving the king from E1 to C1. When they reach the corners of E street and 1st Street (E1), they find George's abandoned car parked on the side of the street. There's a significant amount of blood on the driver's seat, and Greg finds a bloody tire iron in the back seat.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as multiple craniocerebral injuries due to the blunt force trauma to the head. The victim was struck at least a dozen times, and his tox screen found very high levels of diphenhydramine in his system. There's also an injection mark on the victim's neck, indicating that he was drugged before he was beaten to death. The murder required premeditation and careful planning—just like a chess player.

When processing George's clothes, Hodges finds a piece of moss, which is unusual for a desert setting. There are also traces of sodium lauryl sulfate and shea butter on the stem, both commonly found in shampoos and bath oils. He tells Russell that the Mediterranean hotel recently installed live-moss bath mats in their rooms. Hodges discovers that while George was not a guest at the hotel, there's an international chess tournament being played there.

Greg and Nick head to the tournament and speak with Jenny Carroll, the tournament director. She explains that the festival is part of 12-city tour in which the goal is to broaden the appeal of the game. Jenny tells Nick that there are 150 players in the tournament, and she agrees to provide a list of everyone's names, as well as a list of the vendors. While Nick fixates on former champion Karl Schrute playing multiple people at once, Greg catches up with Paul Lomax, an old friend of his from his chess-playing days.

In his office, Russell looks at a chess board and recreates the moves recently made by the killer. He shows Sara that in order to castle his king, the knight, bishop, and queen must also all be moved. Castling can't be an opening move; if the killer is following the rules, George Tabin wouldn't be his first kill. The team isn't just looking for a suspect, they're looking for more victims.

Morgan and Sara call the police departments in the last three cities the chess tour has visited, discovering that there have been six other murders that appear to be chess-related. A woman on horseback and a homeless man were murdered in Portland (knight, pawn), a drag queen and priest were murdered in San Francisco (queen, bishop), and another homeless man and a priest were the victims in Reno (pawn, bishop). All of the bodies were dumped at intersections of numbered and lettered streets. There are now seven victims and seven chess murders. Sara believes that the killer isn't eliminating pieces ("capture-kills"), but, rather, making chess moves. Every time the killer makes a move, somebody dies.

Greg goes back to the tournament and talks to Paul again. When shown a list of the moves made so far, Paul immediately recognizes them as moves made in a game 16 years ago between Karl Schrute and Troy Parker. Troy was the best American player, but after losing the match to Karl, he disappeared from the public eye. Greg finds Karl at the bar and is told that Troy's next move was bishop to E3, a mistake that cost him the game. Karl says that there are hundreds of people who still have an unhealthy interest in the outcome of that game, and he gets at least one letter a week from others. He also recalls that he received a letter when he arrived at the hotel; it was wrapped around a handcrafted bishop.

Hodges finds that the chess piece was made from papier-mâché; more specifically, a combination of toilet paper, laundry soap, and water. The laundry soap is formulated to work with the hard water at Ely State Prison, and there's one former inmate who has been following the chess tour around—Lee Crosby.

Lee, last seen losing a chess match to Paul, is brought in for interrogation. A surveillance photo is shown of him four blocks away from where George's body was found on the night of the murder. To the frustration of Nick and Det. Crawford, Lee sees the interrogation as more of a chess match. He admits to following the tour, but only says that he's been taking the bus at night, not killing people. It's revealed that while he was in prison, Lee ordered over a dozen books on Troy Parker, including a book on the fateful game he lost. Lee seems like the kind of person who would memorize every move made in the game, and he confidently tells Nick and Det. Crawford that he wouldn't make the same mistake Troy did. He also admits that he desperately wants to replay the fateful match with Karl Schrute knowing that he had one thing Troy never had—"killer instinct." However, he claims that he's no killer.

Russell gets a phone call telling him that another move has been played. The body is found in a car in a parking garage having been pierced with a sword from back to front. Greg notes that the next move should've been near Avenue E and 3rd Street; however, the victim, Chris Shatlock, is found on Level A4 of the parking garage. His work card says that he performs in a dinner show, and gear in the trunk shows that he plays a Knight of the Round Table (knight). Greg reiterates that the next move should've been bishop to E3, which is the next move Troy Parker made. An injection mark similar to the one on George is found on Chris' neck. The murders are related, and the killer has changed the game.

Fingerprints on the sword come back to Troy Parker. Time of death says that Chris was killed at the same time Lee was being interrogated, so the team has the wrong guy. The thought now is that Troy is replaying the game he lost to Karl, only he's making his moves by killing people. His opponent is now the LVPD, and they must find a way to get one move ahead of him.

Jenny Carroll stops by the police department, giving them a package that was left at the tournament's reception area. The package was sent to Karl, and nobody has been able get in contact with him recently. Upon opening the package, Russell sees that it's another handcrafted chess piece; this time, it's a knight.

Greg tells Paul about the development in the case, and both believe that the killer is trying to correct Troy's past mistake. Knight to A4 was the move Troy should've made 16 years ago; doing so would've put him on the verge of pulling off a tactic called the Osterlitz endgame. Troy was three moves away from making history when he screwed up. Instead, moving the bishop to E3 ruined his life. However, Paul is adamant that Troy isn't a killer. He says that while Troy was both a genius and a fool, the killer they're looking for is neither. Greg isn't so sure, repeating what Paul told him earlier: chess can drive a man to madness.

When Nick processed the car earlier, he found a bedbug on one of the headrests. Morgan provides a list of all motels in the area with a recent infestation of bedbugs, and the manager of a motel in Boulder City recognizes one of his residents as Troy. The disgraced former chess player has been living at the motel for over year under an alias. When Nick and Det. Crawford go and search the room, they find it full of chess boards; it seems Troy is still replaying his past mistake. They're soon alerted to water running in the bathroom. Inside, they find the body of Lee Crosby lying in tub full of bloody water.

Vials and syringes are found in the trash, and it's surmised that they contained the drugs used to paralyze the previous victims before they were killed. Greg observes the chess boards in the room and notes that they're all playing the exact same game, except for one. The other game is further along, and Greg sees that it's playing out the Osterlitz endgame, where the pawn puts the king in check before being quickly sacrificed. Troy has been playing the strategy out, and the scenario on the board seems to indicate that he and Lee teamed up for the killings. Lee's murder is another move, and he was the one being used as the pawn. The next move would be a checkmate, where the king is taken out. If Karl Schrute is the king, then his life is in danger.

In the lab, Hodges informs Morgan that the drugs in the vials recovered from Troy's place contain an experimental medication used to treat people in late stages of vascular dementia. If the drugs are Troy's, there's no way he would've been physically capable of killing anyone. Prints on the vials come back to Greg's friend, Paul Lomax.

In interrogation, Paul is accused by Nick and Russell of withholding information from the police, as he not only knew where Troy was the whole time, but he also knew about Troy's illness and kept it a secret. It's revealed that Paul met Lee Crosby at Ely State Prison during an outreach program. It was then that Paul taught Lee how to play chess, and he was the one who turned Lee onto the match between Troy and Karl 16 years ago. Paul tells the CSIs that the only thing he's guilty of is caring for a great man who's now sadly diminished. When asked where both Karl and Troy are, Paul remains silent.

After Nick and Russell leave the interrogation room, Paul gets up and starts talking to Greg, correctly guessing that he was watching the interrogation the whole time from the observation room. He tells the CSI that he's figured it out, encouraging Greg to see the board through his opponent's eyes; doing so will allow him to see the endgame. Greg visualizes a board and the moves that have been made, coming to the realization that the queen is behind everything.

Greg confronts Jenny Carroll at the tournament hall. He reveals that she closed out all of the accounts on the vendor list she provided, except for one. That location is a storage facility where both Karl and Troy were found and rescued. Greg guesses that Jenny seduced Lee into being an accomplice, something she doesn't deny. It's revealed that chess runs in her blood, as her father was a grandmaster. However, her father's prevailing thought was that chess was a "man's game" that required power and intellect, something he believed his daughter didn't possess. She tells Greg that every time she was killing someone, she was killing her father in an act of revenge. Karl and Troy were victims because she believed they were cut from the same cloth. Before being arrested, she revels in the fact that the queen is the most powerful piece on the chess board.

Back at the police station, Troy is reunited with Paul as Greg happily looks on. Later, after Greg tells Sara why he stopped playing chess, the two agree to play a friendly game.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Alimi Ballard as Detective Crawford
  • Sarah Lafleur as Jenny Carroll
  • David Dastmalchian as Lee Crosby
  • Ron Glass as Paul Lomax
  • Carlo Rota as Karl Schrute
  • Taylor Vale as Greg (14 years old)
  • Gary Colón as Troy Parker


  • When Nick puts the article about Troy Parker down on the table in the investigation room, a reading of the article reveals that Karl Schrute's last name is referenced twice, but the second time, it is incorrectly spelled 'Schute'.
  • When the Osterlitz Endgame is being explained to Nick, the full view of the board shows a pawn on the C5 square behind the tipped pawn on the C6 square. In the next shot, which is a closeup of that area of the board, the C5 pawn has vanished.
  • When Greg is explaining the Osterlitz Endgame to Nick, he points out a supposed two-move checkmate starting by sacrificing the pawn on the C6 square to the king on D7. The checkmate can actually be accomplished in one move by promoting the pawn on E7 to a queen.
  • When Russell executes a queen-side castle playing chess, he moves his king only one space. In a castle, the king always moves two spaces.
  • When Greg explains the queen-side castle to Sara he says (as with the animation): "Now there is a chess move known as castling, in which the player moves two pieces at the same time: the rook from its original position to D1 and the King from E1 to C1." However the official chess rules states that one should first move the King 2 places then the rook, this to avoid confusion with a normal move of the rook.


  • Flash Light by Parliament
  • Your Move by Yes


  • Jon Wellner (Henry) and Paul Guilfoyle (Brass) are credited but do not appear in the episode.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 14
The Devil and D.B. RussellTake the Money and RunTorch SongLast SupperFrame by FramePassed PawnsUnder a CloudHelplessCheck In and Check OutGirls Gone WildLost ReindeerKeep Calm and Carry OnBoston BrakesDe Los MuertosLove for SaleKiller MovesLong Road HomeUninvitedThe FallenConsumedKittyDead In His Tracks