Why Is Chess So Popular in Russia?

Looking at the list of grandmasters from around the world, it is clear that Russia is home to numerous of the world’s greatest chess players. Add to this the fact that many of the top chess experts in the world come from former Soviet states, and you have to question what the Russians love about chess and why it is so popular.

Since the Soviet era, chess has been viewed as an intellectual pursuit in Russia, which has contributed to the game’s popularity there. It has not always been popular in Russia, but dominance at chess signified mental superiority.

Russia has produced eleven world chess champions. How did playing chess become so popular? Keep on reading to discover insightful facts surrounding chess.

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Chess In Russia

After the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, the sport became the national pastime. Chess became a state-sponsored game, with competitions held around the nation.

Over 500,000 amateurs were officially registered as playing competitively as early as 1934. Chess swiftly surged in popularity, and Russians rose to the top of the international chess rankings.

How Did Chess Impact The Country?

During the majority of the Soviet Union’s existence, the government-funded chess, and many schools relied on these subsidies to operate. As the Cold War began, chess became a straightforward means for the government to demonstrate its superiority to the international community.

Specialized chess schools were established in the country, with the vast majority of chess players devoting their entire lives to the game. The next generations learned to play from their masters.

Russia’s Most Renowned Chess Players

As we mentioned above, Russia has produced quite a few chess champions, some of whom are listed below.

Garry Kasparov

Choosing a single renowned Russian player is practically impossible, as the country has dominated the sport for nearly a century. Garry Kasparov, who was the world’s number one chess player for 255 months, is the most famous living Russian player.

His career as a chess player lasted 21 years until he retired to become a writer and political activist.

Alexander Alekhine

He died in 1946 and was the second most famous chess player. He was recognized for his aggressive style of play against opponents. From 1927 to 1935 and again from 1935 to 1946, he reigned as the world chess champion.

During his reign, he invented and innovated various opening-playing approaches that are still in use today. Alexander was well-versed in end-game strategies and routinely defeated his opponents through superior strategy.

Sergey Karjakin

He was born in 1990 and has been a highly successful chess grandmaster for many years, he is one of the youngest Russian grandmasters currently alive.

Currently competing in tournaments around the world, he may not be a grandmaster on a global scale, but he has demonstrated he is capable of beating the better.

When Did The Popularity Of Chess Begin To Decline?

People continued to play chess in Russia long after the fall of the Soviet Union; therefore its popularity never truly waned. However, the hard preparation offered to chess players was no longer necessary as people prepared for competitions.

There may still be a few surviving masters who operate training schools for game players.


Due to the severe training that was pushed on chess players, some populations no longer wish to play the game. While a huge number of people are still actively training to play chess, the Soviet Union’s passion for the game is no longer burning. This is why many Russians have still crowned grandmasters, but not to the same extent as in the middle of the 20th century.

A few individuals have observed that, despite the Soviet Union’s excessive concentration and employment of draconian measures to coerce and torment players into improvement, the outcomes are noteworthy.

The mental strain of the game quickly becomes excessive, causing a significant proportion of Soviet players to develop mental health concerns in the future. This is why extreme training camps that need players to play at all times will no longer exist.

Three Facts About Chess

Here are a few interesting tidbits you can quote at people right before a fun game!

Chess Strengthens Memory

It may not come as a surprise that professional chess players have excellent recall skills. Ultimately, the game requires memorization of various combinations of movements and possible results.

It is also noteworthy to notice that experienced chess players demonstrate superior performance in relation to auditory memory. This is the capacity to recall information learned through listening.

In one experiment, researchers examined the recall abilities of expert chess players and individuals with no chess experience. They discovered that chess players were substantially better at recalling word lists than those who had never played the game.

Expert chess players have an above-average capacity to memorize and detect visual patterns, which researchers believe is a result of learning intricate chess situations.

Chess Allows You To Enter A State Of Flow

Flow is a profoundly fulfilling feeling of entire participation that occurs while you are functioning at top performance in a difficult endeavor. Athletes, artists, and entertainers frequently describe entering a state resembling a time warp, in which their awareness of anything other than the activity at hand seems to vanish.

When people are in a state of flow, theta waves are amplified on electroencephalograms (EEG’s), according to researchers who study brain activity. During increasingly challenging chess matches, brain scans of experienced chess players have demonstrated the same high levels of theta waves.

Chess Enhances Your Imagination

Researchers at an Indian school compared the creative thinking abilities of two student groups. One group received chess training, whereas the other did not.

Students were required to propose alternative uses for everyday things and identify patterns and abstract meanings. Students who participated in chess had higher test scores. Researchers concluded that playing chess improved pupils’ ability to engage in varied and creative thought.


Russia has always cherished chess, which has been an integral part of the country throughout its history. With a substantial number of grandmasters and many reigning champions hailing from Russia, it comes as no surprise that the country is the best place to master the game.

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