There's a survey on chess.com, Do your friends play chess?, and the results aren't very encouraging. Personally, very few of my friends play chess.

Then I read this question: What's the most prestigious chess competition, broadcasted on TV? Chess was once broadcast on TV; is it getting less popular?

How many people actually attend the tournaments and watch them? I watch bowling, snooker, even darts on sky sport. Eurosport broadcasts sports like Biathlon; could chess be less popular than that? Really?

Is FIDE trying to make it more popular?

  • When you say Chess federation, are you thinking of a specific federation, or FIDE?
    – Halvard
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 11:00
  • @Halvard I'm talking about the FIDE
    – Lynob
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 12:03
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    I've never gone cross-country skiing, and I've certainly never paired that with target practice. Nevertheless, I'd have little trouble following the action of a televised biathlon (though I wouldn't really want to). But someone who is only faintly acquainted with chess would have much greater difficulty appreciating how a top-flight televised chess game is going.
    – ETD
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 1:05
  • 1
    Forget about TV, we have the Internet now. The Internet is perfect for chess, both for playing and for following live events. That does make it hard to measure popularity though (online players aren't registered as FIDE members...) Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 10:55
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    @Fischer hopefully more popular than this question :)
    – user2001
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 8:27

4 Answers 4


Chess isn't popular because all major tournaments make it lack emotion. For some reason, all major tournaments are those of classic chess, that is, with high quality games that last 5 hours or more. The outcome of these high quality games at the highest play level is most typically a draw. This is totally broken and does not have a chance to make it to the mainstream public.

Now look at soccer, which has a bit of popularity in Europe and South America. At the higher level there are few goals scored but games are more often than not full of emotion. Just like chess, a small mistake (even a referee mistake) can determine the result of a game. Just like chess, it is a game of mistakes, but there is a major difference: things happen fast, sometimes faster than the eye can tell. The center back does not let the forward to think as much time as he wishes so that he can make the shoot of the century. Instead, he tackles him. The difference of level among a division and the division below is the time they have left to make a decision once they have the ball. The higher the division, the shorter the time to think.

To answer your question, FIDE does not try to make chess more popular because it is promoting the classic games, which are of no interest and of a lot less quality than two machines playing against each other with a regular computer. FIDE has been losing time trying to make chess an Olympic sport so that it can get funds by governments that are willing to increase their vanity each 4 years by getting Olympic medals.

If FIDE had any interest in making it more popular, the major tournaments where all money and fame are need to be of fast games, from 5 to 10 minutes by player, with lower quality but a lot more fun, and leave the perfect games for the machines.

  • 3
    You write that classical chess compares unfavorably to chess between machines because the games are of lower quality, and unfavorably to rapid chess because it involves less emotion. Your basic idea can be turned around to show exactly why many people might consider classical chess to be the best version of chess: it has a much higher quality of games than rapid chess, while at the same time involving the emotional and psychological struggle between two humans that chess between machines lacks. Just a thought.
    – ETD
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 20:51
  • you deserve the best answer, i completely agree, take volleyball for example, now the game is significantly shorter than what it used to be in the past, they changed too many rules and became much more popular! I will happily spend 3h watching F1 or Nadal vs Federer... american watch LONG period of times watching baseball, idians and english and australians watch cricket games that never end... you spend too much time in chess thinking and not acting! i wish that chess could maintain the fun factor!
    – Lynob
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 21:11
  • one thing that they could do is this: say regroup players into groups of 4, the top in the group A, plays the second in group B, but the guy with the first position gets to chose his opening and the opponent has to play the opening that his opponent picked on the spot, or maybe some handicapped chess, the weaker guy in group stage gets to play without a bishop or a knight, and limit the thinking time to 1min, like they do in snooker, you have 1 min to think, if you're good enough like sullivan, 1 min is too much time :D
    – Lynob
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 21:16
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    @eddean My answer perhaps sounded opinionated but the main point is not that no one can possibly like classical chess, the point is that by accelerating the pace at the expense of quality, it can become a lot more fun for the mainstream. In a soccer stadium I'm sure than fewer than a 1% of the audience fully understands the tactical aspects of the game, yet the game is fun for 90% of them.
    – Pep
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 23:31
  • Totally agree. Should be like this
    – AWE
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 11:38

according to wikipedia, the USCF has experienced strong membership growth in recent times:


However, another angle would be to look at google search trends, and this suggests it is less popular, at least since 2005. For example, "chess", "learn chess" and "chess rules", "chess tutor", "chess books", "chess openings", "chess endgame", and "play chess online" show a downward trend. "how to play chess" shows a slight downward trend.

Overall popularity to other things could be compared by looking at the number of facebook likes that it has, although this estimate could be confounded by many different factors. You could at least get a rough comparison to other hobbies, though.


Chess made the top 10 most searched for games on Google for over 117 months. I think they've been recording the top searches for about 117 months. It's the most popular board game in the world.



The USCF and FIDE have scholastic programs designed to get kids - boys and girls - into chess. This is one way they are trying to popularize it.

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