I had a conversation with a guy who I think was studying history and was a decent chess player and he said that in the USSR chess and dialectical materialism were considered related.

The usual reason we hear about the importance of chess to the Soviets is that Soviet dominance of international chess showed somehow the superiority of their educational system.

I wonder if "central planning" for their economy was considered related to the sort of planning involved in chess.

I note also that Botvinnik (an electrical engineer in the days when power transmission was more important than computing machinery, I think) was a pioneer in both computer chess and using computers to help plan the economy.

Is it possible that "central planning" (perhaps in addition to the other things) was a primary reason for the Soviets to emphasize chess?

1 Answer 1


Is it possible that "central planning" (perhaps in addition to the other things) was a primary reason for the Soviets to emphasize chess?

Anything is possible. The term "central planning" is a bit vague but I am going to interpret it as "centrally administered".

The Soviets prioritized Sport ,Academic and the Arts as a way of non-violent* supremacy over the west. This particularly ramped up post space race.

The soviets , invested heavily into things such as Ballet, Science and also chess. There was a national directive of how chess was taught, played and reported on, often referred to as the "Soviet Chess School". Districts would have chess schools , a central office directing the office. The head of the Soviet Chess was a former senior KGB officer. Incidentally upon his death Karpov acquired his extensive library of chess books. Chess was mandatory in schools , it is why they had such a strong number of Grand Masters.

To be Academically, Artistically and Athletically better than the west was and utmost priority of Soviet activities, and I don't believe this is better encapsulated anywhere else other than chess.

*Occasionally things got a bit out of hand eg; Water Polo,

  • I meant economic central plannning. My understanding is that soviets believed that by effective planning, economies worked better than allowing companies to compete producing similar products which certainly sounds plausible but if it does require, say, AI of the level we are seeing today, the USSR folded probably just at the point where using computers might have allowed that country to prove that central planning works.
    – releseabe
    Jun 16, 2023 at 7:20

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