Chess is one of the oldest and most popular games in the world. With a colorful history that dates back to 600 AD, nearly half a billion people play chess today. Chess masters can be found in nearly every city in the world, but these six cities have the most enthusiastic players.
1. Moscow, Russia
Moscow is the largest city in Russia, with a population of 12.1 million, but it’s also home to the most chess players in the world. In fact, nine world champions have either lived or played in the city.
Moscow was previously the headquarters of the Soviet Union’s chess activities. The city’s chess history is the most extensive of any city in the world. Two chess Olympiads were staged in Moscow: one in 1956 and one in 1994. The city also hosted 15 world chess championships – an impressive feat.
If you’re looking to challenge local players, try Sokolniki Park.
2. London, England
Home to 8.3 million people, London is the biggest city in England and has been a chess hub for centuries. The city hosted the first formal international chess tournament in 1851. Adolf Andersson of Germany was the victor, defeating 15 players from around the world.
London has hosted seven chess championships. Moscow is the only other city to host more world tournaments.
Some of the best spots to play chess include Hammersmith Chess Club and Battersea Chess Club. You’ll also find people playing in pubs.
3. New York, New York
The largest city in the U.S. also has the most extensive chess history in the United States.
If you’re looking to play outdoors, the chess tables at Washington Square Park is a good place to start. Just bring your own chess pieces – the tables have built-in boards. But you’re likely to find more people playing at Union Square. Also, recommend bringing a chess clock, so you don’t rely on an iPhone.
Many chess masters have played at the tables at Washington Square Park, including Bobby Fischer.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
Want to play chess at the top of the world? Reykjavik, Iceland is home to six of the country’s eight chess grandmasters. About 1 out of every 20,000 residents is a grandmaster.
The city also hosted the famous 1972 world championship, where Bobby Fischer played Boris Spassky.
5. St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg, the second-largest city in this chess-obsessed nation, is home to many chess players and grandmasters.
Rumor has it that the grandmaster title surfaced after the St. Petersburg chess tournament in 1914. It was at this tournament that Russian Tsar Nicholas II awarded the noble title to five players.
6. Baku, Azerbaijan
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is home to 2.1 million people and has a rich chess history. The city’s most famous chess player is the legendary Garry Kasparov, former world champion. Many chess fans still consider him the greatest world champion to have ever lived.
GM Teimor Radjabov is from Baku and is one of the top players in the world.
The city also hosted the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympiad.