World chess body looks to capture attention of young people

ISTANBUL – One of the priorities of the world's top chess body is to spread the game among children and young people, the director-general of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) said on Wednesday.

"Various educational programs, agreements with governments and ministries to introduce chess in the school system, etc. led to record numbers - and today 25-30 million kids around the world take a chess class at least once a week," Emil Sutovsky told Anadolu Agency on International Chess Day.

"Very few of them will become professional chess players, but that is not our goal," said Sutovsky, who hails from Israel.

Sutovsky, who attained the rank of grandmaster in 1996, underlined the federation's work to strengthen and expand this interest among children and young people with the aim of raising "smart, responsible kids."

These, in turn, can benefit society as people who "know how to focus, how to think, how to be calm in difficult situations, and how to improve over time."

Besides its role as an educational asset, chess is also an exceptional social tool, said Sutovsky, pointing to several social programs by FIDE for the elderly, and disabled.

Pandemic-era surge

Sutovsky said chess enjoyed a flood of interest during the coronavirus pandemic, and the game was also promoted by the 2020 Netflix series 'The Queen's Gambit.'

"During the Covid-19 times, many people discovered and re-discovered chess. Also the Queen's Gambit effect helped it," he said, adding that in many places, chess sets and beginners' chess books were sold out as the show brought the game to new audiences and young people.

Chess' climbing popularity also manifested in a rise in registrations on chess platforms, said Sutovsky, with around 100 million people opening accounts to play the game digitally.

"Of course, it isn't like chess wasn't popular before. But during the pandemic, we saw a sharp increase," he said, adding that the federation was happy to see that the numbers "did not drop significantly" since then.

Türkiye's 'long chess tradition'

There are currently about 500 million people playing chess worldwide, Sutovsky said, citing generally accepted polls and research on the subject.

On the potential of chess in Türkiye, he said the country has a long tradition of chess and is popular and respected, with many talented players.

"I look forward to seeing a major young star emerging in the country -- it could trigger a real chess boom," he said. (Anadolu)