Here is a list of Nobel Prize winners who also play or played chess.
Zhores Alferov (1930- ). He won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in electronics.. He invented the heterotransister. He is a good friend of Boris Spassky.
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). He won the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was an Irish writer, dramatist and poet. He wrote Waiting for Godot. He wrote a one-act play called Endgame. He often played chess with Marcel Duchamp.
Menachem Begin (1913-1992). He won the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize together with Anwar Sadat. He was the sixth prime minister of the State of Israel. He played Zbigniew Brzezinski at Camp David and won. In 1940 he was playing a game of chess with his wife when Russian soldiers burst into his home to arrest him. As they dragged him away, he shouted to Mrs Begin, “I resign.”
William Henry Bragg (1862-1942). He won the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics with his son, William Lawrence Bragg.. They were awarded for their work in X-rays and crystal structure.
William Lawrence Bragg (1890-1971). He won the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in X-rays and crystal structure. He is the son of William Henry Bragg, who also won the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Willy Brandt (1913-1992). He won the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize. He was Chancellor of West Germany from 1969 to 1974.
Percy Williams Bridgman (1882-1961). He won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the physics of high pressures. He played on the Harvard varsity chess team and represented his school in many college events and the beginning of the 20th century.
Elias Canetti (1905-1994). He won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1935, he wrote Auto da Fe. One of the characters is a chess player named Fischerle who becomes a famous and wealthy chess champion.
Jimmy Carter (1924- ). He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. He was 39th President of the United States. He wanted to become a chess expert after he left the White House. He bought numerous chess books and a computer chess program. He finally gave up on chess around 1997, saying: "I found that I don't have any particular talent for chess. I hate to admit it, but that's a fact."
Winston Churchill (1874-1965). He won the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and from 1951 to 1955.He was taught chess by his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), who was vice-president of the British Chess Association.
John Cockroft (1897-1967). He won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for splitting the atomic nucleus.
John Cornforth (1917- ). He won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. He has played chess all his life.
Gerard Debreu (1921-2004). He won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955). He won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect. He was good friends with Emanuel Lasker. Einstein was an amateur chess player who played with neighbors and friends. He always had a chessboard set up at his home. He was probably most active in chess in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Richard Feynman (1918-1988). He won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics. He also discovered superfluidity and developed the first quark theory. He used rules of chess to illustrate the laws of physics. He was a member of his high school chess club.
William Golding (1911-1993). He won the 1983 Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1954, he wrote Lord of the Flies. One of the quotes from that novel is “The only trouble was that he would never be a very good chess player.” Golding listed chess as one of his hobbies.
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931- ). He won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 to 1991. He has been involved with the Chess for Peace initiative with former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov.
Al Gore (1948- ). He won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001.
Andre Gide (1869-1951). He won the1947 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was an ardent lover of chess. Her wrote about chess in some of his works.
John Harsanyi (1920-2001). He won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics. Chess was once his passion but gave it up later in life. He said, “At one point I lost most of my chess games. Then I realized many of my competitors were memorizing the best moves and I was unwilling to do this.”
James Heckman (1944- ). He won the 2000 Nobel Prize in Economics. He is an economics professor at the University of Chicago. His son, Jonathan, also plays chess.
Dudley Herschbach (1932- ). He won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work concerning the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.
Peter Kapitza (1894-1984). He won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in superfluidity. When he was living in Paris at one time, he used to make a living by playing chess in the small cafes for some stake. He pretended he was just a beginner and, in the end, he would usually win. He was frequently Stalin’s chess partner.
Bernard Katz (1911-2003). He won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on neurophysiology of the synapse. He was born in Leipzig. He chose to learn Latin and Greek rather than mathematics because, he said, it game him more time to play chess in the cafes of Leipzig. He developed a lifelong passion for chess.
Edward Kendall (1886-1972). He won the 1950 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He discovered the hormone cortisone. He was a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and an ardent chess player.
Henry Kissinger (1923- ). He won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Richard Nixon administration. Kissinger called Bobby Fischer several times during the 1972 World Chess Championship match to encourage Fischer to play on and defeat Spassky.
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951). He won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, and Cass Timberlane. During the last period of his life, he would hire secretaries to play chess with him and keep him company. He would pay them a month to learn the game, then paid them as his secretary to play chess. He secretaries included San Francisco writer Barnaby Conrad and John Hershey. Other friends that visited Sinclair Lewis to play chess included Bennett Cerf, Carl Van Doren, and John Gunther.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927- ). He won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature and is the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude. He mentioned chess in several of his works, such as Love in the Time of Cholera where the doctor’s chess partner commits suicide.
Albert Michelson (1852-1931). He won the 1907 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the measurement of the speed of light. He listed chess, bridge, billiards, and tennis as his interests outside of physics.
Robert Mundell (1932- ). He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Economics. He laid the groundwork for the introduction of the euro. He sponsored a major chess tournament in China (Pearl Spring in Nanjing), saying that the best way for Chinese cities to show openness to the outside world is to host world-class chess tournaments. For relaxation, he plays chess.
John Forbes Nash (1928- ). He won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in game theory, where he called chess a “zero-sum” game. He played chess in his younger years.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). He won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. He once said, “To me [chess] is poetry, the poetry of fight, intelligence and will.”
Barack Obama (1961- ). He won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Heike Onnes (1853-1926). He won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the properties of matter at low temperatures and to the production of liquid helium.
Boris Pasternak (1890-1960). He won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote Dr. Zhivago.
Max Planck (1858-1947). He won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of energy quanta. Max Planck played chess with Emanuel Lasker.
Edward Prescott (1940- ). He won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics. He learned chess from his father and taught his son to play chess.
Robert Robinson (1886-1975). He won the 1947 Nobel Prize on Chemistry. He was president of the British Chess Federation (1950-1953) and played correspondence chess while in his 80s. He co-wrote a book called The Art and Science of Chess.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). He won the 1906 Peace Prize. He was the 26th U.S. President from 1901 to 1909.He once played a game against the automaton Ajeeb, and lost. He played chess during his hunting trips. In 1906, he invited the chess players that played at Cambridge Springs to the White House. He kept a chess set at the White House.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). He won the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature. He played chess with his family and said he lost friends to one of three addictions: alcohol or religion or chess.
Anwar Sadat (1918-1981. He won the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the third President of Egypt, serving from 1970 until his assassination in 1981.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). He won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature. Although he played chess, he wrote that “Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever when they are only wasting their time.”
Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916). He won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote about chess in several of his works.
Herbert Simon (1916-2001). He won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics. He was an American psychologist and made a study of chess players. In 1957, he predicted a digital computer would beat the world chess champion by 1967. He developed a chess program in the 1950s and co-invented the alpha-beta algorithm in chess.
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991). He won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Frederick Soddy (1877-1956). He won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research in radioactive decay and his formulation of the theory of isotopes. He was Captain of the Oxford University Chess Club in 1900.
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986). He won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering vitamin C. He was president of the Szeged chess circle in Hungary.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968). He won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.
John Vane (1927-2004). He won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for his work on aspirin.
William Yeats (1865-1939). He won the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was an Irish poet.
Carl Wieman (1951- ). He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the Bose-Einstein condensate. He was a strong chess player in his younger years.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). He won the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. One of his chess sets is displayed at the Smithsonian.
Muhammed Yunus (1940- ) of Bangladesh. He won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
International Master (Grandmaster in Chess Problem Composition) Milan Vukcevich (1937-2003) was considered for a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was Chief Scientist at General Electric and professor of metallurgy.
For other famous people who play chess, see my list at