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How Popular Is Chess?

  • SonofPearl
  • on 8/9/12, 9:14 AM.

Andrew Paulsen-2.jpgAGON, the company set up to organise and promote the commercial activities of the World Chess Championship competition cycle, have issued a press release with the results of a survey about chess.

The survey was conducted by the polling organisation YouGov, and the results should help inform Agon's attempts to "re-brand" the world chess championship and "professionalise and enliven" the game around the world.

So, with the right organisation and branding can chess be a more lucrative, high-profile and successful sport?  Or is chess a niche interest that will never have more widespread appeal?

The press release is included in its entirety below, with accompanying notes and survey methodology.

World Chess Logo (Agon) The Best Mind Wins.jpg

Chess Redux

AGON releases new chess player statistics from YouGov

Chess has been under the radar for the last 40 years since Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky fought the Cold War for us in Reykjavik. But outside the glare of the media spotlight chess players now make up one of the largest communities in the world: 605 million adults play chess regularly -- a number comparable to regular users of Facebook.

According to authoritative polling organization YouGov, across varied national demographic profiles (US, UK, Germany, Russia, India), a surprisingly stable 70% of the adult population has played chess at some point during their lives. Even if they played as children but left it behind as they grew up, they still retain a deep admiration for the game.

Across the board, chess players and non-players alike rank chess significantly higher than any other game or sport for attributes such as intelligence, sophistication, strategy, perfection and complexity confirming top branding agency Pentagram’s view: “Chess is about Thinking and Winning.”

Most surprising is the percentage of adults who actually currently play chess (either weekly, monthly or during the past year): 12% in the UK; 15% in the U.S. 23% in Germany; 43% in Russia; and 70% among the 121m Indians considered ABC1 by advertisers.

From The Wire and The West Wing to Harry Potter and Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, chess remains ubiquitous in popular culture as a metaphor for conflict and power. Further, in the real world, last month when Enrique Peña became the new president of Mexico, the NYT attributed his success to “the same attention to strategy he applieswhile playing chess.” And, when US trader Boaz Weinstein cleaned up after JPMorgan lost $1.8bn, the NYT explained it: “He is a chess master.”

But the raw numbers themselves are astonishing: over 6m, 35m, 16m, 50m and 85m people in the U.K., U.S., Germany, Russia, and India (ABC1), respectively, are playing chess regularly and more than half are 18-34.

And, when YouGov dug deeper, they found out how people who play chess regularly differ from those who don’t.

Current chess players are better informed than those who either used to or never played chess: they are 5x more likely to read The Guardian, The New Scientist or The Week (in the U.K.) or 2.5x more likely to read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist or The New Yorker (in the U.S.).

Although chess has very low barriers to entry and is played across the socioeconomic spectrum, in the U.S. 78% of regular chess players are university graduates and among households with incomes over $120,000, 21% are regular chess-players.

Despite their popular image as reclusive ascetics, chess players consume immoderately: in categories traditionally used to measure affluence (cars, watches, air travel, branded alcohol consumption, online purchasing), global research organization TGI (WPP) reports that chess players are 40-100% more likely to purchase a luxury item than a non-chess-player.

These findings from YouGov and TGI were commissioned by AGON, the commercial enterprise that was accorded the rights to the World Chess Championship Cycle earlier this year by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

Entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, founder of AGON, said: “In an official International Olympics Committee (IOC) submission a few years ago, FIDE cited the number of chess players worldwide to be 605 million. I wanted to know if this was true and who and where they were. I was happily surprised; the results far exceeded our expectations.”

They confirm the premise from Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sports, that chess is the “sleeping giant” of the sports/entertainment world, adding that “It’s rare to get something so untainted by previous branding,” he said.

.

Notes for editors:

AGON, founded by London-based entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, has been granted the long-term, exclusive rights to organize and commercialize the World Chess Championship Cycle by FIDE, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs.

AGON will restore World Chess’ high profile in traditional print and broadcast media, consolidate a global audience with more accessible online and mobile products, curate gripping live events, and bring together government and business partners in a rarified atmosphere. AGON also actively supports local, municipal initiatives, especially the Chess in Schools Movement, opening up competition venues to 200 youngsters every day of play for competition and instruction.

Cycle: The World Chess Championship Cycle is comprised of nine events over two years culminating in a Championship Match. In 2013, over 100 days of games will be held in prestigious venues in world cities (LONDON LISBON MADRID PARIS BERLIN ISTANBUL) with players representing 15 countries (RUSSIA CHINA INDIA U.S. NORWAY ITALY ISRAEL UKRAINE HOLLAND HUNGARY ARMENIA AZERBAIJAN UZBEKISTAN BULGARIA CUBA). The 2013 Prize Fund is €5.5m. In 2014, the Cycle will move to North and South America.

Audience: Chess is regularly played by a demographic that is the holy grail of sponsors (AFFLUENT YOUNG EDUCATED MEN INFORMED CONNECTED ACTIVE) and is attributed rare and admirable qualities by 70% of the population, most of whom first played as children (INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY DECISIVENESS SOPHISTICATION PERFECTION). (Source: YouGov 2012) In the U.S., more people play chess than tennis and golf, combined!

Games: The games will be held in a purpose-built ‘cockpit’ (created by Pentagram Design) before an intimate live audience and broadcast in various formats to the public via cable, online and mobile platforms. ChessCasting, a new application developed by the former Director of Interactive Design at the BBC, Vibeke Hansen, will transform chess into a spectator sport: the live and remote audience will be able to understand games through the eyes of a grandmaster and approximate the emotions of the players themselves. A true hybrid of game and sport, the audience will be able to watch and play at the same time.

Social Media: Chess is not a ‘casual’ game. Unlike other sports, chess content remains vital and engaging long after a game is over and the results are known. As with many hobbies, chess enthusiasts make significant investment of time and energy without expectation of compensation, except in kind. Technology has transformed chess over the last 30 years but has not yet tapped into its huge social potential; as soon as it is easier and more exciting to play with friends than against a computer or a mobile phone, this audience will engage and could become one of the largest groups in social media.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Unlike other games, chess has an educational value recognized by governments (in dozens of countries, including the European Union) to improve test scores and fight against Attention Deficit Disorder, and is now commonly included in school curricula. During the World Chess Championship Cycle, two hundred children will be invited to participate in tournaments and instruction each morning before the competitions begin.

Events: The World Chess Championship Cycle will bring together municipal and national government, the diplomatic corps, global brand partners and local corporate representatives.

Sponsorship: AGON will collaborate with brand partners from diverse sectors -- but with similar reach, values and aspirations -- to make this a sustainable business. Sponsors will derive value not just from association with those who play chess (12- 15%), but also with those who have played and continue to attribute to chess such rare and admirable qualities (70%).

.

Survey methodology:

The US survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc US panel of over 1,000,000 individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email is sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. [The sample definition could be “US adult population” or a subset such as “US adult females”]. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys, however this does vary dependent upon the subject matter, complexity and length of the questionnaire.

The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data.

The UK survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc GB panel of 350,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email is sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. [The sample definition could be “GB adult population” or a subset such as “GB adult females”]. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys, however this does vary dependent upon the subject matter, complexity and length of the questionnaire.

The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data.

The methodology for the UK, Germany, Russia and India surveys was the same as for the US, conducted using online interviews administered to members of the YouGov Plc UK panel of 350,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys, the YouGov Plc German panel of 120,000+ individuals, the YouGov Plc Russian panel of 77,000 individuals, and the YouGov Plc Indian panel of 8,000+ individuals.

NB: All figures, unless otherwise stated in the footnotes, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample sizes were 4,161 adults (UK), 2,024 adults (US), 953 adults (Germany), 2,013 adults (Russia), and 1,000 adults (India). Fieldwork was carried out between 16 to 18 May (US), 30 March to 02 April (UK), 02 July to 06 July (Germany), 09 to 23 July (Russia), and 03 to 12 July (India). All surveys were carried out online. All sets of figures for the UK, US, Germany and Russia have been weighted and are representative of each country’s adults (aged 18+). The figures for India are representative of the online Indian adult population.

For more information (including access to the raw YouGov survey results), please contact:

Harriet Dennys Mission PR
Tel: 0207 8457800
Mob: 07979 692018
Email: harrietd@thisismission.com

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Comments


  • 10 months ago

    dubbler

    Chess is the unpopular game everyone plays. You can't play in a coffee shop, park, etc. without somebody looking over the game.  Chess is strange in that there is a great base of players but not a good one for organized play, leagues or a professional player circuit.  Unlike pool, poker, bowling, X-games etc. which has a pretty selective crowd of followers Chess players don't seem willing to spend.  There just isn't the prize money or endorsement money to make pushing Chess more worthwhile.  Many smaller pastimes such as pool can support professional leagues and Chess which has so many active players can't. Why blame those who don't play Chess for the lack of advancement of Chess into the mainstream?  It is Chess players who often seem flawed.

  • 15 months ago

    devnull007

    Nice article. Stats are too good to believe. But, I agree to the fact that 70% of people played chess at some point of their life-time, in some form. If I consider people around me. The number might be even more.

    But, what about the people who play few times a year, at least for fun? I didn't do any serious servey .. but the number can be as less as 10%.

    I coach kids ... mostly out of passion. I can see kids picking interest as they keep discovering the "problem" part of it. Most of the novice players are not aware of the problem they need to solve, and slowly lose interest.

    There are books. But, it seems too "boring" for them to follow. Softwares are made for intermediate or higher players. Is there any software which covers beginners to intermediate range, in  much user friendly way?

  • 2 years ago

    forrie

    careyfan: "605 million adults play chess regularly -- a number comparable to regular users of Facebook." "This is one of the typical mistakes when sizing up a market.  This number is simply way too high...and it's a vastly smaller number of people that would actually be interested in reading about Chess or viewing it as a spectator event."

    thats true.

    Most spectators of sport, actually NEVER play or have played the sport. Thats why the simplest sport (in terms of rules - at least from a spectator point of view. e.g. soccer or 100m men in Olympics) is always the most favorite. However, if you dont understand the rules of a game it is intimidating and/or boring to watch it. So outside the chess community very few will ever follow an event. Secondly, very few chess players (or people who have played chess at least once in the past year according to survey) follow chess events or get excited about them. However, maybe there is still enough chess fans (let say 10% of the 605million) to form a significant market. If you look at chess literature, software, internet sites and accesories - it is a huge market - and where there is money there will come something from it.....I coach kids at a primary school and several (non-playing) parents want their kids to play chess (as they think it will make them clever or something). So I think chess will grow and the market also....however the market will be limited to those who actually play it....

  • 2 years ago

    mobidi

    Chess is Paranormal Activity...Cool TRUE ,TRUE....Wink

  • 2 years ago

    sunivagu

    olympic should chess

  • 2 years ago

    netzach

    Chess is enigmatic. True, true..Smile

  • 2 years ago

    mobidi

    What KIND of chess you mean? For fun?Embarassed or maybe "FIDE"Cool,or maybe comercialWink,or GLOBAL,political,mystical etc.etc.etc. UNLIMITED (mobidi -chess)EmbarassedCry.WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CHESS? (of course-you think -You know).Money? Comercial potential of CHESS (GAME) is TOO BIG for any number (money)-it's not only MYTH.

  • 2 years ago

    mistermaxgre

    The survey was conducted by the polling organisation YouGov, and the results should help inform Agon's attempts to "re-brand" the world chess championship and "professionalise and enliven" the game around the world.

     
    BIG MISTAKE! The aim shouldn't be on professionalization (or commercialization). The aim should be to make chess available to more and more ppl. To educate them, us, our children, the children of the world. 
  • 2 years ago

    WalangAlam

    Chess is exciting but it is meant to be relished with ample amount of time like playing in the park with your old buddy while having conversations on the side. It doesn't click in the exciting and entertaining way like mma or poker. However if the idea is to make chess popular you can always review games ( that are exciting ofcourse and full of tactics) on internet and tv and do the segment in 5 or 10 minutes or less. Just so you can show people that chess can be exciting and fun. Never mind if they have to find for themselves later that it's not as easy as it seems.

  • 2 years ago

    RMDillinger

    How can you say 'This number is simply way too high...'? upon what do you base your comment? Your guesswork?

    It doesn't matter how many people play chess, it doesn't matter how many people would watch it. The question is, is there a place for spectator chess on a larger scale?

    I think there is. I also think that, as happened with poker and other games, the more exposure the game gets and the larger the audience the more popular it will get.

    Chess is not dificult to play, Even Monopoly has more and complicated rules than chess. My 7 year old daughter can play chess. It is, however, difficult to play chess WELL.

    I for one enjoy a game where i get beaten by a superior player using brilliant strategy as i love the 'OMG where did that come from' moment. I think watching chess could give the same effect, however it would require ongoing, in depth commentary from someone who knows what they are talking about as players at the highest level can tend to push pieces around for what seems like no reason (in reality it is just that most mortals cannot see the reason. If we could we would all be grand masters!) real time analysis of the current position would be vital.

    The one thing i think a game like poker has over chess is that there are many times a losing hand is turned into the nuts on the river, and when this happens you get one of those 'OMG' moments. I dont think chess could produce enough 'OMG' moments to be considered 'exciting' for most people. A 'World series of chess' event tho could produce enough games quickly enough to show highlights of the more interesting games in a fairly quick turnaround.

    As a final point, in poker luck plays a huge part. Good playes will usually populate the final tables but there is always a chance that a 'nobody' from an intenet qualifying table could make it all the way through and win the big prize. Chess is 100% skill so you would NEVER get that. A 'nobody' may play out of his skin, have a few moments of total genius and possibly beat one or two players that are 'better' than him but in the end the final matches would always be played by the same few IGMs

    I guess time will tell, but I, for one, hope to see chess on tv.

  • 2 years ago

    vegma

    Chess can be difficult to play, but I also think that chess often can be relatively easy to follow for a spectator.

    Good players playing games with 20 min each can become a major spectator sport. 

  • 2 years ago

    rabalthorpan

    Advanced Cyborg Centaur Chess will be very popular. 

  • 2 years ago

    nyLsel

    This reminds me that I am not the only one who play chess too much. :)

  • 2 years ago

    DrFrank124c

    I believe blitz chess would be a great spectator sport and should be shown on tv or possibly an internet tv channel.  I believe this because whenever we play blitz chess in the parks people gather around and watch so why can't this be translated into a commercial tv show of some kind.

  • 2 years ago

    bigbikefan

    C'mon dude!  Where did you come up with these numbers from?  OK, it is hard to say about India, as the population of this country is humongous, but for the other aforementioned countries the numbers are simply unreal.  Yeah, it is so easy nowadays to cook up an "article" and publish it on the Internet pretending it has some merits.  No responsibility for these kind of "burps", no risk.

  • 2 years ago

    MaharshiPatel

    I think the reason for Chess not being the famous sport is that Chess is a bit more intelligent game for Americans and most of Europeians than the poker or checkers. The poker has some fan base because it has money involved. So it can become the attractive game for average American while Chess will still remain unknown to average American since it requires total brain power and not a bit of luck. 

  • 2 years ago

    thebeatmodnrocker

    Thanks for posting this info. After seeing the way poker has become a surprisingly popular spectator sport and getting a bit of TV coverage it'd be great to see something similar happen for chess. You only have to watch some commentatored games from the St Louis Chess Club on-line to realise that even non-ches players could get into it - they do the chess world a major service everytime they broadcast!I'd also love to see chess used as part of the school curriculum, so I'll be sending this on to a few members of Parilament.

  • 2 years ago

    ADHDkid

    Chess is too complicated for the majority of Americans to appreciate. It isn't  an "average sport" and the majority of Americans are average ( meaning not severly retarded and not of extrodinary intelligence).I'm of averrage intelligence and use chess for concentration and cognitive/behavioral therapy. I believe the key to draw interstest is simplification. Todays Society is selfish "whats in it for me." Sale the Benifits?

  • 2 years ago

    netzach

    Thanks for posting this article.

  • 2 years ago

    netzach

    This IS interesting.

    The potential for better chess-funding certainly exists but reckon some rule-changes are necessary first.

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