How Many Chess Players Are There In The World?
"Nobody knows, even roughly, how many people play chess, and nobody should pretend to know." -- Edward Winter1
Is chess the most popular game in the world?
While no one can say for certain, here are some estimates of the numbers of chess players, Chess.com members, tournament players, and grandmasters.
Total Players: 600,000,000
This oft-cited measure of the number of chess players who have played in the past year was put forward by FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) in 20122. The number was extrapolated from survey data from YouGov.
Other estimates range as high as a billion, an estimate seemingly based on word of mouth, and as moderately as FIDE's prior estimate of 200-300 million3. While no one can ever certainly identify the real number of players, it's clear that chess is one of the most popular games in the world today and in the past.
Chess players filling Central Park in NY. | Photo: Robert Hess.
Chess.com Members: 20,000,000+
At the time of writing, Chess.com has surpassed 20,000,000 members. A live count of the number of Chess.com members is always available on the Chess.com homepage.
Of these, well over a million are active on a daily basis. While Chess.com is the most popular chess website and has the most popular chess app in the world (and the best in our opinion!), there are also many more millions who play chess regularly on other websites, apps, and over the board.
Want to try Chess.com out for yourself? Create a free membership today!
Tournament Players: 360,000+
FIDE has over 360,000 active tournament players in its member database4. Chess players are registered with FIDE when they compete in internationally rated events. While such events are usually open to all interested players, only the most serious chess players usually progress to this level.
Some 185 nations and states hold membership in FIDE5. Many of these member nations also curate their own lists of nationally registered tournament players. For example, in 2016, the U.S. Chess Federation disclosed that it had more than 85,000 registered tournament players among its membership6. Only a fraction of these are registered internationally with FIDE.
Grandmasters: 1,594 and counting
The highest title in chess is GM (International Grandmaster7), a title awarded by FIDE. To earn the grandmaster title, a chess player must achieve a very high level of play consistently, earning three "grandmaster norms" and achieving an Elo rating of 2500. Only a small percentage of tournament players reach this level.
At the time of writing, there are 1,594 grandmasters in the world. Of these, 1,559 are male and 35 are female. This proportion is consistent with the number of men and women playing chess.
GM Judit Polgar earned the International Grandmaster title at the age of 15 years, 4 months. At the time, she was the youngest GM ever. | Photo: Wikipedia.