What Is The Best Chess Nation?
Which country is the strongest in chess?

What Is The Best Chess Nation?

| 166 | Fun & Trivia

What is the strongest chess country in the world?

There are many ways to measure the strongest chess nations.

By sheer volume, Russia dominates, with 2,559 titled players, including a remarkable 243 grandmasters. In fact, Russia has more grandmasters than 143 countries combined, according to FIDE's list of 179 federations.

chess on world map

Yes, the world has the pieces set up incorrectly...perhaps a metaphor for the world's problems...or perhaps sloppy photography.

If you prefer chess strength by density, the tiny nation of Iceland projects its frigid chess power throughout the world, with its population of 334,252 home to 13 grandmasters. That means if you filled Iceland's largest football stadium, "Laugardalsvöllur," to its 15,000-person capacity, it would contain (on average) more than one half (0.58) of a grandmaster.

By comparison, with the United States the home to 94 grandmasters against its giant population of 323.1 million, that comes out to one grandmaster for every 3,437,234 Americans.

Michigan Stadium is the USA's largest with a capacity of 107,601, but you'd have to fill it more than 18 times to get just that same half-a-grandmaster as Iceland's tiny stadium for one event.

michigan stadium

Quantity isn't everything, though. To determine the best chess nation, we need to factor in quality, too.

Perhaps the best measure of a nation's chess strength is how many super-grandmasters it brings to the chessboard—grandmasters rated 2700 or better, who play the highest level of human chess.

By that measure, here are the top nine chess nations in the world.

9. England

english flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 2
  • Best player: Michael Adams, 2705
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2703

England boasts a pair of super-GMs. Michael Adams is one of the most famous chess players in the world, and David Howell is still just 27 years old, ensuring the English will have a super-GM for a long time.

8. Poland

polish flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 2
  • Best player: Radoslaw Wojtaszek, 2738
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2731

Wojtaszek still carries the Polish flag in terms of rating, but the real story is the 19-year-old prodigy Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who could well be the next world champion. 

7. France

french flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+:: 2
  • Best player: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 2789
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2753.5

You don't have to be a Francophile to be a fan of MVL, one of the most exciting chess players in the world. Check out this elegant checkmate from this week's PRO Chess League.

6. Ukraine

Ukrainian flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 3
  • Best player: Vassily Ivanchuk, 2713
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2708.97

Despite what Kramer thinks about Ukraine's geopolitical position in Risk on the TV show Seinfeld, no one would ever make the mistake of calling Ukraine weak in chess.

"How about I take your little board and I SMASH IT!?"

5. India

Indian flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 3
  • Best player: Vishy Anand, 2776
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2737.93

Anand is a living legend who happens to be playing some of the best chess of his life at age 48, winning the Tal Memorial Rapid this week in Moscow. 

4. United States

American flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 3
  • Best player: Wesley So, 2799
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2790

The U.S. has its "big three" of So, Fabiano Caruana, and Hikaru Nakamura, dynamic players who give the United States a ridiculous 2790 average rating of its grandmasters rated 2700+.

These three super-GMs are closely matched and should be challenging each other for American superiority for the next decade.

3. Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 4
  • Best player: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, 2809
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2740.9

Mamedyarov is now the second-highest-rated chess player in the world by a wide margin, and he heads to Berlin to play in the Candidates' Tournament this weekend.

Many think the 32-year-old could be a tough challenge for Magnus Carlsen if the two meet in the championship match.

2. China

chinese flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 6
  • Best player: Ding Liren, 2769
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2738.83

China has emerged as a great chess power this decade, with a large number of young chess talents. Ding Liren, age 25, leads the pack for now, but the prodigies Wei Yi and Yu Yangyi are right behind him.

Any of those three could conceivably be the next world chess champion.

1. Russia:

russian flag

  • Super-GMs 2700+: 12
  • Best player: Vladimir Kramnik, 2800
  • Average rating of super-GMs: 2737.12

Russia has dominated the chess world for decades, so this is no surprise.

What may be surprising is the level of chess being played by the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who at age 42 is again in the 2800-club, good for number-three in the world.

 What do you think is the best chess country in the world? Let us know in the comments. 

More from Pete
Can You Solve Our 2023 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2023 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2022 Holiday Puzzler?

Can You Solve Our 2022 Holiday Puzzler?