A 1-Room Chess Shop In Moscow Is Actually A Multifaceted Business Empire
A chess shop in Moscow, Russia serves not only as a hub for celebrities of the game from Grischuk to Morozevich, but also as operations center for a major chess software company and media publication.
ChessOK, pronounced interchangeably as “chess okay” and “chess-ock,” is a modest one-room chess storefront in Russia’s capital city, catering to chess devotees of any age or ability. The store has a high-volume e-commerce presence, where it sells chess supplies in bulk to resellers around the world. Foot traffic to its physical location, however, is seasonal.
When we visited in late July, deputy manager and International Master Konstantin Kodinets said that customer walk-ins decrease in the middle of summer. ChessOK sees its “main influx of in-person customers at the beginning of the school year, around the first of September. Kids come back to Moscow from the villages outside the city, just as the older people do, and they’re wanting to develop their chess skills.”
Kodinets says he sees customers of all ages in his store — “as young as two, as old as 90.”
ChessOK has been at its current location for the past eight years, but the company history stretches back 25 years in total. The business was started by a chess-loving software developer named Sergey Abramov, who launched the chess retail business as a home for selling Chess Assistant, a software project he contributed to that now competes directly with ChessBase. The latest versions of Chess Assistant include a database of 6.2 million games and have computer evaluations of more than 40 million opening moves.
The shop also prints and distributes Shakhmatny Listok (“Chess Piece”), its proprietary publication of international tournament analysis. The store's physical location is advertised within the pages of this magazine, and this off-the-beaten-path destnation is perhaps the store’s most remarkable trait. It's a must-visit for any chess-lover in Moscow.
A ten-minute walk from Moscow’s Oktyabrskoye Pole metro station takes you to a nondescript commercial entrance at the ground floor of what otherwise appears to be a residential building.
Behind the second door on the right is a one-room oasis of chess paraphernalia for sale. From books to boards to computer software, your chess itch can certainly be scratched here.
Pictured here is deputy manager IM Konstantin Kodinets, holding the latest issues of the store’s own chess publication, Shakhmatny Listok, widely read by chess enthusiasts throughout Russia.
If you need deep help on a specific chess question when Kodinets is unavailable, you’ll likely find help in fellow ChessOK employee IM Alexey Mitenkov, pictured left.
Kodinets says the store’s most popular items are chess study books for children, but there are plenty of books for the more advanced player, of course.
The store's plans for the future are mostly the same as its plans for the present: to continue selling chess supplies to whoever needs them, be it over the internet or over the table. Their storefront is a cash-only operation, so come prepared.
You can find ChessOK right here on your next visit to Moscow: