What It's Like To Visit The Moscow Chess Museum
With the opening of the Moscow Chess Museum, chess has had a formal home in the Russian capital since September 2014. Chess enthusiasts of all stripes — newbies, club players, and grandmasters alike — will do themselves well to visit, gawk at the exhibits, and learn more about this most compelling game. Here’s what happened when Chess.com went for a visit earlier this year.
The museum is inside of a mansion belonging to the Russian Chess Federation, located at 14 Gogolevsky Boulevard in downtown Moscow. This estate has been renovated into a multi-purpose space featuring the museum and a competition space upstairs, and a chess school downstairs. From the outside, it is an entirely innocuous building, but a sculpture of Mikhail Botvinnik before a chessboard is mounted on an external wall, facing the street, hinting at what awaits you inside.
After using the door buzzer and grumbling some broken, apologetic Russian to gain entry, you’ll walk up a regal staircase whose walls have been decorated in posters promoting some of the most iconic matches the contemporary world has known: Karpov, Korchnoi, and Kasparov were just a few of the standout names we saw represented here. Our English-speaking guide Dmitry Oleynikov emphasized that each poster was extremely rare, especially for their being in such good condition. But then he took us into the main exhibit to show us the really rare, one-of-a-kind stuff.
The museum is a large room filled with display cases of books, chessboards, and all order of other chess paraphernalia. Some of the great masters’ personal belongings are on display, from their books to their chessboards to their trophies. Standout items end up in the museum for their beauty (the Russian Olympic chess set), their historical significance (the first chess set to travel to space), or their general interest to the chess fan (the trophy that the USSR won against the USA, playing entirely via radio in 1945).
This chess set has been to outer space!
The museum’s main showpiece is undoubtedly the table that was used in the 1984 World Chess Championship. Played between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov, this matchup generated 40 draws over the course of five months, and it was abandoned under controversial circumstances to be replayed in 1985. Regardless, that fated 64-square battleground (complete with its original clock, pieces, scoresheets, flags, chairs, and signage) has a new permanent home in Moscow. Yes, you’re allowed to sit in the chairs — perhaps you’ll absorb some chess greatness via osmosis.
If you want to see these sights in person, you only need to go to Moscow, buzz the door on Gogolevsky Boulevard, and climb the staircase. The museum is open to the public rather sporadically, just a couple days a week, but you are welcome to visit any time by appointment.
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