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FIDE Statistics Suggest That Chess Is On The Rise

FIDE Statistics Suggest That Chess Is On The Rise

Recently published statistics suggest that chess is growing - FIDE regulated chess, that is. During the last five years the number of active players with a FIDE rating has been almost doubled. In the same period there was an increase of 37% of open tournaments organized world wide. In 2013 almost one million FIDE rated games were played worldwide.

Last week the FIDE Development Commission published a report with data that give an idea about FIDE's performance. In his introduction Martin Huba, the President of Slovakian Chess Federation, writes:

“The objective of having several performance indicators is to give to the chess community a message covering the situation and trends and to motivate individual federations to think about the situation and to provoke a healthy competition at the same time.”

The commission used six indicators:

  1. number of active players with a FIDE rating;
  2. number of open tournaments;
  3. number of round robin tournaments;
  4. number of games;
  5. number of games played by foreigners in the country (chess export);
  6. number of games of the country players played abroad (chess import).

1. Number of active players with a FIDE rating

As can be seen from the first diagram, during the last five years the number of active players with a FIDE rating has been almost doubled. Whereas the report speaks of a “very clear and positive” trend, it's unclear whether we can really speak of an increase of (serious) chess players. Whereas there used to be a rating threshold of 2000 in the old days, currently (per 1 July 2012) the rating floor is 1000. It does mean that more and more chess players are playing in FIDE regulated events.

The statistics in the report are based on data of 164 national federations. Below you can find the top 20 of largest chess federations:

According to the report, these top 20 federations have around 74% of all active FIDE rated players in the world.

2. Number of open tournaments

Also in the number of open tournaments there is a clear upward trend. In the monitored period there was a 37% increase in number of open tournaments organized. Below you can see where most of these events were held.

These are the top 20 federations as it comes down to organizing open tournaments. Together they organised 71.45% of all open tournaments in the world. These figures seem to suggest that e.g. one-day rapid events are also considered “open tournaments” (because otherwise e.g. Netherlands would never reach 200 in 2013).

3. Number of round robin tournaments

The number of round robin tournaments (mostly IM/GM events, but super tournaments should be in this category too) actually went down in 2013. Such tournamements tend to depend more on sponsorship instead of entry fees, and as the report suggests, the financial crisis might have played a role here. 

The top 20 federations organised 71.43% of all round robin tournaments. Denmark surprisingly tops the above chart; no less than 187 closed events were held by the Danes in the past year!

4. Number of games

The Development Commission calculated that almost one million FIDE rated games were played worldwide in 2013. This comes down to an average of 2737 games a day! Imagine Mark Crowther would have to publish all of them...

Especially notable is the rise of India in the above chart. In the last four years the number of rated games has more than doubled, from 86,652 in 2010 to 182,640 in 2013.

5. Number of games played by foreigners in the country (chess export)

The last two indicators are about “chess export” and “chess import”. The above chart is about “chess export”, meaning the number of games played by foreigners. According to the report, of all FIDE rated games, 25% on average is played by foreign players.

As is mentioned in the report, the trend here is not so important. More interesting is the comparison of countries, to find out which locations are the most popular for chess travelers. 

The report writes that “France and Germany are leaders of this group. The Czech Republic ranks the third and proves that belongs to the world ́s top chess exporters.” However, this statement is based on the total number of games played by foreigners. 

What is not mentioned is that Czech Republic is the “winner” as it comes down to the relative number of FIDE rated games played by foreigners: 19.7%. Greece, Germany and Poland follow with 13.6%, 11.3% and 10.8%. French is fifth, with 9.6% of the rated games played by foreigners.

6. Number of games of the country players played abroad (chess import)

The last part of the report might seem somewhat confusing. After discussing “games played by foreigners”, there are separate charts for “games played abroad”. 

What is clear is that France had the most games played by foreigners, while the Germans have travelled abroad the most. (For an even more accurate picture, these numbers should be divided by the total number of FIDE rated players in the individual countries.) The Netherlands is on the 20th spot as it comes down to attracting foreign chess players to their tournaments, while they are the number 4 chess travellers!

As Martin Huba writes at the end of the report, it would be interesting to analyse the “chess trade balance”: whether a country attracts more foreign players to its tournaments (chess export) or whether its players travel to play abroad more (chess import). Huba gives his own federation as an example:

“Slovakia for example has a negative chess trade balance totalling -1210 games. It means Slovak players played abroad by 1210 games more than foreigners in Slovakia in 2013. To make the balance equal there would be a need to organise few open tournaments more in Slovakia and probably there would be a market for such a step.”

All data courtesy of Martin Huba/FIDE

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