How to make chess more popular?

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How to make chess more popular?A round table conference took place in Odessa on May 29th on the theme “Popularisation of the game of chess: experience, perspectives, plan of action”. Both famous chess players (Ivanchuk, Eljanov, Gashimov, among others) and top-level managers of the chess world (including FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov) participated. We received a report on the round table, and our visitors are invited to join the discussion.

The report below was written and sent to us by WIM Olena Boytsun, who is General Secretary of the International Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) and working in marketing and PR for chess. Since June 2010 she is full time employed as Marketing Director of the Ukrainian Chess Federation.

After the findings of the round table were published earlier this week by Chessbase, Olena also sent us the material, adding

...it would be very interesting to gather any comments, suggestions, ideas on the subject - I usually follow the comments after ChessVibes articles with interest, although never participated. It is always great to brainstorm, and chess community is such a creative and wise community.


We gladly publish the report, and invite our readers to join the discussion below in the comments section.

By Olena Boytsun

The main aim of the round table was to estimate already existing ways of chess game promotion and to develop plan of actions both for Ukraine and the international chess community. The questions of the target audience for chess projects, building the personal brand of a chess player, ways to improve the effectiveness of the implemented marketing decisions were reviewed.

The participants defined the following factors as having a positive influence on the popularization of chess:
  • Support from a government, national state programs for chess development;
  • Inclusion of the game of chess into the programm of the Olympic games, work with the International Olympic Committee (is among the current priorities of FIDE);
  • Support from a sport manager, who may help chess players to concentrate on the game and on other chess promotion activities. A manager assists in administrative questions as well as in questions of negotiations with sponsors and contract signing; however currently there is a lack of professional chess managers in the chess world;
  • Stable event calendar and the clarity in the cycle of the World Chess Championship, the clear definition of the beginning and the end of the cycle;
  • Targeted actions toward the audience (currently most of the event on chess popularisation are not planned, but are spontaneously organized);
  • Informational materials on media relations (the absence of permanent and systematic communication among press, federations and players was noticed);
  • Perception of the chess popularization as the project-oriented activity, reputation management; Social-corporate responsibility of business community;
  • Widening “the base of pyramid” (increase of the number of amateurs);
  • Efficiency of the project management etc.


The importance of the control under the situation and the effective allocation of resources and contacts (including contacts with press) while providing the policy of development was also emphasized.

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The main result of the round table is that participants developed propositions of practical application. The following propositions were supported:
  • To suggest tournament organizers to include in players' contracts a paragraph stating that these players would take part in special promotion events (seminars, simuls, blindfold games, commenting on games, communication with the audience, special actions etc) during the tournament at a convenient time for them;
  • To develop a detailed description of the possible event package for chess promotion (simuls, blindfold games, seminars, informal meetings with a chess player etc);
  • To develop a separate rating list for rapid chess;
  • To organize a team of professional managers who wouldn’t deal with the promotion of certain tournaments, but would promote the game of chess in general. In case the international manager structure is not possible to create so far, to use the connection chess player – trainer and to organize the manager courses for trainers;
  • To develop and to publish an informational handbook containing the Public Relations information for chess professionals, managers, national federations as well as for mainstream media journalists and wide audience with an interest in chess. The publication of the informational handbook is to be annual with constant information update, including press contacts in every country that is a member of FIDE. The ACP suggested developing the media handbook for FIDE.


How to make chess more popular?

On the invitation of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Olena Boytsun will present the results of the round table at the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in July 2010 in Norway.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov identified several priority target groups to develop projects to promote chess. The first step is to focus the attention on the increasing number of fans and the development of children's chess. In addition, Ilyumzhinov said that the recognition of chess an Olympic sport is one of the major challenges for FIDE.

How to make chess more popular?

Vadim Morohovsky, ACP President and Chairman of the Bank PIVDENNY, noted that the main purpose of the ACP is to protect the rights of professional players, but at the same time, the ACP also includes the development and chess and organizing special activities for children.

International grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk, among other things, noted that the knock-out system helps to promote chess, because inherent in such a system, an element of entertainment and wrestling helps to attract additional interest from the audience. Ivanchuk also suggested to add more activities in tournaments (seminars, lectures, simultaneous games and more) with the involvement of players.

How to make chess more popular?

Journalist and International Grandmaster Mikhail Golubev encouraged, in chess development policies, not to forget about existing resources and contacts, "not to alienate those who can help". In particular, Golubev mentioned the situation with the chess representative of the news agency Associated Press. As a result of the fact that the date of the big chess events are postponed several times, the leading information agency was unable to plan their chess media coverage with their correspndent and therefore abolished their coverage. Golubev expressed the opinion that at this stage the popularization of chess depends on FIDE incomparably more than on the ACP, and referred to the transfer of a number of major events in 2008-2009, and urged "not to create a negative image of chess by making decisions that were not necessary."

Vassily Ivanchuk, Sergei Movsesian and Pavel Eljanov emphasized the desirability of introducing a separate rating list for rapid chess, because it is rapid chess that has great television potential. The clarity of the world championship cycle was also named among the necessary conditions for the successful promotion of the game of chess, because it is fighting for the world title that attracts the most attention from the media and the general public.

International Grandmaster Vugar Gashimov raised the suggestion of organizing a team of professional chess managers, whose main task would be to ensure sponsorship and promotion of chess.

International Grandmaster Ernesto Inarkiev supported the idea of special events in general, highlighting the interaction with kids as a priority. Among the reasons that in chess it is difficult to work with a personal manager, is primarily a financial issue, said Inarkiev.

Paul Tregubov made a proposal to develop and distribute a special handbook for journalists and national federations with useful information for all interested groups.

Ali Nihat Yazici, President of Turkish Chess Federation, shared the secrets of the "Turkish miracle": in five years the popularity of chess in Turkey has increased by several times. Yazici emphasized the need for interaction between the national federation of state bodies, as government support is essential to the success of projects such as chess in schools. According to Yazici, the efficiency of the national federation is the key to a successful promotion of chess in each country.

Photos © Boris Bukhman



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