Chess Terms
Chess Olympiad

Chess Olympiad

Is chess an Olympic sport? No, but we do have the Chess Olympiad! Let's learn all about this historic and celebrated chess event.

Here is what you need to know about the Chess Olympiad:


What Is The Chess Olympiad?

The Chess Olympiad is a worldwide chess event where teams of top players compete for their respective nations. The best players in the world represent their countries on a global level. FIDE, the International Chess Federation, selects the host nation (the country that hosts the tournament) and organizes the tournament.

FIDE is the International Olympic Committee's governing chess body, but this event does not have any official ties to the Olympics. In essence, the winner of the Chess Olympiad is the strongest chess nation of that time and is considered FIDE's Team Champion.

chess olympiad
The Chess Olympiad is a celebrated global event. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Why Is The Chess Olympiad Important?

The Chess Olympiad crowns the strongest national team and is a very popular global event. The first unofficial Chess Olympiad took place in Paris in 1924. There was an attempt to enter chess into the 1924 Olympics, but there was difficulty in proving which players were considered amateur and which were considered professional.

FIDE was created on the closing day of this first unofficial Chess Olympiad and has officially overseen every Olympiad since 1927. At times the Olympiad was held annually, and then irregularly before and during World War II. Since the 1950 Dubrovnik Olympiad (where the famous Dubrovnik chess set design was introduced), the Olympiad has been held every two years.

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The famous Dubrovnik chess pieces were introduced at the historic 1950 Dubrovnik Olympiad. Photo: Colin Stapczynski/Chess.com.

Chess Olympiad History

The Soviet Union has the most gold medals with 18. From 1952 through 1990 the Soviet Union placed first in every Olympiad except for two (they did not participate in 1976 for political reasons and placed second in 1978). As of 2020, the United States and Russia both have six gold medals, while the United States has the most total medals with 20.

Chess Olympiad
The Soviet Union/Russia dominated the Olympiad until recent years. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

China won their first Olympiad in 2014. The United States won in 2016, and then China took back the championship at the 2018 Olympiad. They will look to retain the Hamilton-Russell championship cup (offered as the prize in the first official Olympiad in 1927 and passed to the winning team at every Olympiad since). The trophy for the gold medal women's team is called the Vera Menchik Cup, named for the first women's world chess champion.

Year Event Gold Silver Bronze
1924 Unofficial Chess Olympiad Czechoslovakia Hungary Switzerland
1927  1st Chess Olympiad Hungary Denmark England
1928 2nd Chess Olympiad Hungary United States Poland
1930 3rd Chess Olympiad Poland Hungary Germany
1931 4th Chess Olympiad United States Poland Czechoslovakia
1933 5th Chess Olympiad United States Czechoslovakia Sweden
1935 6th Chess Olympiad United States Sweden Poland
1937 7th Chess Olympiad United States Hungary Poland
1939 8th Chess Olympiad Germany Poland Estonia
1950 9th Chess Olympiad Yugoslavia Argentina West Germany
1952 10th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Argentina Yugoslavia
1954 11th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Argentina Yugoslavia
1956 12th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia Hungary
1958 13th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia Argentina
1960 14th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union United States Yugoslavia
1962 15th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia Argentina
1964 16th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia West Germany
1966 17th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union United States Hungary
1968 18th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia Bulgaria
1970 19th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Hungary Yugoslavia
1972 20th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Hungary Yugoslavia
1974 21st Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Yugoslavia United States
1976* 22nd Chess Olympiad* United States Netherlands England
1978 23rd Chess Olympiad Hungary Soviet Union Yugoslavia
1980 24th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Hungary Yugoslavia
1982 25th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union Czechoslovakia United States
1984 26th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union England United States
1986 27th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union England United States
1988 28th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union England Netherlands
1990 29th Chess Olympiad Soviet Union United States England
1992 30th Chess Olympiad Russia Uzbekistan Armenia
1994 31st Chess Olympiad Russia Boznia and Herzegovina Russia "B" team
1996 32nd Chess Olympiad Russia Ukraine United States
1998 33rd Chess Olympiad Russia United States Ukraine
2000 34th Chess Olympiad Russia Germany Ukraine
2002 35th Chess Olympiad Russia Hungary Armenia
2004 36th Chess Olympiad Ukraine Russia Armenia
2006 37th Chess Olympiad Armenia China United States
2008 38th Chess Olympiad Armenia Israel United States
2010 39th Chess Olympiad Ukraine Russia Israel
2012 40th Chess Olympiad Armenia Russia Ukraine
2014 41st Chess Olympiad China Hungary India
2016 42nd Chess Olympiad United States Ukraine Russia
2018 43rd Chess Olympiad China United States Russia
2020 FIDE Online Olympiad

*In 1976 the 22nd Chess Olympiad was protested by many countries for political reasons.

On March 24, 2020, FIDE announced that the 2020 Chess Olympiad would be postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus. FIDE also announced that they will hold the FIDE Online Olympiad in July/August 2020 on Chess.com.

Conclusion

You now know what the Chess Olympiad is, when it started, why it is important, and more. Head over to Chess.com's Top Player page and view the games of Chess Olympiad participants.