Chess Statistics

  • Chess is ranked as the best-selling board game of all time.
  • In the US, over 3 million boards are estimated to be sold each year.
  • Around 70% of adults have played chess at some point in their life, with an estimated 605 million playing regularly.
  • The longest retention of the World Chess Champion title is by Dr. Emanuel Lasker of Germany (26 years and 337 days).
  • Garry Kasparov became the youngest ever World Chess Champion aged 22 years and 210 days in 1985.
  • In 1988, DeepThought became the first computer to beat an international chess grandmaster, beating Bent Larsen. 
  • The following year, a 269 move game (Nikolić–Arsović) became the longest ever recorded chess match.
  • As of 2024, the Russian federation accounts for 12.72% of all grandmaster title applications.
  • In 2014, Magnus Carlsen reached a classical rating of 2882, which was the highest Elo rating ever achieved by a human.
  • The biggest chess lesson in history took place in Switzerland in 2018 with two chess clubs and two schools (1,459 participants).

Chess pieces by starting positions

The chess board (or checkers board) is 8×8 where rows are called ranks and columns are called files. At the start of the game, the top two ranks and bottom two ranks on the board are filled with the game’s pieces. All of the white pieces are located at one side, while all black pieces are located at the opposite side. 

  • There are a total of 32 pieces on a standard chess board. 
  • Of these, there are 16 white pieces and 16 black pieces.
  • There are 6 different types of pieces, pawns, knights, bishops, queens and kings.
PieceNumber of piecesStarting positions
Pawn8 (white)
8 (black)
A2 to H2 (white)
A7 to H7 (black)
Knight2 (white)
2 (black)
B1 and G1 (white)
B7 and G8 (black)
Bishop2 (white)
2 (black)
C1 and F1 (white)
C8 and F8 (black)
Rook2 (white)
2 (black)
A1 and H1 (white)
A8 and H8 (black)
Queen1 (white)
1 (black)
D1 (white)
D8 (black)
King1 (white)
1 (black)
E1 (white)
E8 (black)

Chess piece movements

There are 6 different pieces in Chess, each of which has a different movement or movements. The King needs to be protected carefully at all times by other pieces as it can only ever move one square at a time and the game ends when there is a checkmate. 

PieceMovements
PawnOne square forward.One or two squares forward on initial move.One square forward diagonally to capture.
KnightTwo squares horizontally and one square vertically.Two squares vertically and one square horizontally.
BishopAny number of squares diagonally.
RookAny number or squares vertically or horizontally.
QueenAny number of squares vertically, horizontally or diagonally.
KingOne square vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

Chess pieces by points value

The points value of each chess piece is intended to show the worth of each piece can help players understand when it is worth sacrificing material. Usually, players are willing to lose a lower value piece if it allows them to capture one of higher value. 

PiecePoints value
Pawn1
Knight3
Bishop3
Rook5
Queen9
KingNo value

Many fans of chess also enjoy playing a range of word games such as Scrabble, Wordle and Wordscapes. At WordsRated, our Word Finder tool will help you find the best possible word for your next turn, so you can grow your personal dictionary and increase your game score!

Chess timeline

  • 6th Century – The ancient game of Chaturanga was invented in India. It was played on an 8×8 grid and was created as a battle simulation that utilized elements of the Indian military.
  • 7th Century – Charuranga spread into Persia through Islam and was adapted into a game known as Shatranj, which more closely resembled modern Chess.
  • 15th Century – The beginning of Chess as we know it today was created, with the Pawn, Bishop and Queen undergoing new powers to help create more dynamic gameplay.
  • 19th Century – The establishment of Chess organizations help standardize the game’s rules across multiple countries. London also hosts the first ever international Chess tournament.
  • 21st Century – Computer chess is developed with IBM’s Deep Blue successfully defeating the reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov. Later, the popularity of online chess allows players to continue playing, studying and understanding the game.

Chess World Champions

From 1886 to 1946, the Chess World Champion was not controlled by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). However, the death of champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946 caused an Interregnum until Mikhail Botvinnik won a special championship tournament in 1948. At this moment, FIDE began their control of the classical world championship. 

This reign lasted until 1993 when the champion (Garry Kasparov) and challenger (Nigel Short) decided to play their match outside of FIDE’s jurisdiction. Due to this, from 1993-2006 the title was split between Classical World Champions and FIDE World Champions. Anatoly Karpov and Viswanathan Anand are the only two players to have held both titles.

  • There have been 17 different Classical World Champions
  • There have been 6 different FIDE World Champions.
  • There have been 17 different Women’s World Champions.

Classical World Champions

  • Wilhelm Steinitz was the first Classical World Champion.
  • As of 2024, Ding Liren is the current Classical World Champion.
  • The Soviet Union has been represented by 7 different players, more than any other country.
#PlayerCountryDatesWinsYears won
1Wilhelm SteinitzAustria-Hungary
England
United States
1886-9441886
1889
1890
1892
2Emanuel LaskerGermany1894-192161894
1896
1907
1908
1910*
1910
3Jose Raul CapablancaCuba1921-2711921
4Alexander AlekhineRussia
France
1927-35,
1937-46
41927
1929
1934
1937
5Max EuweNetherlands1935-3711935
6Mikhail BotvinnikSoviet Union1948-57,
1958-60,
1961-63
51948
1951*
1954*
1958
1961
7Vasily SmyslovSoviet Union1957-5811957
8Mikhail TalSoviet Union1960-6111960
9Tigran V. PetrosianSoviet Union1963-6921963
1966
10Boris SpasskySoviet Union1969-7211969
11Robert J. FischerUnited States1972-7511972
12Anatoly KarpovSoviet Union1975-8531975
1978
1981
1984**
13Garry KasparovSoviet Union
Russia
1985-200061985
1986
1987*
1990
1993
1995
14Vladimir KramnikRussia2000-0732000
2004*
2006
15Viswanathan AnandIndia2007-1342007
2008
2010
2012
16Magnus CarlsenNorway2013-2352013
2014
2016
2018
2021
17Ding LirenChina2023-present12023
(*Retained in drawn match.) (**Leading match when canceled without official result.)

FIDE World Champions

  • Anatoly Karpov was the first FIDE World Champion.
  • Veselin Topalov was the last FIDE World Champion.
  • Russia is the only country to have been represented by 2 different players.
#PlayerCountryDatesWinsYears won
1Anatoly KarpovRussia1993-9931993
1996
1998
2Alexander KhalifmanRussia1999-200011999
3Viswanathan AnandIndia2000-0212000
4Ruslan PonomariovUkraine2002-0412002
5Rustam KasimdzhanovUzbekistan2004-0512004
6Veselin TopalovBulgaria2005-0612005

Women’s World Champions

  • Vera Menchik was the first Women’s World Champion.
  • As of 2024, Ju Wenjun is the current Women’s World Champion.
  • China has been represented by 6 different players, more than any other country.
#PlayerCountryDatesWinsYears won
1Vera MenchikCzechoslovakia
England
1927-4411927
2Lyudmila RudenkoSoviet Union1950-5311950
3Elisabeth BykovaSoviet Union1953-56,
1958-62
21953
1958
4Olga RubtsovaSoviet Union1956-5811956
5Nona GaprindashviliSoviet Union
Georgia
1962-7811962
6Maia ChiburdanidzeSoviet Union
Georgia
1978-9111978
7Xie JunChina1991-96,
1999-2001
21991
1999
8Susan PolgarHungary
United States
1996-9911996
9Zhu ChenChina2001-0412001
10Antoaneta StefanovaBulgaria2004-0612004
11Xu YuhuaChina2006-0812006
12Alexandra KosteniukRussia2008-1012008
13Hou YifanChina2010-12,
2013-15,
2016-17
32010
2013
2016
14Anna UsheninaUkraine2012-1312012
15Mariya MuzychukUkraine2015-1612015
16Tan ZhongyiChina2017-1812017
17Ju WenjunChina2018-present12018

Chess grandmasters 

In order to become a chess grandmaster, players must meet certain standards set by FIDE. Although world champion is the highest title that a chess player can achieve, being declared as a grandmaster is the second-greatest achievement possible and it is awarded for life, unless revoked due to a player cheating or committing fraud.

By year

  • 92 players were awarded grandmaster status in 2007, which was more than for any other year.
  • 2009 saw 75 players awarded grandmaster status (2nd) and in 2008 it was granted to 72 players (3rd). 
  • On average, 27.73 players are awarded grandmaster status each year.
YearNumber of grandmastersPercentage
1950271.32%
195120.10%
195260.29%
195340.19%
195450.24%
195550.24%
195630.15%
195730.15%
195830.15%
195930.15%
196040.19%
196140.19%
196260.29%
196320.10%
196480.39%
196590.44%
196620.10%
196740.19%
196810.05%
196900.00%
197030.15%
197130.15%
197260.29%
1973100.49%
197490.44%
1975120.58%
1976221.07%
1977140.68%
1978200.97%
197940.19%
1980150.73%
198130.15%
1982140.68%
198380.39%
1984160.78%
1985160.78%
1986241.17%
1987160.78%
1988221.07%
1989190.93%
1990422.05%
1991241.17%
1992321.56%
1993512.49%
1994442.14%
1995422.05%
1996422.05%
1997412.00%
1998562.73%
1999452.19%
2000412.00%
2001532.58%
2002602.92%
2003512.49%
2004602.92%
2005472.29%
2006542.63%
2007924.48%
2008723.51%
2009753.65%
2010552.68%
2011602.92%
2012391.90%
2013602.92%
2014422.05%
2015331.61%
2016422.05%
2017683.31%
2018602.92%
2019482.34%
2020422.05%
2021291.41%
2022532.58%
2023401.95%

By federation of title application

  • As of 2024, Russia was the federation given on the title application of 261 grandmasters, more than any other country.
  • Russia accounts for 12.72% of all grandmaster title applications.
  • Ukraine is second with 106 and the Soviet Union is third with 99.
FederationNumber of grandmastersPercentage
Russia26112.72%
Ukraine1065.17%
Soviet Union994.82%
United States894.34%
Germany834.04%
India834.04%
Hungary683.31%
Poland542.63%
Yugoslavia542.63%
China532.58%
France522.53%
Spain502.44%
Israel452.19%
Armenia442.14%
England442.14%
Netherlands442.14%
Bulgaria432.10%
Cuba361.75%
Argentina341.66%
Azerbaijan321.56%
Georgia301.46%
Czech Republic271.32%
Romania271.32%
Sweden241.17%
Belarus221.07%
Uzbekistan221.07%
Yugoslavia (S&M)211.02%
Croatia200.97%
Iran190.93%
Italy190.93%
Serbia190.93%
Kazakhstan180.88%
Denmark170.83%
Greece170.83%
Norway170.83%
Philippines160.78%
Brazil150.73%
Iceland150.73%
Canada140.68%
Slovakia140.68%
Latvia130.63%
Lithuania130.63%
West Germany130.63%
Colombia120.58%
Turkey120.58%
Vietnam120.58%
Australia110.54%
Czechoslovakia110.54%
Peru110.54%
Slovenia100.49%
Austria90.44%
Moldova90.44%
Belgium80.39%
Indonesia80.39%
Mongolia80.39%
North Macedonia80.39%
Serbia and Montenegro80.39%
Turkmenistan80.39%
Mexico70.34%
Switzerland70.34%
Chile60.29%
Egypt60.29%
Estonia60.29%
Finland60.29%
Bangladesh50.24%
Bosnia and Herzegovina50.24%
Scotland50.24%
East Germany40.19%
Portugal40.19%
Paraguay30.15%
Singapore30.15%
Tunisia30.15%
Algeria20.10%
Andorra20.10%
Costa Rica20.10%
Qatar20.10%
Tajikistan20.10%
United Arab Emirates20.10%
Venezuela20.10%
Albania10.05%
Bolivia10.05%
Dominican Republic10.05%
Ecuador10.05%
Faroe Islands10.05%
Jordan10.05%
Kyrgyzstan10.05%
Luxembourg10.05%
Montenegro10.05%
Morocco10.05%
Myanmar10.05%
New Zealand10.05%
South Africa10.05%
Taiwan10.05%
Uruguay10.05%
Zambia10.05%
Other10.05%

Chess Elo ratings

The Chess Elo ranking system is able to measure the relative strength of each player. Using this, players can be categorized into classes according to the ratings they achieve. As players increase their Elo rating, they can rise in class. Below FIDE classes, ranges can differ slightly for each country.

Elo ratingClass
2700+Supergrandmaster*
2500 – 2699Grandmaster
2400 – 2499International master
2300 – 2399FIDE master
2200 – 2299FIDE candidate master/National Master
2000 – 2199Expert/National Candidate Master
1800 – 1999Class A player
1600 – 1799Class B player
1400 – 1599Class C player
1200 – 1399Class D player
1000 – 1199Class E Player
(*Informal class)

Chess effect on math scores

The benefits of playing chess for individuals are largely documented. When it comes to education, students enrolled on a chess course and given a computer assisted training software were able to significantly increase their math scores.

  • 560 students were divided into two groups and tested on their math abilities.
  • Those in the experimental group received a mandatory chess course alongside a recommended computer assisted training software. 
  • Students in the control group performed a normal school schedule without any activity related to chess.
  • When tested on their math scores pre and post-intervention, those in the experimental group raised their scores by 26.06%, compared with a rise of 2.92% in the control group.
GroupPre-interventionPost-interventionChange
Control1.711.76+ 2.92%
Experimental1.652.08+ 26.06%
(where higher number is a better score)

A graph is given below to compare the effect of playing chess on math scores:

Chess terms

Blunder

A blunder is a critically bad move by a player that will often make their game situation significantly worse. Although the word’s origin is not well-known, it has been part of the game’s terminology for a long time, though the word itself is not unique to chess. Blunders can lead to the loss of pieces, check, checkmate or other problems. They may occur due to carelessness, overconfidence, oversights or time restraints.

  • Typically blunders are associated with an increased amount of time used thinking about a move. 
  • This is because blunders typically occur when the situation on the board is more complicated and more time is spent trying to determine the best possible move.
  • Obvious moves are less complicated, take less time and as such are less likely to result in a blunder.

Castling

Castling is a special move in which the king can be moved two squares along from its original square towards a rook on its corner, while the rook moves to the square passed over by the king. It can only be performed when neither piece has already moved and the squares between each piece are vacant. The king must also not leave, cross or finish on a square attacked by the opponent. It is the only move in the game which allows two pieces to move at the same time. 

There are two ways to castle, kingside castling (short castling, using space vacated by a bishop and rook) and queenside castling (long castling, using space vacated by a queen, bishop and rook). 

  • Kingside castling happens more frequently than queenside castling
  • It is considered common for both players to castle kingside.
  • One player utilizing queenside castling is less common and both players using queenside castling is very uncommon.

Check

Unlike checkmate, check is a position in which the king is under attack by the opponent but there are moves that can be performed to escape it. When a king is under check, the defending player must remove the king from danger in their next turn. Players are not permitted to perform any moves that will place their own king in check. There are three types of check:

  • Discovered check: Occurs when a defending piece moves out of the line of attack, immediately placing the king under check. 
  • Double check: Two pieces simultaneously deliver a check. Usually this happens when a piece attacks the king, which results in a second piece giving check through discovered check. En passant captures can also cause a double check. With a double check, the defensive king is forced to move.
  • Cross-check: Where the player defending a check makes a move that instead puts his opponent’s king in check. 

Checkmate

In chess, checkmate is a position in which a king is under attack (check) by an opponent and there are no possible moves available to escape it. When this occurs, the attacking player will win the game and the defending player will lose the game. In formal games, players often look to resign before a checkmate occurs as a sign of good etiquette.

  • There are eight different ways to checkmate in two moves from the game’s starting position.
  • There are 355 ways to checkmate in three moves from the game’s starting position.
  • The Queen is the most common piece to deliver checkmate (59%), followed by the Rook (24%), the knight (7%), the bishop (6%), the pawn (3%) and the king (1%). 

En passant

En passant occurs in chess when a pawn jumps forward two-squares from its starting position, to a square on the same rank and an adjacent file to that of an opposition pawn. The opposition pawn can then capture it by moving to the square that was originally passed over, in a diagonal movement. The capture is named en passant (in passing) and can only be performed on the turn that directly follows the two-square advance.

  • En passant is not forced, with players having the option to choose whether or not to play the move. 
  • The rule was first introduced in the year 1280.

Gambit

A gambit occurs during the game’s opening when a player decides to sacrifice material in order to receive a form of compensation. Most frequently, gambits involve giving up one or more pawns, although sometimes they can involve more valuable pieces. Once a gambit is offered, the opponent can either accept it (taking the piece) or ignore it (leaving the piece).

Stalemate

A stalemate results in a draw and occurs when a player is not in check but can only move to a position that will place them in check. Stalemate can often be used as a defensive technique to allow a player in a losing position to prevent a loss from occurring.