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National Chess Day offers an opportunity to learn about and celebrate all things related to the history, challenge and enjoyment of the game.

History of National Chess Day

The game of chess got its start many centuries ago, as early as 600 AD, with a similar game from India known as chaturanga, which was likely an ancestor of chess. This game was likely used as a way to promote strategic training for those in the military.

It was probably several hundred years later that chess, as it is known today, developed. Books about chess were published as early as the 16th century and one of the earliest famous players was a Spanish priest by the name of Ruy Lopez.

In the United States in 1976, then President Gerald Ford declared October 9 to be National Chess Day, and it has stuck since then. With more than 100 countries recognizing chess as a sport, National Chess Day is not only a national celebration but can also be extended internationally and all around the world!

National Chess Day Timeline

1575

First Chess tournament takes place

The first informal international chess tournament takes place between Italians Leonardo da Cutri and Paolo Boi, who travel to the court of Philip II in Madrid to play Ruy Lopez and Alfonso Ceron of Spain.[1]

1939

United States Chess Federation is formed

With the combination of the American Chess Federation and the National Chess Federation, this new federation is formed.[2]

1972

Bobby Fischer wins World Chess Championship

A child prodigy at the age of 14, Fischer will go on to become the first and only American-born person to win the World Chess Championship.[3]

1976

First National Chess Day is celebrated

US President Gerald Ford declares that National Chess Day should be celebrated on the second Saturday of October.[4]

1986

World Chess Hall of Fame is founded

Opened in the basement of the headquarters of the US Chess Federation in New York, this begins with a small museum that will eventually move to Washington DC, Florida and then St. Louis, Missouri.[5]

How to Celebrate National Chess Day

Celebrating National Chess Day can be implemented in a wide variety of ways, including some of these ideas:

Enjoy Playing a Game of Chess

Chess is a well known and accessible game that can be played almost anywhere with just a simple board and some carved pieces, which can be very plain or extremely ornate. Chess only requires two people to play and can be a very short game or last for many hours!

Grab a partner and get ready to play an amazing game of chess together. Or, for those who don’t have a partner, hop onto a computer and play a game of chess as a video game, even without a partner.

Join a Chess Tournament or Club

Certainly, for those who are super into the game of chess, this is a great time to get motivated to enter into a local chess club or perhaps even participate in a tournament. Chess clubs exist all over the world in local communities, but they can also be joined virtually so that members can play against other members all over the world. That means that even a person who is on their own at home can participate in challenges, hone their skills in the game and generally just have a whole lot of fun!

Learn Fun Facts About Chess

National Chess Day is a fun time to gain knowledge about this strategic and interesting game. Learn some of these bits of trivia about the game to share with friends or coworkers in celebration of the day:

  • The longest chess game ever to be played took place in Belgrade in 1989, when the two opponents played a game that lasted 269 moves and ended in a draw.

  • When chess started, the queen could initially only make one move at a time, then she was allowed two moves at a time diagonally. It wasn’t until the late 1400s, with the Reconquista Spain, Queen Isabella, that the queen became the strongest piece on the board. 

  • The term “checkmate” used in the game of chess originates from a Persian phrase “shah mat”, which literally translates to “the King is dead”. 

  • The first chess board that had alternating dark and light squares seems to have appeared in Europe in the late 11th century. 

Visit the World Chess Hall of Fame

Take the opportunity on National Chess Day to hop in the car for a road trip to the World Chess Hall of Fame that is now located in St. Louis, Missouri in the USA. This museum has seen a number of iterations in its more than 35 years of history. It began in 1986, in the basement of the United States Chess Federation headquarters, which was located in New Windsor, New York at the time. The small display opened in 1988 and contained some memorabilia such as a book signed by Bobby Fischer, a silver set by Paul Morphy and other varied items.

The collection grew over the years and, after moving to Washington, DC and Miami, Florida, the World Chess Hall of Fame finally settled in St. Louis where chess is extremely popular with area youth. Celebrate the day by popping in to not only view items related to chess, but also to participate in programming and outreach opportunities.

Watch a Movie About Chess

Celebrate National Chess Day in an entertaining way by grabbing a few friends or family members and watching one of these cool films about the game and players of chess:

  • Magnus (2016). This documentary about Magnus Carlsen features the story about how he rose to the throne as world champion. From the time he was 13 years old and had a showdown with Kasparov, until his rise to the top, this film about Magnus offers an insight into this unique and intelligent boy’s life.
  • Brooklyn Castle (2012). An instant hit after it was released, this documentary follows a New York head chess teacher through the ups and downs of a year of chess competitions, winning more than any other school in the country.
  • Pawn Sacrifice (2015). Starring Tobey Maguire and Liev Schrieber, this is a dramatized biographical story about chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who reigned in the world of chess during the Cold War as he made challenges on the chess board to the Soviet Empire.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993). Another drama film about a child prodigy chess player, this one features the story of a seven-year-old boy named Josh Waitzkin who is fascinated by the chess players in Washington Square Park in New York City and eventually goes on to play in various chess tournaments.

Buy a New Chess Set

Lovers of the game of chess might consider National Chess Day as the right time to invest in a new chess set. Whether a magnetic travel set that can go anywhere or a hand carved marble or granite stone set to be displayed proudly, a new set is a great way to pay heed to the day.

National Chess Day FAQs

Is chess a sport?

Chess is competitive, demanding, universal and even has doping controls. Even the International Olympic Committee considers it to be a sport.[1]

When was chess invented?

Chess has been played for several centuries, dating back to around 600 AD.[2]

Who invented chess?

An ancestor of chess, called shantranj, was developed in Arabic from an Indian game called chaturanga.[3]

Can chess make you smarter?

Chess playing may improve math skills, cognitive skills and memory, but it is unlikely to help people improve their academic test scores.[4]

Is chess an Olympic sport?

Since 2000 chess has been recognized as an Olympic sport by the Olympic Committee, but the fact that it does not involve athleticism has complicated its relationship with the Olympics.

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