What Makes The Game of Chess So Universally Popular?

The game of chess is more widely played today than it has ever been, with more than 150,000 international players recognised by the World Chess Federation and 800 million people playing chess on a regular basis. But what is it that makes the game of chess so popular the world over and the number of people purchasing chess sets, chess boards and chess pieces at an all-time high?

In this article, we look at the game at a fundamental level to see exactly what it is that has made so many people fall in love it over such a long time.

The Competitive Spirit

The constituent parts of a game of chess are two people, a chess board and two opposing sets of chess pieces. However, collectively, these components make up a battle of wits and mental agility which appeals to the competitive spirit that lies within us all.

Human beings are inherently competitive and unfortunately, as a result, we have, over the ages, constantly fought to better each other. This is, however, what makes us what we are and it is perhaps why we have, as a species, been able to achieve such great things.

We are also hugely inquisitive and enjoy providing solutions to problems and innovating our way out of trouble when up against seemingly insurmountable odds. All of these things when put together are central to our ongoing survival and development and it's on the chess board that many find the arena on which to exercise these urges.

It Can Be Played Anywhere

Unlike a lot of other pastimes, chess can be played pretty much anywhere at any time. All that’s needed is a chess board  and a set of chess pieces  and an opponent against which to pit your wits. You don’t even necessarily need much room, as chess sets now come in all shapes and sizes, making the game playable in the smallest of spaces.

And that’s before you begin to consider the chess playing facilities offered on the millions of smart devices that now exist. Play a game on a smartphone and you need neither a chess board , chess pieces  or even an opponent! With a few taps and swipes on a screen and someone in London can connect to a person and immediately play someone else in San Diego.

It truly has never been easier to get involved with the game.

It’s Completely Unpredictable

There is an almost infinite world of possibilities on every single chess board  when it comes to the number of moves your chess pieces  can make. Over the first four moves in a game, there are over 300 billion separate possible connotations and you’re more likely to win the lottery once a month for a year than you are to have the same game of chess twice.

Far from being a tedious, boring board game, it's one that tests every sinew of the mind and has more than a few surprises in store even for the most experienced player.

There’s No Luck Involved

With most board games in existence, there are dice involved, which introduces the element of luck. This means that you could be close to defeat and the with the right throw the dice, you can turn the tide of the game and win - all without any skill or guile. On a chess board, there is no element of luck and the only way you can change the course of the game is to outwit your opponent.

Those who regularly play the game know this and it's what makes them fall in love with it. When you conquer the person sitting opposite you or on the other end of an online game, you do it with your ability, not your fortune.

Chess Sets Can Be Beautifully Ornate

One thing you'll most likely never do is walk into someone's study or living room and see a beautifully crafted Monopoly set or a hand-carved Snakes & Ladders board. That's not the case with chess boards  and chess pieces , as there are many in existence that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are masterfully crafted.

Unlike the majority of board games we see today, Chess is a pastime that stretches back almost as far as recorded history does and over the centuries, there have been some quite stunningly beautiful chess boards, chess pieces and ornamental chess sets created.

Chess sets in the modern day are crafted from both various types of wood, plastics and metals, meaning that they can be used both for play, as a decoration and as part of an enthusiast's collection.

It’s Educational

Science has proved that not only is chess incredibly enjoyable to partake in, but it can actually be used to improve concentration, cognitive function and more besides. Chess is also hugely educational, especially to youngsters, as it teaches:


  • Sportsmanship
  • How to stay calm whilst under pressure
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Creative thinking
  • Pattern recognition
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving
  • Strategic Thinking


The game is also shown to use both sides of the brain, meaning that it's viewed as a way to express oneself creatively, which is something we all need. Playing the game in the right spirit is also something you learn playing the game, as well as respecting your opponent and being respectful in victory and defeat.

In Summary

As we’ve seen, chess is a multifaceted, multi-functional and universally loved game across the world. What it offers in terms of personal development, enjoyment, skill and fulfilment is not something you’ll find in many other pastimes, let alone other board games.

Also, much in the same way that football (or soccer) is the world's most popular sport because it only takes a ball and a few people with the will to play the game, chess is accessible to pretty much everyone on the planet. All you need is a physical or virtual chess board  and the time needed to play - that’s it.

These characteristics coupled with the fact that no two games are ever the same make chess and its place in history secure. And with a popularity that shows no signs of waning any time soon, it will likely be played for many hundreds of years into the future, if not more.

Chess is the game of the people and it will always have a special place in our hearts and for that reason, it will always enjoy mass popularity.