Judit Polgar Chess Foundation


Chess and Sport


Many people are asking questions about the nature of chess: is it really a sport or only a game? The answer to this apparently simple question involves more than one aspect. The required level of intellectual, mental and physical preparing of a tournament player clearly speaks for chess being a sport. As the quote goes from one of the most dominant marathon runners in the world, Scott Jurek, "as magnificent as our lungs, arms and muscles are, nothing matters more than the mind".



According to the International Olympic Committee an Olympic sport can be such that is widespread by men on at least three continents and seventy-five countries and women on a minimum three continents and forty countries. FIDE the International Chess Federation meets easily these requirements by the 161 member countries, with millions of certified chess players. In 2002 the IOC opined that chess is undoubtedly sport. This belief is supported by the fact that several years ago a decision was made that chess will be included in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea as an experiment sport.



World Chess Championship


The first international chess tournament was organized in London, 1851 and was won by the German Adolf Anderssen. The history of the official world championships starts in 1886, when the two strongest players of the moment, Steinitz and Zukertort, fought on the board for the world supremacy. Until 1946 the World champion had the right of choosing his challenger and impose certain financial conditions. Starting with 1948 the World Chess Championships were organized by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). In 1993 Garry Kasparov, the world champion at the time, formed the Professional Chess Association (PCA), a rival organization to FIDE. Up to 2006 both organizations had their world championship cycles until the championship was united. The undisputed world champions since 2006 are the Russian Vladimir Kramnik, the Indian Viswanathan Anand and currently the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. In addition to individual chess world championships there are World Team Chess Championships for national teams, and world championships for different age groups.


Two infamous stops in chess history are the well known matches between Fischer - Spassky and the long duels between Karpov and Kasparov. In 1972 the world followed with enormous interest the match Fischer-Spassky, still called the chess match of the century after so many years. The Soviets were controlling the world chess championships until Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in Iceland thus braking the Soviet hegemony. After Fischer retired from chess, the Soviet player Karpov retained the world champion title for 10 years. The other determinative match of chess history was the on board fight of fire and water in the battle between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. With the triumph over Karpov in 1985, Kasparov became the youngest world chess champion. Kasparov successfully defended his title for fifteen years. By many he is considered the strongest chess player ever.


European Championship


The European Championship for individuals is yearly organized since 2000, in the open section (where both men and women can compete) and separately in the women's category. In addition there are European team championships held for national teams and junior championships in different age groups.


Chess Olympiad


The world's best national teams (consisting of players displayed on four boards) compete every two years for the medals at the Chess Olympiad. This is the most prestigious chess team event. First organized in 1924 it was not yet an official championship. From 1927 the Chess Olympiad is organized by the International Chess Federation and from 1950 there are Women Chess Olympiads as well. Since 1976 both the Open and Women Chess Olympiads are held in a joint festival of chess at the same location.


Tournaments and Time Limits


The chess tournaments are held in two forms: open or invitational. In order to avoid having games lasting infinitely, at the professional tournaments chess-clocks are used. The chess-clock or game timer, consists of two clocks. Stopping one clock starts the other and vice-versa. After making his or her move the player presses his clock button stopping his own clock and at the same time starting the opponent's clock. With the help of the chess-clock it is determined how much thinking time each player has during the game. Whoever runs out of time loses the game just as if they would get checkmated. The only exception is if there is no possible way to give checkmate on the board.



In the traditional tournaments with chess clocks, each payer has 2 hours for the first 40 moves, followed by another 1-1 hour for additional 20 moves. On the international FIDE tournaments today the digital timers are used, which give time increment with each move played. Accordingly, the most common time control today is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, with 30 seconds increment for each move. In rapid games the time limit is much shorter, varying between 10 to 60 minutes for the whole game with additional increments of 10 seconds per move. In the lightning or so-called blitz games, there is less than 10 minutes for each player for the entire game. The most popular blitz time control is 5-5 minutes, or 3-3 minutes for the players with 3 second increment/move. There are also the super fast "bullet" games, where the players only have one minute each for the whole game.


Chess Titles and Rating System


The rankings of chess players is determined by the rating system showing the strength of the players relatively to one another. According to the results against the opponents, the Elo-points gets modified. After each game the points can be calculated: a loss or a draw against a lower rated player will result decrease of your points, while winning or draw against a higher rated player will increase that of your own. The rating system was invented by the Hungarian-American professor of physics Élő Árpád (1903–1992), his system was implemented by the US Chess Federation (USCF) in 1960 and ten years later also by the International Chess Federation (FIDE)


There are three major factors that affect the Elo-ratings:


  1. the outcome of the game (result)
  2. the difference of Elo-points of the players
  3. the amounts of games played


With each game, tournament or championship the rating points are adjusted. According to the new rules of FIDE, the national chess federations have the obligation to send adjustments monthly to FIDE so that the international updates can be made on the FIDE rating lists.


The FIDE rating list is the world ranking list. The titles in classical chess are given by FIDE the International Chess Federation:


  • FIDE-master (FM) –2300 rating point or more.
  • International Master (IM) – 2400 rating point or more and making at least three IM norms required by FIDE.
  • International Grandmaster (GM) – This title can be reached by 2500 rating points or more and making at least three GM norms required by FIDE.
  • Super-Grandmaster – an unofficial title that refers to players who reach 2700 or higher rating points.

All titles are open for men and women alike, but there are also titles for women chess players only. The same titles are given, but the requirements are 200 point lower and the letter 'W' is written before the titles. (WFM, WIM and WGM). In addition there is also a title of Candidate Master (CM). The highest Elo rating so far was earned by Magnus Carlsen and by Judit Polgar on the female rating list.


Judit Polgar Chess Foundation
Judit Polgar Chess Foundation