Did you know that International Chess Day, or World Chess Day, is observed and celebrated around the world on July 20? Not only do fascinating things happen on that day, but it has some pretty interesting origins. Also, since the exact day falls on a Tuesday, the global body for chess, FIDE, has planned some interesting events on the upcoming weekend, July 24 to 25.
The Long and Winding Road to a World Chess Day
The first thing everyone should know is that International Chess Day is annually observed on July 20, which is the day that the International Chess Federation was founded back in 1924. For those of you wondering what FIDE stands for, it’s basically the French name for the federation, “Fédération Internationale des Échecs.” While the international body was founded almost a hundred years ago today, the idea to allow one day for recognizing the ancient board game actually came from UNESCO, with the event being first celebrated in 1966.
Furthermore, it was only in December 2019 that the UN General Assembly formally recognized July 20 as World Chess Day. In a resolution tabled by Armenia and co-sponsored by 52 other countries, the day maintains what UNESCO has done, but formalizes it among all member states.
In the corresponding FIDE writeup about the UN General Assembly resolution, it cited a poll that shows how “70% of the adult population has played chess at some point during their lives.” This is exactly why chess is celebrated around the world – it has touched so many lives at one point or another. While not everyone keeps tabs on their ELO ratings or regularly competes in tournaments, it’s safe to say that we know a thing or two about chess from our respective times playing it.
This year marks the 97th anniversary since FIDE was founded in Paris, the result of almost ten years since the initiative was raised in St. Petersburg, Russia for an international union of chess players. Needless to say, the organization has come a long way from the four-nation “Little Olympiad” from the 1926 Third Congress to being a global federation of about 195 national chess associations around the world. It has been the global standard in hosting tournaments, setting rules, and even promoting chess to the general public.
What’s Up With the 2021 International Chess Day
Tirelessly working to bring the joys of chess to the larger public, FIDE has repeated its last year’s activity: inviting members of the chess community to teach someone how to play chess as a celebration of the classical board game. In a letter from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, the unexpected support they got last year convinced the federation to try and make this an annual tradition of sharing chess with others. Lauding the success of the original chess tutorial campaign, he wrote: “This resulted in many thousands of new players who joined our ranks. Our family grew bigger, and that is always good news.”
Additionally, the FIDE letter included instructions such as who to teach and when the campaign runs. It suggests that in teaching someone, preferably a kid (we think because they’re more teachable, plus their ideas go everywhere!). However, it could also be a grown-up because chess is available for all. It also noted that if possible, “choose someone close to you.” And we agree, it may be your kids or your folks, or maybe a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. The possibilities, like chess moves, are endless. You may either ignite their passion for the game and set them towards loving chess, or simply have an activity you both can bond over. It’s been well noted how chess creates a meditative air around its players, especially since the silence helps in focus and concentration.
Locked in due to work or studying for the finals? Still reeling from the restrictions on travel and in-person events? We have a great idea: try out Chess Roll. It’s an app available on both Android and iOS smartphones and would serve as a great new experience both for experienced and non-experienced players. And it works even without being actually together in person! With its dice rolls, the chessboard is basically leveled for everyone, with the element of chance guaranteed to throw uncertainties even in the most detailed of strategies on the playbook.
The chess sharing campaign has begun on July 20 and is expected to last until the next weekend July 24 to 25. Last year, chess communities around the world saw a sharp increase in the number of chess players (and chess set sales!) thanks to the phenomenal Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit.” With both its flair, courtesy of the character of Elizabeth Harmon played by Anya Taylor-Joy, and its accuracy thanks to consultants Bruce Pandolfini and Garry Kasparov.
Additionally, International Chess Day falls right smack in the middle of the ongoing Chess World Cup 2021, which began last July 10 and is expected to run up until August 8 in Sochi, Russia. A 206-player single-elimination tournament is an event closely monitored by chess aficionados around the world. It’s an event where grandmasters get trumped and relatively unknown players skyrocket to the top. Just from the recent round three of the event, we’ve seen chess GMs with ELO rating surpassing 2700 points bowing out of the tournament – American-Italian GM Fabiano Caruana, Dutch GM Anish Giri, and Russian GM Evgeny Tomashevsky being among them.
International Chess Day is a great day that needs more effort from chess communities around the world and more recognition from the general public. It’s a celebration of intellect, talent, rivalry, and more importantly: unity. It is the commemoration of the FIDE being established and with it, a unified platform for chess everywhere in the world.
Even better, the smallest effort is what sparked the large, 195-nation organization into being: a game of chess. Go on, play and teach friends and family how to play chess. Even when you’re away, there are a number of online options that cross time and distance, Chess Roll being one of them.