Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why are the Russians so good at chess?

Why are the Russians and their neighbors so good at chess?
Because the Soviets subsidized the game. After the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, it became a national pastime. Soon after the revolution, Vladimir Lenin's supreme commander of the Soviet army, Nikolay Krylenko, laid the foundations for state-sponsored chess: He opened chess schools, hosted tournaments, and promoted the game as a vehicle for international dominance.

The Soviets also saw chess as embodying their revolutionary ideals. It was a game of skill, and the USSR prided itself on its intellectual talents. It was cheap, and anyone could play it. And to Soviet leaders, its back-and-forth dynamic reflected the dialectical concept of history espoused by Marxism.
Christopher Beam's article in the Slate. Contains few factual errors, but in general it hits the point.

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