Neha Patil (Editor)

Chess Olympiad

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Chess Olympiad

The Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament in which teams from all over the world compete. FIDE organises the tournament and selects the host nation.


The use of the name "Chess Olympiad" for FIDE's team championship is of historical origin and implies no connection with the Olympic Games.

Birth of the Olympiad

The first Olympiad was unofficial. For the 1924 Olympics an attempt was made to include chess in the Olympic Games but this failed because of problems with distinguishing between amateur and professional players. While the 1924 Summer Olympics was taking place in Paris, the 1st unofficial Chess Olympiad also took place in Paris. FIDE was formed on Sunday, July 20, 1924, the closing day of the 1st unofficial Chess Olympiad.

FIDE organised the first Official Olympiad in 1927 which took place in London. The Olympiads were occasionally held annually and at irregular intervals until World War II; since 1950 they have been held regularly every two years.

Recognized sport

Chess is not recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC); since June 1999 FIDE has been recognized by the International Sports Federation.

Drug Testing

As a sporting federation recognized by the IOC, and particularly as a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) conventions, FIDE adheres to their rules, including a requirement for doping tests, which they are obligated to take at the events such as the Olympiad. The tests were first introduced in 2002 under significant controversy, with the widespread belief that it was impossible to dope in chess. Research carried out by the Dutch chess federation failed to find a single performance-enhancing substance for chess. According to Dr Helmut Pfleger, who has been conducting experiments in the field for around twenty years, "Both mentally stimulating and mentally calming medication have too many negative side effects". Players such as Artur Yusupov, Jan Timman and Robert Hübner either refused to play for their national team or to participate in events such as the Chess Olympiad where drug tests were administered. All 802 tests administered at the 2002 Olympiad came back negative. However, in the 36th Chess Olympiad in 2004, two players refused to provide urine samples and had their scores cancelled. Four years later, Vassily Ivanchuk was not penalized for skipping a drug test at the 38th Chess Olympiad in 2008, with a procedural error being indicated instead.

In 2010, a FIDE official commented that due to the work of the FIDE Medical Commission, the tests were now considered routine. In November 2015, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced they are working with WADA to define and identify doping in chess.


Each FIDE recognized chess association can enter a team into the Olympiad. Each team is made of up to five players, four regular players and one reserve (prior to the tournament in Dresden 2008 there were two reserves). Initially each team played all other teams but as the event grew over the years this became impossible. At first team seeding took place before the competition. Later certain drawbacks were recognized with seeding and in 1976 a Swiss tournament system was adopted.

The trophy for the winning team in the open section is the Hamilton-Russell Cup, which was offered by the English magnate Frederick Hamilton-Russell as a prize for the 1st Olympiad (London 1927). The cup is kept by the winning team until the next event, when it is consigned to the next winner. The trophy for the winning women's team is known as the Vera Menchik Cup in honor of the first Women's World Chess Champion.

The 2010 Olympiad was held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The 2012 Olympiad was held in Istanbul, Turkey, the 2014 Olympiad was in Tromsø, Norway. The 2016 Olympiad was held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Cultural activities

In addition to competition, each Olympiad also gives opportunities for associated cultural activities. For instance, at the 2004 Olympiad there were chess films screened on the beaches of Calvià every weeknight during the Olympiad, and chess-oriented art was displayed at an International Chess Fair, with prizes for top works awarded by a jury. In a New in Chess article 2012/7, Nigel Short opined that "Olympiads are all about sex", in particular comparing the prostitutes of Moscow 1994 to the women of Manila 1992. His conclusion is that Manila 1992 "is considered to have been one of the best Olympiads in recent decades", in no short part due to the "sheer volume of totty." This bookends the view from Graham Hillyard's 2010 piece, where English Chess Federation representative CJ de Mooi is depicted as bemoaning Anatoly Karpov's failure to introduce him to any suitably attractive young Russian men. Two players died during the 2014 Olympiad and Norwegian reporter Tarjei Svensen noted that heavy drinking was typical before rest days, particularly at the famous "Bermuda party" regularly hosted by FIDE Treasurer Nigel Freeman. This was the most read article at both the El País and Guardian news websites, a fact that was later cited as confirming the strong grassroots interest with chess.

Results (open section)

* In 1976, the  Soviet Union and other communist countries did not compete for political reasons.

Total team ranking

The table contains the men's teams ranked by the medals won at the Chess Olympiad, not including the unofficial events, ranked by the number of first place medals, ties broken by second-place medals, etc.

* Includes the results of  West Germany.

Top-10 (including non-official tournaments)

The table contains the men's teams ranked by the medals won at the Chess Olympiad, including the unofficial events, ranked by the number of first place medals, ties broken by second-place medals, etc.

Best individual results in the open section

The best individual results in order of overall percentage are:

  • Only players participating to at least four Olympiads are included in this table.
  • Medals indicated are only individual ones (not team), in the order gold - silver - bronze.
  • (1)  Kasparov played his first four Olympiads for the Soviet Union, the rest for Russia. His four gold medals are one for best-rating performance (first introduced at Thessaloniki 1984) and three for best score on first board.
  • (2)  Keres played his first three Olympiads for Estonia, the rest for the Soviet Union.
  • (3)  Karjakin played his first three Olympiads for Ukraine, the rest for Russia
  • References

    Chess Olympiad Wikipedia