russia

One love: how chess stole millions of hearts in Russia

In both Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, chess was the nation’s most beloved pastime bar none. These archive photos provide the proof.
By Alexey Mosko

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MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM MOSCOW / MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Normally a quite exclusive club, chess is in the spotlight this November as Russia’s leading grandmaster Sergey Karyakin strives to bring the chess crown back to Russia as he competes in New York at the World Chess Championship with the reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway. But irrespective of the outcome of the battle, chess will still be played at the grassroots level as it was before. // 1890s. A chess game at Duke Trubetskoy’s mansion at Menshovo (65 km south of Moscow). The mansion, owned by one of Russia’s most prominent gentry families, was destroyed after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

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MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM MOSCOW / MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

1914-1918. Two men play chess in a wooden country house.

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RIA NOVOSTI

1927. An outdoor chess corner at the Maynaki health resort in Yevpatoria, Crimea.

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MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM MOSCOW / MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

1937. A chess club evening at the House of Steelworkers in Magnitogorsk, 1700km south-east of Moscow.

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MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM MOSCOW / MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

1963-1964. Moscow. Students play pocket chess between classes.

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TASS

1964. A women analyzes a chess game during a TV show.

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MULTIMEDIA ART MUSEUM MOSCOW / MOSCOW HOUSE OF PHOTOGRAPHY

1972. Sakhalin Region, Russian Far East. Sailors relax playing chess on a rare day off.

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VLADIMIR SAVOSTYANOV/TASS

1973. Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov takes a look at Leo Tolstoy’s chess table in the writer’s mansion at Yasnaya Polyana, 200 km south of Moscow.

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ALEXANDER KATKOV/TASS

1973. Passengers on board a cruise from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to New York relax on the top deck of the ship.

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VLADIMIR ZLENKO/TASS

1977. A collective farm in present-day Turkmenistan. Peasant Khidyr Orusov sits at the chessboard during a local chess tournament

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V.KISELEV/RIA NOVOSTI

1985. Soviet Army soldiers deployed in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War play chess at their camp in Nangarhar Province.

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IGOR UTKIN, ALEXANDER YAKOVLEV/TASS

1988. Young participants in an open-air chess festival in Moscow.

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