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Chess on Stamps

Author: Emil Drkusic
Date: 26/01/2023

I guess there are many chess players that love philately and vice versa. Therefore, today is the time to see chess on stamps. Today, we’ll talk about the history of chess, first stamp with the chess motif, and see some famous grandmasters.

A Brief History of Chess

Chess, the well-known strategy game, is more than 1500 years old, and its origins can be traced back to India, where a game called Chaturanga was played as early as the 6th century. The game then spread to Persia, and from there it was transmitted to the Islamic world and eventually to the West. Two of the most famous chess expressions date back to that period. These are: "Shāh!" (Persian for "King!"; when attacking a king) and "Shāh Māt!" (Persian for "the king is helpless", when king can’t move one the table anymore). In the 15th century the game began to take shape as we know today, with the introduction of new pieces and rules.

Needles to say, chess is a relatively simple game to start playing, but very complex to master. Today, we’ll take a look at some interesting chess-related stamps, as well see some of chess grandmasters.

Chess on Stamps – First Stamps

Personally, I find it very odd that we had to wait until 1947 when the first stamp related to chess had been issued.

Chess on Stamps – First Stamp Bulgaria 1947

Bulgaria – 1947/09/29

Part of the “Balkan Games, Bucharest” series (other stamps from the series included cycling, basketball, football, and flags)

This is Bulgarian 1947 issue related to Balkan Games. The remining 4 stamps from that series included motifs of cycling, basketball, football, and flags.

Chess on Stamps – Yugoslavia 1950

Yugoslavia – 1947/09/29

Chess Olympiad (FDC), 1950, Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia

One more interesting issue for that period is related to IX Chess Olympiad held in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia (today Croatia). You can read more here, but there are 2 interesting facts regarding this Olympiad:

  • “During the tournament a harsh heat wave hit, seriously affecting some of the older players.”
  • “This was the first such event since World War II, and the last in which the USSR did not participate.” This most probably happened because of Tito (Yugoslav leader and president) – Stalin split, which happened in 1948 and it took some time to normalize relations between Yugoslavia and Eastern Bloc. Also, this was also the main reason why Yugoslavia got the 1950 title. USSR won the title on the 18 next Olympiads in the row after that, and Yugoslavia performed OK later too.

Chess Champions on Stamps

Today, we’ll take a look at some famous chess champions, and this beautiful set from Mongolia. Each stamp shows a portrait of a champion and a position from the game he played.

We won’t probably never know who would be the best if they had the chance to train and play at the same era. Something like debated who was the best - Messi or Maradona or Pele. But in chess, we have more competitors for the title of best ever. It all started in 1914.

Chess Champions – Wilhelm Steinitz stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Wilhelm Steinitz (Austria)

Chess Champions – Emanuel Lasker stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Emanuel Lasker (Germany)

The original grandmasters were Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Marshall and Tarrasch. Given those titles by the Tsar as finalists in the tournament at St. Petersburg 1914.”

Chess Champions – Alexander Alekhine stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Alexander Alekhine (France)

Chess Champions – Mikhail Botvinnik stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Mikhail Botvinnik (USSR)

Many came later after them, and maybe most famous chess grandmasters from the relatively modern era are Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen.

Chess Champions – Anatoly Karpov stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Anatoly Karpov (USSR)

Chess Champions on Stamps - Nona Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze

While most famous chess grandmasters are male, there are many famous female chess grandmasters too. Nona Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze are two of the most accomplished female chess players of all time.

Chess Champions – Nona Gaprindashvili stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Nona Gaprindashvili (USSR)

Nona Gaprindashvili from USSR (Georgia) was the sixth Women's World Chess Champion and held the title from 1962 to 1978. She was the first woman to achieve the title of Grandmaster and was considered one of the strongest female chess players of her time.

Chess Champions – Maya Chiburdanidze stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions – Maya Chiburdanidze (USSR)

Maya Chiburdanidze, also from Georgia, was the seventh Women's World Chess Champion and held the title from 1978 to 1991. She was the youngest-ever female world champion, winning the title at the age of 17. She was considered one of the strongest female chess players of her era and was known for her aggressive and tactical play.

Both Gaprindashvili and Chiburdanidze were trailblazers for women in chess, and their achievements continue to inspire future generations of female chess players.

Chess Champions - World Champions stamp

Mongolia – 1986/04/20

Chess Champions

Today we’ve seen chess on stamps. While you wait for the next article feel free to explore stamps related to Olympic Games and Tour de France.

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