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Popular expert explains why communists can’t win chess championships!

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We haven’t run any Ray Keene material for awhile but this is just too good to pass up:

Yup, those communists have real trouble pushing to the top when it comes to chess, huh?

P.S. to Chrissy: If you happen to be reading this, my advice to you is to not take stuff from Keene. For one thing, he doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about; for another, it’s risky to use anything written by a plagiarist, because you can’t be sure who you’re copying from. I recommend you stick to repurposing material you find from quality chess writers such as Tim Krabbé.


  1. leoboiko says:

    Because they’re humans and the AIs beat us all?

  2. Jonathan says:

    It’s an interesting question why Russia has produced so many chess/math/computer whizzes. My Russian friends view this in somewhat nativist terms. That’s a loaded word, so substitute culture if you want. Their idea is that Russia, being a relatively small ‘tribe’ in a large physical space, is ungovernable in Western terms, but that the strong hand needed to hold the country together is also resented and undermined because Russia is a big space and big spaces tend to make people feel they have or should have their personal freedoms. They tend to say Russians push themselves into the spaces the state allows and that the state, to its credit, encourages them to do this even if a main reason for that is a bargain to maintain control. The Russian prejudice is that Chinese don’t think that way, that their culture is more conformist and I don’t think they know squat about India except their communist party remained Stalinist long after Russia turned on him.

    • Phil says:

      Seriously, I thought the standard “why are Russians good at chess” response is that they have nothing better to do on long cold winters than sit inside and play board games, combined with the fact that chess became culturally important there a long time ago so Russians take it seriously.

      Hey, and now the best player in the world is Norwegian, so maybe this long-cold-winter thing works! Although several of the other players in the top 10 are Chinese, Indian, and American. Let’s just call that ‘measurement error’, and we can hang onto our theory a bit longer.

  3. Martha (Smith) says:

    Catguin or pengcat?

  4. Steve says:

    Okay, maybe communism didn’t stop a bunch of Russians from becoming Chess Grand-masters, but capitalism is definitely the reason that there are no World GO champions from the West. I mean what other possible explanation is there?

  5. Peter Dorman says:

    Vishy Anand?

    And poor Wei Yi, so much talent but trapped in a collectivist culture…..

  6. A.G.McDowell says:

    It seems clear than a communist or other authoritarian state can decide to foster individual expertise if it chooses to, as long as the individuals can be kept powerless in other spheres. Hence chess champions, Nobel prize winners and Olympic medal winners. Curiously, what might be expected to be difficult for communist states is group activity, where that activity requires forms of organization that are politically incorrect – hence perhaps integrated circuit design.

    In practice the situation seems to have been much more complicated – see the article at for an interesting sidelight on mathematics in the Soviet Union.

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