Reports | August 09, 2012 8:19

Agon releases new chess player statistics from YouGov

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Agon, Andrew Paulson's company that works with FIDE to organize the upcoming World Championship cycles, has released new chess player statistics based on research by YouGov, an  international internet-based market research firm from the UK. "Across varied national demographic profiles (US, UK, Germany, Russia, India), a surprisingly stable 70% of the adult population has played chess at some point during their lives."

PRESS RELEASE

Chess Redux

AGON releases new chess player statistics from YouGov

Chess has been under the radar for the last 40 years since Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky fought the Cold War for us in Reykjavik. But outside the glare of the media spotlight chess players now make up one of the largest communities in the world: 605 million adults play chess regularly – a number comparable to regular users of Facebook.

According to authoritative polling organization YouGov, across varied national demographic profiles (US, UK, Germany, Russia, India), a surprisingly stable 70% of the adult population has played chess at some point during their lives. Even if they played as children but left it behind as they grew up, they still retain a deep admiration for the game.

Across the board, chess players and non-players alike rank chess significantly higher than any other game or sport for attributes such as intelligence, sophistication, strategy, perfection and complexity confirming top branding agency Pentagram’s view: “Chess is about Thinking and Winning.”

Most surprising is the percentage of adults who actually currently play chess (either weekly, monthly or during the past year): 12% in the UK; 15% in the U.S. 23% in Germany; 43% in Russia; and 70% among the 121m Indians considered ABC1 by advertisers.

From The Wire and The West Wing to Harry Potter and Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, chess remains ubiquitous in popular culture as a metaphor for conflict and power. Further, in the real world, last month when Enrique Peña became the new president of Mexico, the NYT attributed his success to “the same attention to strategy he applies while playing chess.” And, when US trader Boaz Weinstein cleaned up after JPMorgan lost $1.8bn, the NYT explained it: “He is a chess master.”

But the raw numbers themselves are astonishing: over 6m, 35m, 16m, 50m and 85m people in the U.K., U.S., Germany, Russia, and India (ABC1), respectively, are playing chess regularly and more than half are 18-34.

And, when YouGov dug deeper, they found out how people who play chess regularly differ from those who don’t.

Current chess players are better informed than those who either used to or never played chess: they are 5x more likely to read The Guardian, The New Scientist or The Week (in the U.K.) or 2.5x more likely to read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist or The New Yorker (in the U.S.).

Although chess has very low barriers to entry and is played across the socioeconomic spectrum, in the U.S. 78% of regular chess players are university graduates and among households with incomes over $120,000, 21% are regular chess-players.

Despite their popular image as reclusive ascetics, chess players consume immoderately: in categories traditionally used to measure affluence (cars, watches, air travel, branded alcohol consumption, online purchasing), global research organization TGI (WPP) reports that chess players are 40-100% more likely to purchase a luxury item than a non-chess-player.

These findings from YouGov and TGI were commissioned by AGON, the commercial enterprise that was accorded the rights to the World Chess Championship Cycle earlier this year by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

Entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, founder of AGON, said: “In an official International Olympics Committee (IOC) submission a few years ago, FIDE cited the number of chess players worldwide to be 605 million. I wanted to know if this was true and who and where they were. I was happily surprised; the results far exceeded our expectations.”

They confirm the premise from Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi Sports, that chess is the “sleeping giant” of the sports/entertainment world, adding that “It’s rare to get something so untainted by previous branding,” he said.

END

Background

AGON, founded by London-based entrepreneur Andrew Paulson, has been granted the long-term, exclusive rights to organize and commercialize the World Chess Championship Cycle by FIDE, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs.

AGON will restore World Chess’ high profile in traditional print and broadcast media, consolidate a global audience with more accessible online and mobile products, curate gripping live events, and bring together government and business partners in a rarified atmosphere. AGON also actively supports local, municipal initiatives, especially the Chess in Schools Movement, opening up competition venues to 200 youngsters every day of play for competition and instruction.

Cycle: The World Chess Championship Cycle is comprised of nine events over two years culminating in a Championship Match. In 2013, over 100 days of games will be held in prestigious venues in world cities (LONDON LISBON MADRID PARIS BERLIN ISTANBUL) with players representing 15 countries (RUSSIA CHINA INDIA U.S. NORWAY ITALY ISRAEL UKRAINE HOLLAND HUNGARY ARMENIA AZERBAIJAN UZBEKISTAN BULGARIA CUBA). The 2013 Prize Fund is €5.5m. In 2014, the Cycle will move to North and South America.

Audience: Chess is regularly played by a demographic that is the holy grail of sponsors (AFFLUENT YOUNG EDUCATED MEN INFORMED CONNECTED ACTIVE) and is attributed rare and admirable qualities by 70% of the population, most of whom first played as children (INTELLIGENCE STRATEGY DECISIVENESS SOPHISTICATION PERFECTION). (Source: YouGov 2012) In the U.S., more people play chess than tennis and golf, combined!

Games: The games will be held in a purpose-built ‘cockpit’ (created by Pentagram Design) before an intimate live audience and broadcast in various formats to the public via cable, online and mobile platforms. ChessCasting, a new application developed by the former Director of Interactive Design at the BBC, Vibeke Hansen, will transform chess into a spectator sport: the live and remote audience will be able to understand games through the eyes of a grandmaster and approximate the emotions of the players themselves. A true hybrid of game and sport, the audience will be able to watch and play at the same time.

Social Media: Chess is not a ‘casual’ game. Unlike other sports, chess content remains vital and engaging long after a game is over and the results are known. As with many hobbies, chess enthusiasts make significant investment of time and energy without expectation of compensation, except in kind. Technology has transformed chess over the last 30 years but has not yet tapped into its huge social potential; as soon as it is easier and more exciting to play with friends than against a computer or a mobile phone, this audience will engage and could become one of the largest groups in social media.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Unlike other games, chess has an educational value recognized by governments (in dozens of countries, including the European Union) to improve test scores and fight against Attention Deficit Disorder, and is now commonly included in school curricula. During the World Chess Championship Cycle, two hundred children will be invited to participate in tournaments and instruction each morning before the competitions begin.

Events: The World Chess Championship Cycle will bring together municipal and national government, the diplomatic corps, global brand partners and local corporate representatives.

Sponsorship: AGON will collaborate with brand partners from diverse sectors -but with similar reach, values and aspirations -to make this a sustainable business. Sponsors will derive value not just from association with those who play chess (1215%), but also with those who have played and continue to attribute to chess such rare and admirable qualities (70%).

Survey methodology

The US survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc US panel of over 1,000,000 individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email is sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. [The sample definition could be “US adult population” or a subset such as “US adult females”]. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys, however this does vary dependent upon the subject matter, complexity and length of the questionnaire.

The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data.

The UK survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc GB panel of 350,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. An email is sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey. [The sample definition could be “GB adult population” or a subset such as “GB adult females”]. YouGov Plc normally achieves a response rate of between 35% and 50% to surveys, however this does vary dependent upon the subject matter, complexity and length of the questionnaire.

The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample. The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data.

The methodology for the UK, Germany, Russia and India surveys was the same as for the US, conducted using online interviews administered to members of the YouGov Plc UK panel of 350,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys, the YouGov Plc German panel of 120,000+ individuals, the YouGov Plc Russian panel of 77,000 individuals, and the YouGov Plc Indian panel of 8,000+ individuals.

NB: All figures, unless otherwise stated in the footnotes, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample sizes were 4,161 adults (UK), 2,024 adults (US), 953 adults (Germany), 2,013 adults (Russia), and 1,000 adults (India). Fieldwork was carried out between 16 to 18 May (US), 30 March to 02 April (UK), 02 July to 06 July (Germany), 09 to 23 July (Russia), and 03 to 12 July (India). All surveys were carried out online. All sets of figures for the UK, US, Germany and Russia have been weighted and are representative of each country’s adults (aged 18+). The figures for India are representative of the online Indian adult population.

 

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

Chess.com

Comments

RG's picture

Andrew Paulson continues to impress. Maybe his foray into chess organization will prove to be the turning point for the sport.

Aðalsteinn's picture

What means: "...and 70% among the 121m Indians considered ABC1 by advertisers." in the first part of the article?

Anonymous's picture

ABC1 is a demographic classification profile which indicates the type of social class a consumer falls into (in this case middle class, better than average education) in order to help advertisers better identify and target consumers.

What "70% among the 121m Indians considered ABC1 by advertisers" means is that Andrew Paulson hired a private firm, YouGov, to profile a bunch of people to find the population of people who would have most likely played chess at some point in their lives.

That group of people was then asked if they had ever played chess, and to no one's surprise the answer was yes.

The correct way to conduct a poll is through random sampling, which clearly didn't happen here. Why anyone would be impressed by this level of "research" absolutely confounds me.

bayde's picture

Some thoughts:

Mostly, this is stuff we all knew. The truly revolutionary thing is that someone is researching, organizing, and presenting this data in a professional, sports-management manner and not the Russian manner.

Although I am worried by the "purpose built cockpit". It sounds like their intention is to make it look like a Hollywood game-show set, with tacky colors and lights everywhere. I see a train-wreck of silliness coming our way, reminiscent of the "FIDE uniform" fiasco of ten years ago.

MW's picture

I'm glad I'm not the only one with reservations about this whole thing. I have have the sneaking suspicion that this in taking chess in the direction of a vulgarized sideshow.

Coco Loco's picture

To not give Paulson the benefit of the doubt when the other side of the coin is the Group of Clowns (a.k.a. FIDE) would be very foolish. Keep up the good work, Andrew!

Anonymous's picture

+1

Creemer's picture

Though I would like it if chess were more popular, this whole research into the profitability of 'our' game somehow makes me feel nauseous.

Maybe it is because now also chess will be monetized and like in anything else that was monetized, qualities like freedom, spirit, art and creativity will be diminshed. (Yes, they will. Look around you, think hard and long and you will agree.)

Luckily, I am a patzer and I am unmonetizable.

RG's picture

@Creemer, world champions like Lasker and Botvinnik who had real careers outside of chess are few and far between. There are so many others who depend upon it for a living. And then there are those who cannot afford to work on chess full time because it is not lucrative enough - players like Luke Mcshane who can only 'afford' to play part-time and others who have quit professional chess for poker. If chess is made more lucrative it will inspire new players from many different walks of life - enriching the art and science with their contributions.

Creemer's picture

Thank you for your kind words. I still feel nauseous.

Somehow, though I cannot say how, you missed the point. We all miss the point.

Thank you again.

Anonymous's picture

"qualities like freedom, spirit, art and creativity will be diminshed." Really? Perhaps you should learn more about the history of art and other creative fields. There is no evidence whatsoever to support your main point.

Creemer's picture

Well, if we were to hold a contest to see who could urinate further in the field of the fine arts, I would certainly and clearly win. But we won't. There is no contest.

It is, my good spirited partner in conversation, a point of view. Evidence can be found anywhere one decides to look.

My point of view shows me, and anyone else who chooses to consider it (don't be afraid: you can always go back to where you stood before), that art and money are like oil and water.

Ask Morozevich. You can find him at the beach, looking out over the sea.

Anonymous's picture

Magnus Carlsen just gave an interesting interview to Eugeny Atarov for WhyChess. How terribly cheap from Chessbase to headline their repost like

"Magnus Carlsen: Am I tired? What a stupid question!"

Magnus never said a thing like "stupid question" during the interview. It is just not his style, sadly unlike Chessbase's.

His interview for WhyChess is quite interesting though and should be recommended!

Thomas's picture

The interview is from 24th June right after Tal Memorial (not the first time that Chessbase republishes an old interview) and has the same headline at Whychess. But actually it was Atarov who called his own question a stupid one:

Atarov: "I realise what I’m now going to ask is a stupid question, but tell me, in the last few years haven’t you already got tired of all these interviews and photo sessions… How many of them have you done this year?"
Carlsen: "I don’t even know. A lot… Am I tired? Giving an interview is simpler, after all, than playing a game or preparing. I see it as just as much a part of my work as playing chess."

When I saw the interview (again) at Chessbase I also thought "Huh?", but not for the reason you give.

redivivo's picture

"actually it was Atarov who called his own question a stupid one"

Yeah, then Whychess decided to give the answer to Carlsen instead in the headline, not surprising going by the general tone of Whychess articles than mention Carlsen.

mishanp's picture

It's a clumsy title but it's something of a Russian thing to use quotes that aren't quotes as the title of interviews (not sure why). It's certainly not in the slightest way negative about Carlsen - remember this was also a couple of months before reports on Biel that were perceived as negative by some. Talking of which, here's another vicious WhyChess attack on Carlsen :) http://www.whychess.org/en/node/2643

redivivo's picture

"reports on Biel that were perceived as negative by some"

The Biel reports stated that Carlsen's play "doesn't make a bold aesthetic impression", it "doesn't open our eyes to a new approach to chess", "it's precisely against him that people play their worst chess", Carlsen "is taking the path of least resistance and impoverishing himself in purely chess terms", he’s "emphatically left the chess mainstream" and is on a "road to nowhere", it's asked if the "lure of points is obscuring his view", he is said to be in a "systematic crisis", it was "in no way justified" to draw with black against Nakamura, etc etc. In spite of all this criticism he hadn't played badly in Biel.

Anonymous's picture

You're right of course, it was WhyChess who originally found that strange headline, which is silghtly annoying. But then Chesbase didn't have to copy the mistake. Not too hard a task for a journalist I guess.

Anony's picture

But then you're assuming that Chessbase is run by a journalist!?

Thomas's picture

I would say Chessbase didn't "have to" copy the entire interview - but if they do (hopefully with permission) they shouldn't correct 'mistakes'. "By GM Eugeny Atarov (text and pictures)" applies to everything including the title ... .

Kronsteen's picture

15% of Americans play chess regularly? Curious how my dozens of scientist and engineer friends "perform" so far below this mark.

B. Rosson Davis's picture

I would like to see Chess included as part of the school curriculum, not just as an after school club or sport, starting in 2nd grade in every American school. After all, one needs only keen intelligence, persistence, and heart-fueled brilliance. No batteries required. Stamina and focus, yes! Good for Paulson spurring more media focus on Chess.

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