Grandmaster Boris Gelfand: ‘Chess can keep social media madness in check’

By Daniel Easterman, December 6, 2013
Boris Gelfand: not elitist (Photo: AP)

Boris Gelfand: not elitist (Photo: AP)

Boris Gelfand has the answer to worries about shortened attention spans in a world dominated by social media and high technology — chess.

Mr Gelfand is the Israeli grandmaster who shot to fame after narrowly losing the final of the 2012 chess World Championship.

He believes his game is the solution to many of the modern world’s ills.

“The ability to concentrate, focus, think ahead, respect rules and devote yourself to one thing and think deeply — these are all things which are missing in society but which chess has in abundance.”

According to Mr Gelfand, Jews have historically excelled at the game because it was firmly embedded in the life and traditions of the communities of Eastern Europe. He himself is from Belarus.

Jewish children played the game as part of an essential element of their intellectual development.

If only that was the case in his adopted country of Israel. “Many people here still see it as something elitist,” he said. “Half a million Israelis watched my final against in the World Championship, but something was missing to take public interest to the next level.”

Far from being elitist, he argues chess is the people’s game. “It is low cost. Even if you are poor, you can play without expensive equipment.

Mr Gelfand is visiting the UK this weekend to take part in the London Chess Classic tournament. He is also here to promote the charity Chess in Schools and Communities, which aims to get more primary school pupils playing the game.

He said: “I have met many successful people from different professions — scientists, lawyers, business people. They all say that the values that they learned playing chess as children helped them to achieve in later life.”

The London Chess Classic runs 7th-15th December at Olympia. For more information and to win the chance to play chess with Boris, visit

Last updated: 4:29pm, December 9 2013