Corsica, the land of chess

by ChessBase
12/8/2013 – Which country has the highest percentage of registered chess players per capita? Russia, China? India? Nope, not per capita. Iceland? That's closer, but the correct answer is Corsica, which is part of France. It has over 6000 players from a population of 310,000. Léo Battesti, former Vice-President of the French Chess Federation, has produced a video illustrating this success.

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Léo Battesti (born 6 November 1953) is a Corsican politician, journalist – he worked as chief editor of a Corsican weekly from 1981 to 1992 – and chess enthusiast. He has run for the Presidency of the French Chess Federation and was formerly the chief editor of the French chess quarterly "Échec & Mat".


Corsica (French: Corse) is an island located west of Italy and southeast of the French mainland in the Mediterranean Sea. Although it is closer to Italy than to the French mainland, politically Corsica is part of France. The native Corsican language is recognised as a regional language by the French government. The French general and emperor Napoléon Bonaparte was born in 1769 in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio, while the northern town of Calvi claims to be the birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus.

The following four-minute video was shown by Léo Battesti on Saturday during the Chess and Education Conference at the London Chess Classic. It was created by Marc Andria Battesti and includes beautiful images from French Television and excerpts of a report on ViaStella "Chess in Corsica, the royal road" – all accompanied by the well-known Allegria Canta U Populu Corsu.

Video: Corsica, the Land of Chess

Here are some of the statistics listed in the video:

  • Corsica has 310,000 inhabitants with a total of 6,150 registered chess players.
  • There are 50 chess tournaments held in Corsica each year.
  • The island has 20 chess teachers who introduced 40,000 children to the game in the last ten years, including 6,000 in promary schools.
  • Amongst children aged 8 to 12, chess has become a more popular sport than soccer.

  • Every year in June 7,000 players compete in school tournaments throughout Corsica. The biggest tournament, with 3,000 players, takes place in Bastia.

  • The Corsican Chess Circuit has a prize fund of 100,000 € and mixes children and amateurs with top players like Anand, Karpov, Spassky, Gelfand, Nakamura, Aronian, etc.
  • Many other events have been staged, with Carlsen, Kasparov, Karpov, Kosteniuk, Hou Yifan.

  • There is a weekly TV talk show on chess, with news, chess history and diagrams.

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