Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (47)

9/12/2010 – The Editor of Chess Notes turns his attention to the Fédération Internationale des Echecs (FIDE), the chess world’s governing body, from the historical standpoint. When, for instance, did the FIDE motto Gens una sumus first appear? There are also references to the Federation’s anthem and to various other administrative and political activities of FIDE since its foundation in 1924.

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Chess Explorations (47)

By Edward Winter

No-one has ever written a ‘formal’ history of chess administration or, in particular, of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), yet there is much that deserves to be documented in book form.

In addition to providing a number of links and references to FIDE-related matters which have appeared in Chess Notes, the present article focuses on one particular aspect of the governing body: its motto. A common assumption used to be that ‘Gens una sumus’ (‘We are one people/family’) dated from the foundation of FIDE itself, in 1924, and we had no firm information when, 25 years ago, the late Božidar Kažić (Belgrade) raised the subject in C.N. 879.

In subsequent items (see page 189 of Chess Explorations) readers pointed out that the motto appeared incorrectly (‘Gens una summus’) in the first double-issue of FIDE Revue in 1952 but that the verb was correctly spelt in subsequent editions. This was, at the time, our first known sighting of ‘Gens una sumus’ in a chess context.

C.N. 4364 reverted to the subject, commenting that information was still lacking as to who decided, and when, that the Federation would adopt the Latin motto. In C.N. 5175 Stephen Wright (Vancouver, Canada) quoted a passage from page 184 of Russian Silhouettes by Genna Sosonko (Alkmaar, 2001):

‘The friends and chess colleagues of his [Levenfish’s] youth had been ... Pyotr Potyomkin, poet and chessplayer, who emigrated after the Revolution – a club named after him still exists in Paris, and it was to Potyomkin that the International Chess Federation was indebted for its slogan “Gens Una Sumus” ...’

Mr Wright noted that Potyomkin (or Potemkin) participated in the unofficial FIDE Olympiad in Paris in 1924 and that he died in 1926. No further information on this matter has been found, but in C.N. 5184 Harrie Grondijs (Rijswijk, the Netherlands) reported that Gens una sumus was on the front cover of Alexander Rueb’s book De Schaakstudie, which appeared in ten parts as from 1949:

Mr Grondijs also informed us that he owns a printed invitation from Rueb, dated Christmas 1945, to the first FIDE Congress of the post-War period. It stated:

‘... no Chessfriend should forget, that we are One Nation ...’

Rueb, it will be recalled, was the President of FIDE until 1949. It remains to be discovered when exactly FIDE adopted, on an official basis, ‘Gens una sumus’.


Alexander Rueb

Many C.N. items have dealt with other issues relating to FIDE. For example, C.N. 3789 reproduced from pages 254-255 of CHESS, August 1951 the score of the FIDE anthem, with music by Count dal Verme (1908-1985) and words by Marcel Berman (1895-1960):


Click scoresheets to enlarge

Our Factfinder also provides references to such topics as the origins of FIDE and pre-1924 projects for an international organization; FIDE’s headquarters in The Hague in the 1920s; FIDE and the International Olympic Committee; elections during Rueb’s tenure; FIDE’s attempts to standardize openings nomenclature; political considerations regarding the admission of Spain; the origins of FIDE titles, and Rueb’s successor, Folke Rogard.

In addition, the following feature articles may be mentioned:


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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter


Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over 6,760 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989).

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.


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