The Soviet Union was a giant in the chess world during the twentieth century, and traces of this sporting legacy can still be found across Russia and in Moscow today. If you want to play chess in Moscow there are still a variety of exciting and history-filled ways to do it. This post recounts two research-related trips to Moscow in 2019 which allowed the author, a historian, to also explore different ways to play chess there on his weekends.
If you want to play and enjoy chess in Moscow there are a whole variety of ways that one can still do it. One option is obviously to find one of the famous local chess clubs. The 'Oktiabrskii' chess club in Moscow is one of the oldest clubs in the capital and is managed by the immensely hospitable Sergei Kurakulov. It's current set in a dingy but immensely atmospheric basement (28/1, Bolshaya Polyanka street, open on Wednesday and Thursday 6:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12:30pm) and is devoted almost entirely to blitz - ten minutes is the longest time control. All the chess sets in the place are immensely battered-kings without finials, knights without faces-from decades of high speed intense play, and the standard of play in general is very, very high. The administration is also carried out to a very high standard, and the fee to play remains ridiculously small. I walked past Alexander Morozevitch playing a training game there one day, and as with chess in general, you will find yourself playing janitors or caretakers one minute, and nuclear physicists or famous artists the next. Chess passion is what unites them all, and if you speak Russian the hospitality is particularly strong.
If being thrashed at blitz in a basement doesn't appeal, a viable alternative is to play chess in one of Moscow's many parks. I would recommend Sokolniki park, which is huge and beautiful. Here you can play indoors or outdoors at the chess club internal to the park itself. It has everything-an outdoor pavilion with tables, an indoor hall with tables and chairs, sets, toilets, clocks, and even a friendly security guard. The fee to play all day is again ridiculously small-200 roubles, or £2.39-and the atmosphere is again very friendly. I ended up enjoying a lot of chess there and the clientele is more variegated in terms of skill and less blitz-orientated. You will probably not encounter any celebrities, but you may end up enjoying yourself more.