"Chess for Freedom"

Dear chess friends,

The International Chess Federation is pleased to invite you to take part in the first event of the Chess for Freedom programme, organized together with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (Chicago, USA). The project, aimed at the introduction of chess as a tool for education and social inclusion in prisons of different countries, is carried out under the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov’s patronage.

The project kicks off on May 11 with an online conference and an exhibition online tournament with four participant countries – Armenia, Russia, Spain, and the USA. The match tournament will be held on Chess.com and broadcast live on the FIDE YouTube channel.

This conference will feature FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, the 12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and other invited guests. You can check the detailed program in the table below.

The conference will also be broadcast live on FIDE’s Youtube channel. Additionally, federation officers, journalists, and members of the penitentiary administration and policymakers have the possibility to join the Zoom call and ask questions to the lecturers. In order to join via Zoom, you would need to request access using this registration form.

On completion of the Online Conference, the guests will watch the online match between the Russian and US teams, which will start at 9:30 am US Central Time / 15:30 CET. After the Chief Arbiter announces the tournament’s results, the press conference with the players and the officials will be held.

If you experience any problem during the registration, you have any question, or you require further assistance, please contact the FIDE Social Commission at socialchess@fide.com.

IMPORTANT: Members of the media will get an opportunity to ask questions to the players and the officials during the press conference. However, please note that it is considered inappropriate to ask the team members any questions concerning their imprisonment and, following the instructions of the authorities, we would like to request from you the commitment to not ask about things like the reason for their imprisonment, or how much time they are serving.

May 11th, 2021
(All times are CET)


  Arkady Dvorkovich, FIDE President

Welcome and Introduction, Chess and Social Goals


  Anatoly Karpov, the 12th world chess champion, FIDE Ambassador for Life

The Driving Force Behind 20 Years Supporting Chess in Prisons Movement


  Alexander Khabarov, Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia


  Sheriff Tom Dart, an American attorney, politician, and law enforcement officer serving as the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, Chicago, USA

“Lessons learned from 10 years of chess in Cook County Department of Corrections”


  Geir Nesheim, Member of FIDE Social Commission, Norway.

“The Norway Chess in society – Prison project”


  Darcy Lima, GM, initiator of the social project “Chess that liberates”, Brasil.

"Chess for Freedom Project in Brazil, the Concept, Methodology and Results"


  PhD Grigg Lance, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, senior member of “Chess for life” programme, Canada.

“How chess helps youth involved in the criminal justice system make good decisions, and build hopeful futures”


  Carl Portman is the English Chess Federation's Manager of Chess in Prisons. In 2015 he was awarded the ECF President's award for services to chess.

“Chess and Redemption”


  Questions and answers
Summary of the Conference


  Demonstration of the final match


  Match results, closing ceremony

  Online press conference, with the participation of the prisoners who took part in the championship.
Chess in prisons

In prisons, just as in wider society, the impact of sport and games can be far-reaching. The experiences referred above demonstrate that chess improves behaviour, helping to reduce inmate violence and developing communication skills, while promoting positive use of leisure time. Chess also drastically improves the decision-making capabilities of a group of people that, very often due to the lack of opportunities and access to proper education, has ended up in jail after making a wrong choice in life. Besides, the game has a positive impact on the inmates’ overall health, fighting depression, stress and anxiety, and motivating them to change for the better.

As a result, chess greatly contributes to efforts towards rehabilitation, and some studies have already proven it to reduce reoffending. It can be potentially life-changing, as many testimonies show.

With the aim to support and promote this line of work, FIDE is launching the “Chess for Freedom” program, under the patronage of the 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov.

These are the first events planned for 2021:

11 May 2021
8:30 am US Central Time / 15:30 pm CET
The first FIDE Online Conference “Chess for Freedom” for officials, authorities, scholars etc. FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, the 12th World Chess Champion Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov and Tom Dart, Cook County Sheriff, will be the guests of honour for the conference, among other distinguished guest speakers.

Invitational Online Chess Exhibition Tournament for Prisoners. Teams from USA, Russia, Armenia, Spain, Germany and Australia have been invited (TBC)

13-14 October 2021
(International Day of Education in Prison)

The First Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners 2021. This will be a continuation of the international championship first held in 2019, where we expect to involve tens of teams from all the continents.

Both the conference and the chess tournament will be broadcast live on FIDE’s Youtube channel. Additionally, federation officers, as well as members of the penitentiary administration and policymakers, have the possibility to join the Zoom call, so they can ask questions and share their own experiences.

To request access, please send an email with your credentials to socialchess@fide.com.