Many years ago, when it seems like I had more time, and there was no computer screen to distract me, my stamp collection didn't gather dust on the shelf. "Topical Collecting" -- collecting stamps picturing certain topics, rather than the stamps of a single country, caught my interest, and I started to accumulate stamps with the chess theme. As I hand-lettered my album pages and researched the tournaments, I felt some regret that others couldn't share the lovely images.

Now, with the advent of a webpage which anyone can browse, my feeling of regret is gone: I've dusted off my collection, and the tiny images can be seen larger-than-life, through the magical philatelic magnifying lens of the WWW. Here I present a selection of some of the earliest ones, from 1947 through 1962.

Bulgaria 1947
USSR 1948
Jugoslavia 1950
Hungary 1950
Cuba 1951
Finland 1952
Bulgaria 1962

Chess on Stamps Checklist

Bulgaria 1947 - Scott: 580

Bulgaria 1947: Balkan Games

This stamp, probably the first "chess stamp," is one of a set of five issued to commemorate the 1947 Balkan Games, held in Bulgaria, in which Chess was one of the sports. (The other four stamps portray bicycle racing, basketball, soccer, and the flags of the participating nations: Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia.)
Hungary was the winner of the Chess competition, with a team comprising Bakonyi, Benko, Barcza, Florian, Fuster, Gereban, Szabo, and Szny.

The stamp (9 leva, white and orange brown) was issued September 29, 1947, typographed on unwatermarked paper, perf 111/2. It was designed by St. Kancer, and 172,000 were issued. The vertical inscription translates: 'Balkan Games 1947,' and the horizontal: 'Republic of Bulgaria.'

Scott: 580 / Gibbons: 674 / Michel: 608 / Yvert: 541

USSR 1948 - Scott: 1299

USSR 1948:
Tournament Match for the World Chess Championship, Moscow 1948

These stamps (Scott: 1299-1301) commemorate the 18th official World Chess Championship, held in The Hague, Netherlands, March 1-25, and in Moscow, April 10-18, 1948. USSR 1948 - Scott: 1300

The match-tournament was held as a result of the death of the champion since 1921, Alexander A. Alekhine of France, on March 24, 1946, and was between Botvinnik, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, and Smyslov. Each player played each other five times.

Mikhail Botvinnik of the USSR, who had been scheduled to play Alekhine for the championship, was the winner by 3 points, with a score of 14-6. (Smyslov 11, Keres 101/2, Reshevsky 101/2, Euwe 4.)

USSR 1948 - Scott: 1301

Botvinnik lost the championship to Vassily Smyslov in 1957.


(The inscription on the 3 stamps reads: Tournament Match for the World Chess Championship, Moscow 1948.)


Jugoslavia 1950:
IX Chess Olympiad - August 20 - 31, 1950

Jugoslavia 1950 - Scott: 300 Scott: 301
Jugoslavia 1950 - Scott: 302 Jugoslavia 1950 - Scott: 303 Jugoslavia 1950 - Scott: 304

These stamps (Scott: 300-304) were issued to commemorate the Ninth Team Championsip of the world, held at the shores of Dalmatia, in Dubrovnik, Jugoslavia. During the tournament a harsh heat wave hit, seriously affecting some of the older players.

This was the first such event since World War II, and the last in which the USSR did not participate.

Jugoslavia emerged the winner from a field of 16:

1.Jugoslavia451/2      9.France281/2
2.Argentina431/2      10.Finland28
3.West Germany401/2      11.Sweden271/2
4.USA40      12.Italy25
5.Netherlands37      13.Denmark22
6.Belgium32      14.Peru211/2
7.Austria311/2      15.Norway15
8.Chile301/2      16.Greece12

The team was composed of Gligoric, Pirc, Vidmar, Puc, (Rabar, and Trifunovic).

Hungary 1950:
Candidates Tournament: April 9 - May 16, 1950

Hungary 1950 - Scott: 889

These stamps (Scott: 889-890, C69, also imperf.) commemorate the Candidates Tournament, held in Budapest, Hungary, the first such event under the auspices of the F.I.D.E. Ten players participated: USSR - Boleslavsky, Bronstein, Flohr, Keres, Kotov, Lilienthal, Smyslov; Argentina - Najdorf; Sweden - Stahlberg; Hungary - Szabo. Unable to attend were Bondarevsky, Euwe, Fine and Reshevsky.

Hungary 1950 - Scott: 890

At the end of the two complete rounds of the tournament, there was a tie between Boleslavsky and Bronstein, with 12 points each. David Bronstein emerged the winner in the tie-breaking match, with a score of 3-2-9. He came to the tournament after winning the Interzonal in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden in 1948. (As a result, he earned the right to challenge Botvinik for the world championship, held in Moscow in 1951. He lost, drawing 12-12.)

Hungary 1950 - Scott: C69watermark on 1 Ft

(watermarked stars on the 1 forint.)

Cuba 1951:
José Raúl Capablanca
30th Anniversary
World Champion of Chess

Cuba 1951 - Scott: 463 Cuba 1951 - Scott: 464 Cuba 1951 - Scott: C45 Cuba 1951 - Scott: C46

Cuba 1951 - Scott: 465 Cuba 1951 - Scott: C44 Cuba 1951 - Scott: E12

These stamps (Scott: 463-465, C44-46, E12) were issued as part of the commemoration of Capablanca's defeat of Emanuel Lasker for the World Championship. The match began March 15, 1921, and ended (prematurely) on April 21, when Lasker retired from the match. At this point he was down 0-4, with 10 draws. Lasker had been champion since 1894. Capablanca retained the title until 1927, when he lost to Alexander Alekhine.

Capablanca [1888-1942] learned the moves at the age of four by watching his father play, and defeated Cuba's best player in 1901. He attended Columbia University, NYC, in 1906-07, and in 1913 joined the Cuban diplomatic service, an occupation that facilitated his Chess career by permitting travel. From 1916 until 1924 he did not lose a game. He also played baseball, bridge and tennis well. He was felled by a stroke while watching a game at the Manhattan Chess Club and died the next day. His chess style had a deceptive appearance of simplicity; at his best, he could make the defeat of another master look easy.

Finland 1952:
X Chess Olympiad: August 10 - 31, 1952

Finland 1952 - Scott: 308

This stamp (Scott: 308) commemorates the Tenth Chess Olympiad, held in Helsinki, Finland. 25 countries competed, with the preliminaries being held August 10-19. This was the first time the USSR participated in the Team Championships, and they were the winners. The team was composed of Bronstein, Geller, Keres, and Smyslov, with Boleslavsky and Kotov as reserves.

 GROUP A       13.East Germany161/2
1.USSR21      14.Denmark16
2.Argentina191/2      15.Cuba15
3.Jugoslavia19      16.England14
4.Czechoslovakia18      17.Austria13
5.USA17      18.Italy121/2
6.Hungary16       GROUP C
7.Sweden13      19.Brazil181/2
8.West Germany101/2      20.Greece131/2
9.Finland10      21.Norway13
 GROUP B      22.Switzerland13
10.Netherlands21      23.Iceland121/2
11.Israel191/2      24.Saar121/2
12.Poland151/2      25.Luxemburg1  

The American Team, which finished 5th, was composed of Reshevsky, Evans, R. Byrne, Bisguier, Koltanowski, and Berliner. The Finnish Team (9th), was Böök, Ojanen, Kaila, Salo, Fred, and Niemelä.

Bulgaria 1962:
XV Chess Olympiad: Varna, July 1962

Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1225 Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1226 Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1227 Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1228 Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1229
(Scott: 1225-1229 +imperfs)

The USSR continued its domination of the Chess Olympiads, which began with their participation at Helsinki. 37 countries participated:

 GROUP A       19. Belgium 22
1. USSR 311/2      20. Finland 201/2
2. Yugoslavia 28      21. Mongolia 20
3. Argentina 26      22. Switzerland 20
4. USA 25      23. Iceland 19
5. Hungary 23      24. Denmark 17
6. Bulgaria 211/2       GROUP C
7. West Germany 21      25. Norway 321/2
8. East Germany 201/2      26. Albania 281/2
9. Romania 201/2      27. Tunisia 281/2
10. Czechoslovakia 181/2      28. India 261/2
11. The Netherlands 18      29. Iran 25
12. Austria 101/2      30. France 231/2
 GROUP B       31. Puerto Rico 221/2
13. Spain 261/2      32. Uruguay 22
14. England 261/2      33. Greece 181/2
15. Israel 25      34. Luxembourg 18
16. Cuba 221/2      35. Turkey 17
17. Sweden 221/2      36. Ireland 141/2
18. Poland 221/2      37. Cyprus 11/2
From 1937 onwards (except at Dubrovnik 1950 and Munich 1958) the best results on each board were rewarded: 1. Olaffson, 2. Petrosian, 3. Spassky, 4. Ivkov & Sanguineti, 5. Geller, 6. Tal.

Bulgaria 1962 - Scott: 1229a
(Scott: 1229a)

Notice received by e-mail, 9/17/98

Le 3 octobre 98 aura lieu une exposition philatélique sur le thème du Jeu d'Echecs près de Valenciennes (Salle des Mazingues à AUBRY DU HAINAUT, Autoroute A23, Sortie n°7) : BENEFRA 98.

Les exposants seront essentiellement d'origines néderlandaises, belges, luxembourgeoises et françaises.

En particulier, François Edaine exposera probablement la plus anciennes pièce philatélique échiquénne connue à ce jour (Angleterre, milieu du XlXème).

A l'occasion de BENEFRA, nous avons édité une Carte Postale:

Pour tout renseignement : 03 27 42 25 36 ou 06 11 96 02 48

(If you don't read French, this essentially says that there will be a Philatelic Chess Exhibit on October 3, 1998, BENEFRA, at Valenciennes (Salle des Mazingues à AUBRY DU HAINAUT, Autoroute A23, Sortie n°7), with participants mainly from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. The most notable exhibit with be by François Edaine, of probably the oldest piece of Philatelic Chess material, from England, mid-19th century. The postcard shown above is issued to commemorate the exhibit. Information is at 03 27 42 25 36 or 06 11 96 02 48. The e-mail was from


Other topical stamp pages at this site:
Detective Fiction on Stamps
The Philatelic Sherlock Holmes
Robert Louis Stevenson on Stamps
Anti-smoking on Stamps
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Colin Rose, in Australia, has an impressive site of Chess on Stamps, with many images, arranged by country, and numerous links

Be sure visit Colin Rose's great Online Chess Stamp Catalog!.

Take a look at Jacques F.'s fine Thematique philatelique sur le jeu d'echecs 1947 - 1978 page (in French).

See Elias Sarlé's page from Spain, Imatges segells d'escacs (in English), with many nice images.

And see also Jospeh Luft's Philatelic Resources on the Web,

and Mascheroni Maurizio's La Mecca - Chess Encyclopedia.

Notice received Jan. 28, 2000: "Gerhard Radosztics is selling a complete chess collection (stamps, cancels, postcards, phone cards, old correspondence chess cards, posters and other chess related items). As a complete collection only. Detailed listings as Excel files will be send to interested persons via eMail. Please send all requests to"

updated November 8, 2001