Andrew Paulson started putting the more, ah, exact figure about in 2012 although his claim was that it was neither new, or his originally:
that 605 million number is actually the number that FIDE gave to the International Olympic Committee several years ago.This claim is echoed in a 2013 piece in the Christian Science Monitor in which one Lisa Suhay writes:
The Chess in the Olympics Campaign says that there are at least 605 to 700 million people worldwide who play chess — that's more than the entire population of US, Russia, Mexico, and Japan combined, or 8.6 percent of all humans inhabiting the Earth.You might think that the second part of the sentence would give you reason to be sceptical about the first part, but then again you might be a more sceptical individual than Ms Suhay, whose CV reveals her to have authored "an audio tape on the power of storytelling with Dr. Deepak Chopra". That's the Dr Deepak Chopra featured here and described here as a peddler of "scientifically-sounding psychobabble".
Still, the claim about 605 million players does indeed seem to derive from the Chess in the Olympics Campaign, which with the help of the Wayback Machine we can date back to April 2005.
That's the earliest I've so far found for 605 million. I'm guessing it's not the very first and that there must be documents, predating that webpage, from which the webpage took that figure.
I also note a quiz from Bill Wall's blog in which the question
How many people play chess in the world?is answered
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) estimates that there are 600 million chess players in the world.The quiz is dated to January 13, 2005. So one wonders where - and when - the 600 million figure comes from. As yet, I don't know. Earlier sightings would be welcomed. [EDIT: Matt Fletcher reminds my failing memory that we previously traced the 600 million figure to at least 2001 and "over half a billion" to FIDE in November 2000. Quite likely you can never be sure you have the original for such rounded numbers, though something as specific as 605 might be possible to pin down.]
But, you may have wondered, what of the 700 million number? You'll have seen in in Lisa Suhay's piece quoted above:
at least 605 to 700 million people worldwide who play chessand you can also see it in this 2010 Huffington Post article by somebody called Claire Wasserman, apparently from "Chess-in-the-Schools", who tells us that
according to the United States Chess Federation, 39 million people in the United States play chessbut also that
other statistics claim that 600-700 million people worldwide know how to playthose "other statistics" being, surprisingly enough, unidentified.
Possibly they're related to the "official statistics" referred to by Andrei Filatov (mentioned by you-know-who, in this plagiarised column, where his "twin passions for chess and art" are lauded) only in July this year. Official statistics? Whose? Mr Filatov does not say.
Ray's piece mentions an "ingeniously creative mind", but it turns out to be Alekhine's rather than Filatov's (or indeed Ray's) but perhaps it is another ingeniously creative mind that lies behind this one?
If we examine Monroi's advertising material from 2007 we can find the claim that
there are now over 700 million chess players worldwidewhich claim is attributed to - you'll never guess -
Grandmaster Susan Polgar.Good Lord. Susan Polgar? Who'd have thought it? Where could she have made such a claim? Not in this 2005 interview, in which she merely claims that
In Europe, there are over 30 countries that use it in the school curriculumwhich, like all the claims in this piece, we should treat with scepticism. But where is our promised 700 million? Took me some time, but finally I located it on Polgar's blog, in an entry for 18 October 2005, and one which doesn't (for once) appear to be lifted from somebody else.
Where is the figure from? Well, in lieu of any more likely account, we can just assume that in 2005, a figure of 600 million was being put about, then 605 million - and Susan Polgar just added on ninety-five million or so. Quite modest by her standards, truth be told. Not that she does.
[Susan Polgar index]
[605 million index]