Athletes who play chess
WNBA basketball star Svetlana Abrosimova (1980- ), who played for the Minnesota Lynx, Connecticut Sun, and Seattle Storm, is an avid chess player.
Norwegian Grandmaster Simen Agdestein (1967- ) was once a professional soccer player and played for his national team.
Former NFL running back Shaun Alexander (1977- )plays and promotes chess through the America Foundation for Chess (AF4C). His Shaun Alexander Foundation offers a $7,500 grant to inspire kids for educational excellence and career planning. He has given over $25,000 to AF4C for chess programs.
Ossie Ardiles (1952- ) was one of the top soccer players in the world. He was a midfielder for Argentina when they won the 1978 World Cup. He describes himself as a chess fanatic who spends 10 hours a week studying chess.
Former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington (1978- ) is a chess addict. He has a whole room in his house devoted to chess and he occasionally mentions chess in his sports column in the Washington Post.
Seve Ballesteros (1957-2011) was a Spanish professional golfer, former World No. 1 player (5-times golf major winner), and a chess player. He was described as a fine chess player.
Former NBA player Dick Barnett (1936- ) was an avid chess player who played correspondence chess.
Boris Becker (1967- ) was one of the greatest tennis players, winning at Wimbledon at age 17 and winning 6 grand slams of tennis. He played an exhibition match against Kasparov ”live” on CNN for one hour in 2000. Kasparov was in New York and Becker was in Munich. He once said that his experiences with chess influenced his playing style in tennis. In December 2011, he opened the London Chess Classic, making the ceremonial first move for Magnus Carlsen. He then played GM Nigel Short in a game.
Former NBA star Larry Bird (1956- ) plays chess online, but I don’t think his favorite opening is 1.f4.
Former baseball outfielder Barry Bonds (1964- ) is a chess player.
Former Major League Baseball pitcher and author (Ball Four) Jim Bouton (1939- ) is a chess player.
The boxer and former WBO heavyweight champion Shannon “the Cannon” Briggs (1971- ) used to hustle chess games in New York City parks. In 2010, before the WBO world championship challenge against fellow chess player and heavyweight boxer Vitali, Klitschko, both wanted to play each other in chess. Briggs told Klitschko, “Whether or not we fight, I want to play you in chess.”
Former NFL running back Jim Brown (1936- ) is a chess player. He has collected several fine chess sets.
The tennis doubles partners and twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan (both born in 1978) are chess players. Mike Bryan has been quoted as saying “I have to play tennis like a chess game.”
NBA star Kobe Bryant (1978- ) was quoted as saying “These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.” A 2009 basketball ad showed Kobe Bryant playing chess with LeBron James.
Anson Carter (1974- ), retired professional hockey player, plays chess. He made the ceremonial first move in game 2 of the Kasparov –X3D Fritz match in New York in 2003.
Former NBA basketball player and assistant coach Bill Cartwright (1957- ) plays chess.
Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain (1936-1999) played chess. He once phoned Bobby Fischer to come over his house to have dinner and play chess, but Bobby declined the invitation because there would be other people there. There are several photos of Wilt playing chess during his college days.
Former Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Cris Collinsworth plays chess and has sponsored scholastic chess tournaments as part of his Cris Collinsworth ProScan Fund.
Retired tennis player Elena Dementieva, once ranked No. 3 in the world, plays chess. She used to play chess in the players’ lounge with her brother or any other chess player. He has played and lost chess to Max Mirnyi, a fellow tennis professional.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale (1936-1993) was a chess player.
Tennis great Roger Federer plays chess. In his early days, he would lose a game to his father and knock all the pieces off the board.
Yankee pitching star Ron Guidry (highest lifetime winning percentages in major league baseball) plays chess and appeared on the cover of the September 1983 issue of Chess Life, making a pitch for chess. In the 1980s Guidry was playing a game of chess with Bruce Pandolfini when Billy Martin came by, telling Pandolfini that the Yankee locker room was no place to play chess. Guidry once beat Pandolfini.
Former NFL running back Priest Holmes is an avid chess player who has founded and sponsored chess clubs. He sponsors chess tournaments through his Priest Holmes Foundation, encouraging education and enhancing the lives of children. When he retired from football, he said he enjoyed three things – playing chess, bass fishing, and riding motorcycles.
Former Eagles and Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones plays chess.
Boxing champion Vitali Klitschko is an avid chess player and a friend of GM Vladimir Kramnik.
Tennis great Ivan Lendl plays chess. His father, Jiri Lendl, was a chess master, Czech junior champion and played in the Czechoslovakian chess championship.
Heavyweight boxer and ex-world champion Lennox Lewis plays chess. He urges kids to take up chess, saying “If you teach a kid chess, you tech him to sit down and think.” He funded an after-school chess program for disadvantaged youths, one of whom earned a university chess scholarship.
German soccer coach Felix Magath is a strong chess player.
Professional basketball coach Jim O’Brien has been a longtime chess player.
NBA center David Robinson is a chess player. He played chess at the Naval Academy where he graduated, before going to the San Antonio Spurs.
Former tennis professional Greg Rusedski is an avid chess player. He was at the opening ceremony of the Braingames World Chess Championships between Kasparov and Karpov at London in 2000.
NBA player Bill Walton plays chess.