"Nobody knows, even roughly, how many people play chess, and nobody should pretend to know." -- Edward Winter
Is chess the most popular game in the world?
While no one can say for certain, the estimate of the numbers of chess players is 600,000,000. This is the cited number of chess players who have played in the past year was put forward by FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) in 2012. The number was extrapolated from survey data from YouGov.
Other estimates range as high as one billion chess players, a moderate estimate as FIDE's prior estimate of 200-300 million. While no one can ever certainly identify the real number of players both online and in person, it is clear that playing chess is still one of the most popular games in the world, today and in the past.