Chess appeared in Russia more than 1100-1200 years ago, but until the middle of the XVI century it was severely persecuted by the church – they were considered demonic games, equated with drunkenness and gambling. For chess, they threatened excommunication from the church in the helmsman's book from 1262. Officially, the ban was never lifted, but already under Ivan the Terrible, chess was played quite legally (according to one version, the tsar died placing pieces on the board); and later Peter the Great became the main ambassador of the game in Russia.
The fashion for chess in the Soviet Union was set by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin – the game was an important part of his life, one of his favorite hobbies.
After the revolution, the Soviet government was looking for ways to make chess as popular as possible – in 1924, the All-Union Chess Section (an analogue of the modern Federation) appeared, a year later a super tournament was held in Moscow with the participation of Jose Raul Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker and other world stars. It worked.
In the 1930s chess clubs appeared in the Palaces of Pioneers – institutions of additional education, where schoolchildren came from lessons. After the war, the popularity of mass chess only grew: an important reason was the title of world champion, won in 1948 by Mikhail Botvinnik – the first in the history of the USSR. For the next 24 years, only chess players from the USSR became world champions (and finalists) – these were also ideological victories, which were immediately presented as political superiority over the West.
In 1969, writer Lev Kassil and world champion Vasily Smyslov came up with an all–Union tournament for school teams "White Rook" - an analogue of the football "Leather Ball" and "Golden Puck" in hockey. First, the competitions were held among the schools of the district, then at the regional level – and so on to the All-Union stage.
10 years later, more than a million students participated in the tournament – every child knew about the project. Almost every school had a chess club or a circle, and some even included optional chess lessons in the schedule.