What are the odds that the best chess player in the world has never played chess?
This thought has occured to me over the years, especially after my trip to the Solomon Islands earlier this year. The basic thrust of the article is that societal factors influence both discovery and progress in a particular field. "Where are all the great Norwegian Australian Rules footballers?" is another way of thinking about it.
Now chess is a lot more universal than 'niche' sports, and it is easier to at least know what it is. But even so, there are still barriers that exist to impede progress to a higher level of play. Top of my list of things needed to progress would be access to organised competition, even ahead of access to coaching or books. Certainly this is the lesson I took away from the Solomon Islands, where a years worth of organised chess (individual and teams events), has taken local chess past countries like Papua New Guinea, where hardly any organised chess exists.