Richard M. Paulson, 56, a printer at The Washington Post, died Monday at Prince George's General Hospital after apparently suffering a heart attack.

He had been with The Post since the early 1950s, and had been a full-time printer at the newspaper since 1964. Earlier, he had worked as a typesetter for Brewood engravers in Washington.

Mr. Paulson was born in Toledo, Ohio. He came to Washington as a youth and graduated from Central High School.

Mr. Paulson was a chess enthusiast and at one time was playing almost 200 chess games by mail with 59 Eastern Europeans. He became interested in the game during the 1972 international match between Bobby Fischer of the United States and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union.

Chess boards appeared in the composing room of The Post, with printers playing during their lunch and coffee breaks. Mr. Paulson learned the basics of the game.

Eventually, through foreign language chess magazines and foreign language dictionaries, Mr. Paulson began a correspondence with various chess players in Latvia, Russia and Czechoslovakia, and the games continued over the years. In 1977, he visited some of his chess pen pals in Czechoslovakia and he planned to return there this year.

Mr. Paulson was a member of Columbia Typographical Union No. 101. He had been a deacon and Sunday School teacher at the former Central Presbyterian Church in Washington.

He is survived by his wife, the former B. Eunice Gross, and a son, Warner E., of the home in West Hyattsville; another son, Navy Corpsman 2nd Class Wesley E., stationed in Scotland; his mother, Helen M. Wilson, of Washington; his father, Marion C. Paulson, of Michigan, and a sister, Roberta J. Kemp, of the Northern Neck in Virginia.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Great Oaks Center in Silver Spring. CAPTION: Picture, RICHARD M. PAULSON