Recently, there seems to be one game that nobody can avoid playing, or at least seeing someone else play. The unlikely game, chess, has seen a massive uptick in interest in the past year and a half, and “From October 2020 to April 2022, Chess.com saw their number of monthly active users double from roughly 8 million to nearly 17 million,” according to the New York Times.
Chess.com, the website fueling the massive uptick in interest serves as the most accessible platform for users with its ability to connect similarly-leveled players across the world for a single game. Also, on Google Trends, the current interest in chess is 100/100, a rare score that proves just how popular the game has become. Chess, however, was created almost 1800 years ago. For me and many others, this leaves one question: Why?
The first and most obvious reason comes down to the accessibility and features of Chess.com. Along with offering free and ad-free chess games, there is a variety of different “minigames” you can play, such as their puzzles. They also offer training for people looking to hone in their skills. Students are always looking for a pastime, whether it’s inside or outside of school, and Chess.com offers that in many different ways, which could be why it’s become so popular in Edgemont and throughout the world.
In addition to a means to pass time, students want a game that they know will not go stale. Chess again proves to be perfect for this purpose, as according to the Liverpool National Museum, “there are even more possible variations of chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe.” To put this into perspective, there are an estimated 10111 to 10123 different outcomes for a game of chess, meaning it’s virtually impossible for two games to be exactly alike, which helps to keep it interesting.
Media has also played a huge role in increasing the popularity and worldwide interest in chess. For example, Forbes estimates that there were 62 million viewers of The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix series that not only glorifies the best chess players in the world but also follows the journey of Beth Harmon, a female trailblazer in the male-dominated chess world of the mid-20th century.
YouTubers and other influencers have also begun playing tons of chess, making celebrities out of various professional players. Levy Rozman, the creator behind the YouTube channel “GothamChess,” has accumulated around 3 million subscribers, helping to publicize the game.
“For me, it provides an end to my boredom. It requires a lot of thought, and it’s like a never-ending puzzle of trying to find the next best move, and, when you do, it’s super satisfying.”
After asking Edgemont students why they think chess has become so popular and why they like it, one anonymous source responded, “For me, it provides an end to my boredom. It requires a lot of thought, and it’s like a never-ending puzzle of trying to find the next best move, and, when you do, it’s super satisfying.” The respondent also commented that “it helps people think in a unique way that I think no other game can do, and that’s why so many people are drawn to it.”
“I like to show what I can do off the court on the chess board."
Brandon Gibbons (‘25), the star point-guard of the basketball team said, “I like to show what I can do off the court on the chess board. I think that right now, chess is so popular because of the internet, where you have the ability to play online instead of finding a partner to play face-to-face with. I personally like chess because it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind game that expands my brain.”
It’s ironic that in modern society, where new and never-before seen trends seemingly dominate life, we have now reverted to playing a classic game. However, it’s not because chess is some “ancient” game. The fact of the matter is that the ingenious design of the game has allowed for it to withstand the test of time and is why the game is still so popular today. While many fads quickly fade, my guess is that chess here to stay.