The Board: A chess board has 64 squares in an 8×8 grid on a black and white checkerboard. The chess pieces are set up in two horizontal rows on opposite sides of the board, one having 16 white pieces and the other having 16 black.
The Game: Played by two players on a chess board. Each player takes a turn to make a single move, in which they can only move one piece in its designated legal movement. If a piece lands on the other player’s piece, that piece is captured and taken from the board.
Goal of the Game: To put the other player’s king into checkmate. This means that no matter what one player does, the other player would be able to capture their king in the next turn.
Pawn: Only moves one square forward in a straight line. Each pawn may advance two squares forward the first time it is moved.
Rook: Moves any number of squares vertically or horizontally along its current row and column
Knight: Moves in an L shape two squares forward, backward, left or right, and then one square horizontally or vertically, or the same pattern flipped. It must move this whole distance during a turn.
Bishop: Moves any number of squares diagonally and always stays on squares of the same color
Queen: Can move in any direction in a single straight line during a turn
King: Moves a single space horizontally, vertically or diagonally
Since its creation in the sixth century, chess has been one of the world’s most popular games. Recently, this strategic board game has experienced a comeback, especially among teenagers. Students can be spotted playing online and over-the-board chess in the library, cafeteria, hallways and even during class. This chess renaissance can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as quarantine, social media and news coverage, which have created what some social media users are calling the “chess trend.”
Stuck at home with nothing to do during the pandemic, many people turned their interest to chess. In Oct. 2020, millions of households watched the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit,” which is about an orphaned chess prodigy who becomes the greatest chess player in the world. The show caused a surge in chess interest that has not been seen in decades and doubled chessboard sales in 2020.
“Everything was shifted online, and so was chess,” said sophomore Kairui Cheng (he/him), who started playing when he was seven years old. “So it made chess more accessible — you don’t need to have a chess board in order to play. All you need is internet access.”
Cheng believes the recent influx of chess players can be ascribed to the accessibility of online chess. An influx of chess streamers and content creators, like xQc and Ludwig, contributed to the trend by popularizing the game to a wider audience. Averaging around 100,000 viewers, these influencers, whose audience mainly consists of teenagers, played a key role in this phenomenon.
“I feel like chess reached the media. I know some people on Twitch are doing chess. I know YouTubers are getting bigger, and I feel like it’s expanding from the niche,” said senior Roan Howard (he/him), who is President of the school’s chess club. “It’s more of a thing that everyone can go on chess.com and play. It’s reaching different communities, which I think is good.”
Howard believes that this trend will continue because the game is timeless and universal. The chess trend kept going even after COVID-19 restrictions lifted, and people were no longer stuck inside; chess clubs are as active as ever. In fact, the game became so popular that chess.com, the biggest chess website, experienced a server overload in Jan. 2023 due to the sheer number of people online — at one point reaching 20 million in a day.
“Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few fads,” said Cheng. “I mean, chess has been popular for thousands of years, but we’ve seen fidget spinners and like the late 2010s, Clash Royale, which I don’t see that much anymore. But mainly, when I walk around, I see people with chess.com open, so I’m not sure if it’s going to stick around. So we’ll see.”
In fact, Cheng said he prefers online chess over in-person.
“There’s a lot more flexibility involved. It’s just a better environment for me to focus, I guess,” said Cheng.
Sophomore Isak Lowe (he/him) said that even though he plays other video games, he believes chess is better for students because it’s healthier and teaches skills that can be applied to the real world. It’s also fast to set up and can be played almost anywhere, making it more convenient than many video games. Lowe said that he plays chess whenever, sometimes during lunch, a break or at home. In the end, chess is simply a fun and portable game that’s been keeping people entertained for millennia.
“It’s fun. Lots of possibilities and lots of different combinations. It’s kind of like you’re the mastermind of a plan to basically pummel your enemy into submission,” said Cheng.