In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, chess has gained traction amongst the public. Ushered indoors, people have found a form of entertainment that is simple to play and easy to follow. Contained in a small world of 64 squares with infinite possibilities, chess has piqued the interest of many and has begun its resurgence as a mind-challenging game.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Chess.com, a popular online chess gaming website, had seen an increase in users. By the end of 2020, the number of users had grown by 138% since the start of the pandemic in March, a total of 1.8 million new players. According to Erik Allebest, founder of Chess.com, the majority of the world’s population were indoors and were playing games due to the pandemic. One of these games happened to be chess.
Chess is an easy-to-learn but hard-to-master game. Anyone can learn how the pieces move and how the game works, but only a few can be professional and compete against the best of the best. This provides easy entertainment during quarantine. As chess is easy to both play and watch, many people make it their pastime.
The release of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit in October 2020 had a large impact on chess in terms of popularity. The show, focused on the main protagonist Beth Harmon and her struggles as a chess prodigy, had been seen by 62 million households in its first month alone. Chess.com also recorded a 66% boost in players on their website after the show premiered.
Livestreaming has also become a common media to share chess. Many professional chess players like Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura stream on Twitch and make videos on YouTube to promote chess and share their knowledge and passion for it.
In an age where most people are indoors, chess provides entertainment and stimulation for the mind and has led many people to engage in chess as a pastime.