Chess On the Rise in the US

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Chess, both online and offline, has recently risen in popularity throughout Latin’s Upper School, as many students gather during free periods and lunch—and sometimes even during classes—to play the game.

But why are so many people newly obsessed with chess?

At first, the boredom and isolation brought on by the pandemic were possible causes, since many people turned to puzzles and board games for engagement and entertainment. Then, in the late summer and mid-fall of 2020, Netflix released “The Queen’s Gambit,” a miniseries about a young female chess prodigy’s rise in the chess world, based on the novel by Walter Tevis. The popularity of the miniseries subsequently caused a surge in chess interest.

Finally, the social media phenomenon of chess boxing—an extreme sport that takes place in a boxing ring where players alternate between making moves and physically sparring—may also have contributed to chess’ rise in popularity, both at Latin and around the country.

Chess is accessible and easy to learn, so it is no wonder chess was such a hit at the height of the pandemic. In recent months, it appears as though that interest has spiked again after a short plateau, measured by a dramatic increase in online engagement. In January 2023, chess fanatics as well as “newbies” flooded the largest chess website, The website’s traffic had doubled from eight million users in December 2022, to more than 17 million the following January. Each day of the month, more than 150,000 new users created accounts. Additionally, more than one million users have solved the daily puzzle each day since January.

Latin students have signed up for in droves. Fans play chess on their phones in the halls (and sometimes even on their laptops during class), and encourage their friends to do the same, sparking another, more intimate face-to-face level of challenge and competition within the school building. Sophomore Evan Stark, who has been playing chess since eighth grade, said, “I kept playing chess because it is a cure for boredom.”

Similarly, freshman Jack Ramsey, who just started playing last semester, said, “I started because I wanted to work out my brain with something fun and interesting.”

Junior Julian Lopez, a top performer on the chess team at Latin, added, “I am really glad that chess has become so popular. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Being able to not only play highly strategic and competitive games, but also casual games against my friends has been incredibly fun.”