The Best Game Since Checkers

In 2023, more people are playing chess than ever before in history


Somewhere in India during the sixth century a new board game emerged called chaturangay the tenth century it had spread to both the Middle East and Europe becoming increasingly popular. This is a game that you and almost everyone you know has likely played, however you call it chess. Despite being nearly 1500 years old, modern chess is being played everywhere; it plagues highschool classrooms, content creators stream the game live on media platforms, and often you can find boards built into tables at public parks. But why now, why does it feel as if everyone suddenly cares about chess?

Simply put the answer is, however like all good stories, there are layers. was created in 2005 by two college students, Erik Allebest and Jay Severson, their love for the game is what drove them to create this website.

“There were places to play online, but none of them felt like home,” Allebest explains, “[We] decided the world needed a better chess website.” The goal was to create an environment that felt approachable, where new players and seasoned veterans could go to improve their game. 

However, the tried and true method of practice makes perfect is only semi applicable in chess, what really allows for exceptional players to reach the status of Grand Master (GM) are chess databases. These databases are often extremely complicated and can be hard to understand for the average player, essentially they record every move made in every game entered into the database. From this data anyone can see what percent of games had exactly the same moves as theirs up to any particular point. It also tells you how many of those games were won by white and how many were won by black, this lets players see exactly what may be causing them to win or lose games, and learn from that information. 

Chess databases have been around for a while, but in 2004 Tord Romstad created a computer program that would be the inspiration for a chess engine developed in 2008 by Marco Costalba called Stockfish, which is now regarded as the greatest chess engine of all time. This is what uses on their site to quickly analyze users’ games, compare them to the database, then show them where they can improve. Despite the impressive arsenal has to offer players, the exponential growth in new chess players isn’t from the website’s raw capabilities. But rather due to Anya Taylor-Joy and a cheating scandal involving a remote controlled vibrator. 

In October of 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Netflix released a drama mini-series about an orphan chess prodigy called “The Queen’s Gambit,” which you’ve likely heard of, or watched yourself. After just 4 weeks from its release, the show became Netflix’s most watched scripted mini-series, making a show about chess the most watched series on Netflix in 63 countries. The effects of this surge in popularity caused rapid growth in the number of users on, a trend that has continued to grow at an exponential rate. According to Google Trends, in the four months following the release of “The Queen’s Gambit” searches for nearly doubled. Searches then plateaued until late September of 2022, when the largest cheating scandal in the history of chess lit the fuse for the massive explosion in popularity. 

Hans Niemann, a 19 year old player from San Francisco defeated Magnus Carelsen who is currently the best classical chess player in the world, ending his extremely high winning streak. During the Julius Baer Generation Cup the two had just begun their match when Carlsen unexpectedly resigned, he then went on to drop out of the tournament entirely leaving the chess community in shock. Later he made a statement saying he believed Niemann was cheating, almost immediately the drama was spread throughout Youtube and Tik Tok. Speculations around how it would have even been possible for Niemann to cheat lead to the popular theory of using a remote controlled vibrating device which was smuggled in (use your imagination) to alert the player when important moves were being made. 

“I definitely think he cheated. He probably had a vibrating device in his shoe or in a more unsavory place,” said Max Van Ess, a junior at Summit. Though others disagree, some believe the timing of Niemann’s win was purely coincidental. Even months after the drama first arose, people are still arguing over the truth. However ridiculous, the event still caused an increase in players which held steady until mid December. 

Ludwig Ahgren, a youtube live-streamer who popularized the “subathon” style stream put on a massive live event called the “Mogul Chess Boxing Championship” in which participants played both a game of chess and boxed at the same time. This was not only for the chess community either, with four million subscribers on Youtube, Ahgren knows how to attract an audience. Many of the participants in the event were other content creators with massive followings of their own, even Dina Belenkaya, a Grandmaster from Russia participated in the event. Streamers saw the value in chess and began live streaming it themselves playing, hoping to hop on the trend as early as possible. Since then, searches for more than doubled and the site reached 100 million total users with 10 million active players everyday. 

The game has become so popular that can no longer support the amount of games being played, causing the website to experience difficulty running the servers. attributes this issue to the number of games their database is trying to record. They claim around 16 thousand games are being uploaded every hour, however all is not doomed, they are currently working to fix the issue and plan to have the website running smoothly soon. These events planted the seeds of inspiration in thousands of aspiring chess players around the country, though most of them have unique reasons for actually picking up the game.

“I tend to play a lot of chess at school because I usually finish a lot of my work early,” said William Sommer, a senior at Summit. “I started playing with my friend over the summer because it got really popular on Youtube and Twitch, and it made me feel like I was challenging myself in the mental realm.”  

“My dad taught me how to play,” said Van Ess.“I play chess because it’s a very chill activity, although I do think it distracts me from my school work. I often like to play on my phone during class.”

The game isn’t only played during class however. Summit has its own chess club, every Tuesday during the lunch period students gather to play chess. The environment is filled with laughter and references to notable events such as the cheating scandal or chess boxing. Although many are playing during school hours, some wonder if this is an improvement from traditional time wasters. 

“It can be distracting but I definitely think it’s a smarter choice than other games, although I don’t think you should be playing during class at all,” said Ellie Wheeler, a senior at Summit. Wheeler started the chess club at Summit High School after picking the hobby up during the COVID lockdown. 

“I found the game fascinating, so I decided to learn through Youtube videos. I wanted to join the chess club at school once we returned, but there wasn’t one, so I decided to make one,” said Wheeler.

Although students believe the game is a challenging way to engage themselves, many teachers find the situation more delicate. Some teachers at Summit describe their mixed emotions after finding some students playing the game in class. Clearly, paying full attention in class is important, however many would rather see students playing chess instead of another game that doesn’t require much thought.

“I really like chess because there is no one else to blame for your mistakes. If you lost, you made a mistake at some point in the game, it teaches you to improve yourself and not blame your opponent,” said Sommer. 

The explosion in the chess community has one of the most interesting and hilarious origins, a story worthy of its own feature length film. Chess truly deserves the hype, one of the most intellectually challenging games is being played by millions of people everyday, willingly. If you haven’t played a game of chess recently, or ever, now is the best time in history to head down to your favorite coffee shop and play a few games. Chess is here to stick around, and who knows when the next opportunity to beat all your friends will arise, best to start practicing now. Just in case