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Why teens are suddenly obsessed with chess

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Chess has always been a part of Henry Lian’s life. He’s played it since he was 5, his little hands just big enough to hold the pieces. He grew up in Marin, a part of the Bay Area that is known for producing some excellent chess players, so his schools always had a good chess team and coach. Lien also built Chesspal, a non-profit organization around it, through which he teaches the game to local schools. No one would call chess a niche; It is an old game with a lot of history, played by millions of people all over the world. But in high school, it is usually played in chess clubs contained within their own circles. And so one day in January, when Lien came to school and saw chess, he was shocked. everywhere,

“I don’t know what happened in January, but since then I’ve seen 90% or 80% of my school playing chess,” Lien told Play Gamez. “It used to be maybe 20%.”

And it’s not just Lien’s high school. nationwide, people are playing Very More chess — usually online or in apps. Kids in both middle and high school are playing chess on their phones in the hallways between classes, sneaking off when their instruments are down during orchestra practice. Students at a school turn a winter formality into a makeshift chess tournament.

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Hunter Nedland, a biology teacher based in South Dakota, reported, “I heard some cheering in the hallway of the main dance area.” “I thought some mischief was going on. I was surprised to see a group of freshmen sitting around with their laptops and phones in the middle of some very heated chess game. Nedland said that the game’s ubiquity with younger students was a big surprise.” The reason upperclassmen started calling chess the “weird freshman thing”—but noted that it pervades all grades as well. Most teachers said there are a lot of male students, but female students participate as well.

These schools reflect the increased interest in chess that started in 2020, thanks to Netflix queen’s trick, According to the New York Times, chess had not seen this level of popularity since the 1972 World Chess Championship. That was the first chess boom. It has become even more popular since then, and in January, Chessbase hit middle and high school students., the most popular chess app, crashed due to a sudden surge in popularity, forcing the company to significantly upgrade its servers. As of the end of January, had 10 million active members, it said; In April, it reached nearly 12 million per day. This is contrary to the use of Earlier Pandemic, which had less than 2 million active players.

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Queen's Gambit: Girl sitting on a chessboard

Photo: Charlie Gray/Netflix

Chess’ popularity isn’t sudden, judging by that data – it’s been rising steadily since 2020. But the new surge among teens certainly appears to have been sudden, according to coaches, teachers and chess experts, most likely over the past week. In schools that do not have chess clubs, he is rushing to start them. The teachers are confused but pleased to see a hot new hobby. Administrators are grappling with how Chess is at times disrupting classes, and are blaming it for attention issues and drama in classrooms and hallways. Can you ban chess? Some schools have reportedly had to.

Levi Rozman, a popular chess content creator who goes by GothamChess Online, reported that his YouTube channel peaked in January – during which time he got 25 to 30% of his lifetime views. Even now, months later, traffic has declined, but it is still 10 times higher than the first boom of chess, when queen’s trick came out in 2020.

“All the kids in all the high schools [and middle schools] America is playing chess and screaming chess memes,” Roseman told Play Gamez. “What a time to be alive. I don’t remember anything like this even in 2019 when I was just a chess teacher.

There’s no easy answer to how chess spread among preteens and teens. General popularity of the following games queen’s trick Absolutely part of it. The chess anal bead controversy may also have fueled chess: a cheating scandal involving Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen, not actually involving anal beads, thrust chess into the limelight. In September 2022, Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating at the Sinquefield Cup. Niemann filed suit against Carlsen and the following month. Naturally, the cheating scandal made headlines expounding on the theory, which originated as a joke on a chess meme Reddit thread that suggested Carlsen used superpowers embedded in anal beads to cheat and win chess matches. uses computer. Although the theory is completely unverified, it took the scandal over the edge and into viral infamy.

And then there’s the growing popularity of chess on Twitch and YouTube. Popular streamer Ludwig Ahgren hosted a $1.6 million chessboxing event – ​​an event that definitely combines chess and boxing – that reached millions of viewers. Casual chess is also popular on Twitch. Esports teams have signed some chess players, such as Hikaru Nakamura for Misfits and Alexandra and Andrea Botez for Envy. On YouTube, Rozman has 3.5 million subscribers, and her videos often go viral on TikTok. Roseman told Play Gamez that once he started posting short-form content like TikTok and Instagram Reels in late November and early December 2022, his channel’s popularity grew even more.

“Guys like Levi Roseman started to capture the interest of the junior high, high school, college-age dynamic,” said Eric Elbest, CEO of “And once that happens, more TikTok, more memes, and then kids are downloading the app. And then when some kids at school are playing it, everybody is playing it. It really snowballed.

It’s all the little things and maybe a few others, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing chess in a Louis Vuitton campaign and Carlsen showing up late to a chess match after 30 seconds, but still winning, which has made chess perfect. created a storm Chess content, called #ChessTok, is making its way onto TikTok, bringing it to even more people. Now everyone is playing chess — look down the hallways of a school and you’ll see students playing chess against each other on their phones. In some cases, it is one of the few games that is allowed past school firewalls, teachers told Play Gamez, which also plays a role in its ubiquity.

But are kids good at chess? Not necessary. Lien said that other children sometimes approach her to analyze their strategies. “People are always trying new things, and so they’ll come up to me and say, ‘Is this good?’ And sometimes I have to tell them it’s not,” he laughed. Roseman told Play Gamez that chess’s new growth is opening doors for the sport – you can be a low-level chess player and still be able to see. can be entertaining for. Maybe he’s Why you are entertaining “young audience” […] The relationship with chess is not as serious and elevated as it was historically necessary,” he said.

A viral post on Tumblr describes another creative tactic it claims students invented the “evil advisor trick.”

A Tumblr user wrote, “They get a third person to constantly give terrible advice to both teams, hoping their opponent directly falls for it or their opponent thinks he’s fallen for it and will act accordingly. ” “He’s won every game he’s been able to gamble a coordinated evil advisor. It’s [a] Chess innovation has never been seen before in its 700 years on earth.

Another unconfirmed viral post, this time on Reddit, suggested that chess was banned in a school because it was the cause of bad behavior – including playing poorly behaved chess and so-called “roaming chess gangs” who Used to interrupt lunchroom matches.

Overall, teachers largely welcome Chess. Most teachers ask their students to play chess between assignments and enjoy watching them try a new game. Sometimes teachers also play against the students. Chess is a classic game that is a lesson in strategy and problem solving. It can teach patience, logic and creative thinking – all good skills.

Fingers touching the chess piece.  The nails are painted red.

Photo: Christina Quikler/AFP via Getty Images

The chess world generally welcomes news players as well. Lien is happy to see new players flocking to chess classes, bringing ventures to new schools and regions. Because of this craze, the face of chess is also changing. Chess has long been seen as a man’s game queen’s trick Highlighted. More women and girls are playing chess for show as well. Roseman reports that she’s seen an increase in the number of women viewing her content — she’s now got a 94/6 split between men and women. It’s not a huge number, but it’s 4% higher than before the chess boom. “One of my videos, [on] how to play chess the ultimate beginner video that video is 75/25 in a few months [men/women]”said Roseman. “This is a historic percentage between male and female [players],

The thing is, chess is a little intimidating. There’s a lot of strategy to learn and capture. We see chess as a game exclusively for smart people, not ideals. It is not so now. You’ll see children of all ages and genders whispering “en passant” to each other while passing in the corridors.

Teens are defying mental barriers to entry and brazenly screwing up in the game. “Except for the very top players, everyone plays bad chess,” said Elbeste. Why don’t you celebrate? That’s how we all play.”

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