Covid-19 Causes Spike in Chess Popularity


Image by René Schindler from Pixabay

While quarantining, an unprecedented number of people turned to online chess to pass the time, learn a new skill, and connect with others.

Chess has always been a popular game, but the number of people playing it since the Coronavirus pandemic started has never been seen before. Online chess websites such as saw 1.5 million new accounts created in April 2020, according to Forbes, a business magazine. Compare that with the 670,000 new accounts in January of 2020, and it shows just how many more people are playing chess during the COVID-19 pandemic.
8th grader Jaydon S., who has been a chess player since third grade, stopped playing after elementary school but picked it back up again when COVID-19 hit, this time going online.
“People are just trapped inside, and they want to start a new hobby to entertain themselves. Browsing YouTube and watching Twitch streams gets old, so learning a new hobby like chess is exciting during the circumstances,” Jaydon suggested.
The desire for community may be another reason that online chess became more popular. Being online allows players from all over the world to play against each other with the click of a button. Digital chess also has many features to help players improve their chess skills.
“With online, there are a lot of features, like engines to learn what you did wrong or you can offer a draw,” said Jaydon. “And you can pre-move stuff, which means you can move it before it is your turn. This makes things a lot better if you are timed.”

Record numbers of new players isn’t the only chess-related trend to happen during the pandemic. People are also watching chess games on online streaming platforms such as Twitch. Between March and August of 2020, Twitch users viewed 41.2 million hours of chess, according to the New York Times. This is four times as many hours as the six months before that.

“People like watching chess. It is the same thing with video games; people like watching video games to get better,” Jaydon.

With the increase in the number of players on these online chess platforms, chess players may see online chess become the new normal.
“I think online chess is just a lot better than physical chess,” said Jaydon.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, chess has seen massive growth due to the number of people stuck at home. This growth has caused the rise of a new age of chess fanatics and could return the game to its previous popularity.