Recently, chess has been at an all time high. In fact, recently reached second in the top free games in the Apple app store. The board game as a whole hasn’t been this popular since 1972. But why is this? Chess orientated shows like Queen’s Gambit and Twitch tournament PogChamps both helped the chess skyrocket among younger audiences., a popular website for online chess against other people, reached an all-time high with seven million people  on the site at one time. They also grew from eight million users to 17 million, more than doubling the number of users there were before. 

Chess grew a lot during coronavirus since people were isolated at home with nothing to do. PogChamps is a show that was live streamed on Twitch. It was sponsored by and inspired new players to start playing. The show first ran in May 2020 starring xQc, Pokimae, amongst many more. The event gained an impressive peak viewership of 165,000 people. PogChamps continued to run and in February 2021, PogChamps 3 reached over 375,000 viewers. This happened right after the release of the show Queen’s Gambit and boosted the viewers on the show as well.

Apart from PogChamps viewership being boosted by Queen’s Gambit, the show by itself was just as successful. The show is about a girl who was a genius at chess and could beat almost anyone. She eventually became the first female grandmaster at a time when the sport was male dominated. It was ranked most watched on Netflix for a month, and was still popular after that. This show played a big role in the rise in chess popularity. Seven times the amount of people joined in the four-month window after Queen’s Gambit was released.

Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess grandmaster, has brought newfound skills to the chessboard and people loved the way he played. Clips of Magnus Carlsen arriving late to chess games, taking 20 seconds to arrange his pieces, and then obliterating his opponent have gotten thousands of likes on social media. Another clip of Magnus Carlsen checkmating billionaire Bill Gates in just 12 seconds has also gone viral. Lots of grandmaster chess players have been added to and lots of people enjoy playing computerized versions of grandmasters.

However, the popularity of chess isn’t necessarily bad just because people are online more. While some people may be playing online, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is good for the brain. Chess requires a lot of thinking and you need to create strategies in order to win. According to Brainscape, “Well, in a review of the educational benefits of chess, Robert Ferguson describes a study of 4,000 Venezuelan students, which showed significant increases in the IQ scores of children after four months of chess instruction.” While chess may be played online, studies show that it is still good for the brain regardless of how you play.

It is clear how much chess has grown in the past few years. Covid, PogChamps, Queen’s Gambit, and professional players all took part in the vast expansion of chess. It is interesting how chess, the seemingly abandoned board game, suddenly shot up in popularity in just a few years.