The classic board game chess managed to attract millions of new players over the past couple of years. Games of all kinds have increased in popularity during the pandemic, but none seems to have met with greater success than chess. The numbers are pretty staggering.
The gaming platform chess.com had nearly 30 million members before the pandemic broke out in March, 2020. This grew to 57 million within the span of a single year. The number is currently over 75 million as of November, 2021. The website offers lessons and coaching in addition to rounds and tournaments. New players are clearly getting into this old game in a very big way. The average number of users on chess.com went from 60,000 in March, 2020 to a whopping 120,000 in November, 2021.
Sales of the classic board game have also made headway since the pandemic. Sets have been flying off the shelves at many retailers. These increased 87% and books an incredible 603% after The Queen’s Gambit was released in October, 2020. The show seems to have given the game a really big boost, but this only accounts for part of its remarkable growth in popularity since 2020. Sales have slowed down only slightly since the show came out.
While some of the interest in chess can be traced back to The Queen’s Gambit, the continued popularity of the board game seems to have something to do with streaming. Chess became an esport during the pandemic. Hikaru Nakamura for example started streaming his games on Twitch in March, 2020. The chess champion had about 400,000 followers at the time. He now has a growing audience of well over a million people. Nakamura has been racking up around 800,000 viewing hours each month.
Chess has been around for a very long time. While the board game has existed in its current state for at least 500 years, chess was probably invented a little more than 1,200 years ago. The popularity has clearly reached a high point as people have been stuck inside since the pandemic. But who knows how long this will continue.
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