Chess craze checkmates SIS


Recently, one leisure activity has dominated the SIS halls and classrooms: chess. Many students play daily and even during class, a trend that began in the second semester. The popularity of chess is consistent across all grades in high school, though the majority of chess players in SIS are male.

This chess craze isn’t limited to SIS and is instead a global phenomenon. Due to a sudden influx of traffic, which reached peak levels this year, the popular website had to purchase additional servers to keep up with the demand.

“Chess is fun because it allows you to be competitive with others by using your brain,” Jay Lee (12), a regular chess player, said. “I’ve been playing since the start of the second semester, and I haven’t been focusing in class because I’m playing all day.”

Chess was popularized in pop culture by the release of the hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit,” in 2020, receiving 62 million views within a month of its release. More attention was brought to the game after the story of Magnus Carlsen’s dispute with Hans Neimann went viral in September of last year. However, the popularity of chess also began to expand beyond chess-specific content.

“Some of the biggest factors to Chess’s recent popularity was the photo of Messi and Ronaldo playing chess as a promotional effort for the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Kevin Kim (11), a high-level chess player, said. “Andrew Tate also popularized chess, as he consistently played in front of his huge fan base.”

However, the factors for chess’s sudden popularity in SIS may be different from why Chess is popular globally. 

“For SIS, chess is spreading because people are seeing other people play, and then playing themselves,” Ryan Jung (11), Chess Club President, said. “Then they start watching chess Youtube videos and Instagram Reels and get hooked.”

The growing chess craze in SIS has started posing an issue in some classes that allow computer usage, with students playing chess instead of working on their assigned tasks. 

“I noticed that there seems to be a high degree of interest in chess this year in SIS,” Patrick Young, English teacher, said. “There are one or two students that I had to confront about their lack of productivity because they were playing chess all the time.” 

Chess didn’t only have negative impacts on SIS, as clubs are starting to capitalize on the growing popularity of chess, with various tournaments and events related to chess currently in discussion as school events.

“UYSC & Chess club are trying to start a chess tournament, and I hope we’re doing brackets like March Madness,” Mr. Young said. “It is going to raise community participation and simultaneously raise funds for a good cause.”