The resurgence of chess: why are people playing?

The possible number of unique chess games is greater than the number of electrons in the universe. The game, where there are 400 conceivable plays after every move is made, is dominating tables and computer screens at school. However, the resurgence of chess is not exclusive to the upper school community. In 2021, chess sales increased by 1,100% worldwide, and in February, one billion chess games were played on Chess.com.

So, what has people hooked on the game?

Sophomores Theo Su and PJ Bohjanen are both avid chess players, but their love for the game began at different times. Su has been devoted to chess since the age of four. His interest in the game grew, and it soon became one of his favorite hobbies bringing him to chess tournaments around the state. “Going into middle school, I started playing more competitively,” Su said.

Bohjanen has played on and off since the age of six. His most dedicated chess-playing years were in middle school with Su.

“I really enjoyed the Chess Club’s [meetings] Theo’s mom hosted on Wednesdays before school,” Bohjanen said.

Outside Chess Club attendance, Bohjanen noted that during January, students crowded around boards and surfed the web for online chess games, discovering or rekindling a love for chess. (Mariam Malik)

Recently, Su has noticed others’ interest in chess peaking. As co-president of the chess club, he recalls “a surprising number of people showing up,” to meetings compared to the past average of a ten-person turnout.

Outside club attendance, Bohjanen noted that during January, students crowded around boards and surfed the web for online chess games, discovering or rekindling a love for chess.

Outside club attendance, Bohjanen noted that during January, students crowded around boards and surfed the web for online chess games, discovering or rekindling a love for chess.”

“It was very popular; they even had a chess board out in Redleaf Commons,” Bohjanen said.

What attracts Bohjanen to the popular board game is the infinite possibilities of how the game will play out: “The game can evolve, and everything hinges on one move or another. It is all about being wittier than your opponent,” he explained.

Su prefers chess variants that allow him to play with more than one person: “I like to play bughouse, it is like chess, but instead of a one v. one format, two people are on a team,” he said.

Su and Bohjanen have different backgrounds in chess but their fondness for the game brings them together.