The rebirth of chess

Photograph: GR Stocks/Unsplash

Silence, ticking of a clock and a slow move of a hand. A figure is moved. It is the turn of the next player. This is the way to play chess. The crowd is silently waiting to see who is going to be the winner. Not this time. This year’s Tata Steel chess competition was conducted without audience because of the current circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

This did not stop Jorden van Foreest, 21, to win first place in the championship. He is the first Dutch person to win Tata Steel chess title in 36 years, reports DutchNews.nl. The Tata Steel chess tournament is an annual contest held each January in the Netherlands, which sees participants from around the world and it is usually described at the “Wimbledon of Chess”.

According to Jeroen Bosch, the technical manager of the Royal Dutch Chess federation, there have been two spikes in interest in chess in 2020. The first, happened alongside the first lockdown in March 2020 and the second was seen in October, following the release of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.

In addition to van Foreest’s win, more young people interest themselves in chess. BBC reports that at the end of 2020, there were five times the amount of new chess players than in 2019. A similar raise has been observed in the Netherlands, according to DutchNews.nl.

“Different opponents make you feel different. The game is incredibly quiet with some, with a threat here and there. With others it is very dynamic, your heart is racing because of one tiny inaccuracy, everything could be over,” says Peter Bonchev, a 23-year-old young enthusiast from Bulgaria.

There is certainly more to the game. After The Queen’s Gambit debuted in 2020, it has sparked a surge of interest in chess, reports CNN. The sales of chess sets and books about chess have skyrocketed according to marketing research company NPD group.

The Queen’s Gambit tells the story of a girl who becomes a chess champion while she is still in her teenage years.

The Queen’s Gambit, 2020. Photograph: Netflix

“Even though the Queen’s Gambit is not totally based on chess, but more on the emotional struggle of being a genius. It definitely inspired me to play more and dive into theory. It is a very enjoyable show,” says Sander Brugman, a student in Groningen.

The interest of the new generation in chess is expanding word wide and conquers new followers, making the game more popular than ever.

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