This piece is about the rise of chess during quarantine and what it means to me.
The quarantine has been challenging and tedious for many of us, but it has also brought some unexpected positive experiences. One of the most significant ones for me has been witnessing the rise of chess in internet culture. These days, chess is one of the most popular games on Twitch and YouTube, and the amount of chess content being created and consumed is staggering. Many factors have contributed to this surge in popularity, and while some may attribute it to the release of The Queen's Gambit, I believe that the true catalyst was Hikaru Nakamura.
Nakamura, a chess grandmaster ranked fourth in the world, took to streaming online chess on Twitch when live events were canceled due to Covid. This move was unprecedented in the formal and traditional world of chess but attracted a previously untapped audience: the internet. As Nakamura's following grew, so did the demand for online chess services, which expanded to accommodate the surge in interest. With many people stuck at home and hungry for online content, chess filled a significant void. Nakamura also collaborated with mainstream influencers on Twitch by teaching and organizing tournaments between them, ultimately breaking down the barrier between chess and the online world. The Queen's Gambit's release on Netflix only fueled the ongoing trend of people taking up chess, drawing millions of new players to the game.
I was one of those people. While I had a basic understanding of chess and had played it when I was younger, I had never taken it seriously. However, as I began to see more chess content online, my interest was piqued, and I decided to try playing ranked online chess. This meant that I had a rating, and my rating would increase or decrease depending on whether I won or lost a game. With practice, I improved, learning more openings and discovering new patterns. As I climbed the rating ladder, my motivation to keep playing grew stronger. The satisfaction of being able to see my improvement and put a number on it was immensely gratifying.
Through this experience, I learned a great deal about chess, and it has become one of the few positive things to come out of this quarantine for me. Its strategic nature and high skill cap mean there is always room for improvement. The game forces me to concentrate and think, engaging me in a way that few other activities do while motivating me through competition. The satisfaction of learning something new and seeing improvement is incredibly rewarding and I look forward to continuing to develop my skills in this exciting game.
The journey of chess has been a fun adventure, full of victories and profound learning experiences. My thirst for the game remains unquenched as I plan to continue sharpening my skills and striving toward excellence. However, this journey has not just been about the game itself. Through chess, I have learned valuable life lessons that extend far beyond the board. The power of practice has become apparent to me as I have witnessed firsthand the transformation that can occur with time and effort. I have also discovered the importance of taking risks and not shying away from new challenges, even when intimidated. It's remarkable to consider the impact of the internet, and how it has revolutionized the game and broadened its audience. But most of all, I have discovered a newfound passion for learning, a thrill that comes from seeing my progress and improvement.
The competitive spirit of chess keeps me hooked, and the satisfaction of honing my skills is a joy like no other.