The classic chess board game has managed to attract millions of new players over the past couple of years. Games of all kinds have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, but none seem to have more success than chess. The numbers are pretty startling.
The gaming platform chess.com had nearly 30 million users before the pandemic hit in March 2020. That figure rose to 57 million in one year. They currently number over 75 million as of November 2021. The site offers lessons and coaching in addition to rounds and tournaments. Obviously, new players are very actively involved in this ancient game. The average number of chess.com users has increased from 60,000 in March 2020 to a whopping 120,000 in November 2021.
Sales of the classic board game have also surged since the pandemic. The kits flew off the shelves in many stores. Since the release of Queen’s Move in October 2020, their number has increased by 87% and the number of books by an incredible 603%. It looks like the show has given the game a really big boost, but that’s just part of its significant rise in popularity since 2020. Sales have slowed slightly since the show’s release.
While some interest in chess can be traced back to Queen’s Turn, the board game’s continuing popularity seems to have something to do with streaming. During the pandemic, chess became esports. For example, Hikaru Nakamura began streaming his games on Twitch in March 2020. At the time, the chess champion had about 400,000 subscribers. Now he has a growing audience that exceeds a million people. Nakamura gains about 800,000 viewing hours each month.
Chess has been around for a very long time. In its current form, the board game has existed for at least 500 years, but chess was probably invented a little over 1.5 thousand years ago. Popularity has clearly peaked as people are stuck inside after the pandemic. But who knows how long this will last.