The (Online) Chess Explosion
Chess has had a somewhat quiet existence up until the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Sure, pretty much everyone knew about chess, but it was far from a mainstream sport. If you weren’t an active chess player yourself, you’d have a hard time finding someone that even played the occasional game, let alone a member of a chess club.
All that changed when Covid-19 hit the world by storm. Lockdowns meant people were spending more time at home, connected to the internet, but getting bored by endlessly binging Netflix shows.
At the same time, popular Grandmasters like Hikaru Nakamura started streaming their chess adventures on Youtube and Twitch.
It was a perfect mix of events that led to the explosion of online chess. Suddenly, everyone wanted to learn chess and improve their play.
Online chess sites like Lichess and Chess.com experienced an unprecedented surge in new players, struggling to keep up with the demand.
Even before that, Netflix started production on the now famous chess show “The Queen’s Gambit”, leading to even more interested new players that quickly took notice of the now somewhat established online chess space.
More Players, More Money
With those new players came new opportunities for business.
People want to play chess, buy chess sets, improve their chess, join chess clubs, and learn more about this beautiful game. In short: There’s demand for everything chess – and the willingness to spend money.
Both established companies and start-ups took notice and quickly tried to capitalize on the demand, creating an influx of investment into the world of chess. The result: Prize pools for tournaments rose, chess players started to make a living off streaming and more and better coverage of everything chess started to evolve.
This is undoubtedly a good thing for chess. In the eyes of the public, the royal game went from being a niche hobby to a professional sport, followed and respected by many.
In the future, we can count on chess getting evermore popular and professional. This is mainly because chess is an evergreen game, unlike many other online games.
Chess is the Ultimate Evergreen Game
We can’t deny the facts. Chess used to be an offline game first, online game second. But this all changed in recent years. With that, we have to start comparing chess to other online games, not traditional sports like football, hockey or basketball.
Chess has some key features that makes it better suited to be a long-term success, rather than a one-hit-wonder.
Chess is Fun and Versatile
There is no doubt about it: chess is a fun game. It’s the reason we play it. Its inherent complexity and challenge makes sure you’re never bored during a game. With 64 squares and an unlimited number of moves, there’s always room for creativity and strategy. No two games are ever the same, and even experienced players can always find new ways to improve their chess.
Unlike other online games, there is no reason for continued updates, rule-changes or new versions. Chess is perfect the way it is.
However, it is important to see the big picture. Chess is fun, but this isn’t ultimately what decides the long-term success of chess. It’s the prerequisite.
Chess is Accessible
I would argue chess is one of the most accessible games out there. With a smartphone or computer in almost every household, you can start playing chess for free today, at any time of the day. There is always someone looking for a challenge.
Playing chess traditionally also won’t break the bank. You can find a perfectly suitable chess set for around $10.
Chess can be played at any skill level, making it accessible to beginners and enjoyable for experts. Whether you’re playing a casual game with friends, participating in a local tournament, or competing in a global championship, chess offers endless opportunities for fun and excitement.
Chess isn’t Monopolized
Unlike most other online games, there isn’t a real monopoly on chess. EA controls the FIFA series and with it the price and direction the game heads in.
Chess is just a set of rules, played in many different forms. Even if Chess.com decides to shut down tomorrow, there are millions of capable developers just waiting to capitalize by creating a new chess site. The demand is still there. Not to mention the thousands of chess clubs looking for new players every day.
Conclusion: Chess is Here To Stay
Chess is the perfect mix of a fun, accessible and evergreen game. The internet will do its thing and populate chess with new players, streamers and business opportunities in the future.
With that, it is safe to assume that online chess is here to stay long-term. We’ll see more growth, a professionalization and an overall prosperous time for chess. So, do your part and head over to your favorite online site or set up a chess board and start enjoying a game of chess.