by Brian Wilbur ‘24
In past months, Chess.com has become a household name in online chess. Available as a website or an app, Chess.com allows people to play chess online against friends, other random people, and AI. The popularity of Chess.com has been on the rise, and according to Kotaku.com, “Chess.com set a site record of 31,700,000 games played on January 20.” Although teachers might get irritated about it, numerous students are among those playing Chess.com throughout the school day.
In January 2022, Lionel Messi posted a video on TikTok of himself playing chess on Chess.com, with the caption “Chess is my new favorite hobby!” The video quickly went viral, garnering more than 2.5 million likes. Later in November 2022, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo posted a photo on Instagram of them playing chess against each other. The post received over 33 million likes and generated significant buzz around chess.
Students believe chess is not only a recreational activity, but also an intellectual pursuit that improves cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. “I just enjoy chess because even though it’s a game I feel like it definitely helps develop some key mental skills,” said junior Fabrizio Bernal. He also believes that, along with social media, a huge part of the buzz is the fact that chess is often associated with a player’s intelligence, along with the competition of testing one’s chess skills against others.
Students also love the intense competition that chess brings to the table. “My favorite thing about chess is thinking about variations of how to outsmart and trap my opponent,” said junior Astawaye Seyoum. He also thinks that chess is a game that can teach a huge amount of responsibility because every move is your decision and when you make mistakes all you can do is blame yourself.
While Chess.com may help develop a student’s cognitive abilities, many students have taken advantage of its online format to sneak games in during classes. English teacher Elizabeth Kominski has seen some students playing chess on their phones as she’s walking around the class telling students to put their phones away. She would like students to play at the appropriate times, but she sees how the game has benefits for students. “It is certainly a thinking game and involves a ton of strategy. However, it would be great if you played only during downtime or after school,” said Kominski.