Why Is Chess So Popular? Here Are 5 Reasons

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Fischer playing against Spassky

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It’s no longer news that chess’s popularity has boomed in recent years. You turn here, you turn there, you see people playing chess.

In this post, we’ll share with you 5 concrete reasons why chess is getting this much recognition.

1. Chess Movies and Shows

Poster of Tobey Maguire acting as Bobby Fischer, in the movie Pawn Sacrifice
Bobby Fischer stars in this 2014 hit movie

In this current era, television is one of the most popular household appliances. Many televisions have access to cables, DVDs, flash drives, and Netflix.

Chess has found a way to tap into the TV trend by creating chess-centered movies that have become successes. When you tap into popular trends, some of that popularity rub off on you which is probably why you’ve become interested in chess.

A chess movie like Pawn Sacrifice tells a story of a revolutionary chess player, Bobby Fischer, whose match with a Soviet Player Boris Spassky reflected the rivalry between the US and the USSR but on a chessboard, not the battlefield.

The inspiration behind the movie gave chess a boom in the 60s, and the movie also gave chess a boom in the 21st century.

Other movies like Queen Of Katwe propelled a chess boom in Africa and worldwide. It narrated a true story of how chess liberated an Ugandan girl and her family from poverty.

2. Chess Tournament Prizes

Bobby Fischer playing against Boris Spassky
Many claim that Fischer paved the way for better monetary prizes in chess

Money is a huge source of inspiration in every field. The more the money, the more people get attracted to that field.

When people hear the money placed on the World Chess Championship match, they get interested. They also get interested when they hear about the amounts won in local tournaments in their vicinity.

It motivates them to take up chess professionally, as several chess players that are not even playing at elite levels also earn a decent living from chess. Aside from tournaments, there are alternative means of earning like photography, blogging, content creation, etc.

Chess is so popular because people can make a living from it.

3. Chess Achievements

Vishwanathan Anand wearing a wreath of flowers as a newly crowned world champion
Anand becomes the world champion

When Viswanathan Anand became the World Champion, there was arguably the greatest chess boom ever recorded.

He was the first grandmaster from India and the first world champion that was not from Europe or the US.

With India’s huge population, it didn’t come as a surprise as over 70 grandmasters have emerged from the Asian giants since Anand’s accomplishments. Bobby Fischer’s remarkable achievements also sparked a chess boom in the US.

Many English players also look up to the likes of Nigel Short and David Howell. Their achievements are a strong reason why chess is popular.

Tunde Onakoya’s global recognition of his work with his Chess In Slums initiative has sparked an interest in chess in Nigeria.

When Amon Simutowe became the first East African and sub-Saharan chess grandmaster, anyone would’ve guessed that chess would gain some ground in the region.

4. Chess Websites and Software

Lichess logo
Lichess has emerged as one of the most popular chess-playing platform in recent years

This is another instance where chess has leveraged technology. Chess websites troop into the chess scene every day.

Chess players and enthusiasts engage these sites every day to pass time and improve their chess skills. Sites like Lichess.org and chess.com have a playing feature that allows chess players to play against any opponent from around the globe.

Where there’s a global link, there’s bound to be some growing popularity. There are also a ton of chess-themed video games on several consoles like the Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo, etc.

The growth of digital gaming has also played a role in chess’s popularity. We have chess games like Pure Chess, Chess Knights, and Auto Chess.

5. Chess References in Movies and Shows by Influencers and Celebrities

American rapper, Eminem
“It’s a chess match, she’s on his back like a jetpack”. -Eminem on River

Sometimes, superstars refer to chess either by a figure of speech, lyric, or demonstration. If an event is tactical, deadlocked and entertaining, commentators often refer to the game as a “chess match”.

Music superstar, Eminem, has once referenced chess as a lyric in one of his songs titled “River”. When influencers begin to extend their influence, chess inevitably grows in popularity.

Finally, Chess is growing rapidly and we can only predict that this growth will continue, so be proud of your involvement in chess. Don’t forget to teach people around you how to play because you can also play a part in making chess much more popular.

We recommend these related resources for further study:

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Chessforsharks Editorial Team


Our team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers and chess experts with combined 28 years of experience.

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    • Odinaka

      You talked about chess movies without mentioning Queens Gambit?

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