FHS Chess Obsession


Chess is a timeless board classic – believed to have originated from the subcontinent of India, but now played all across the globe. Chess has evolved a lot in history, and now we can see chess evolve again — as a game that can be played on one’s computer with anyone in any region of the world. Recently, there has been a prominent surge in the popularity of online chess. In the hallways, walking between classes, you can spot people playing on their mobile devices. At lunch, in the library, you see the school computers on chess.com. Even sometimes in class, during rest times and breaks, and, as an anonymous student revealed, on chromebooks in class time*. This begs the question:  What caused this sudden surge in interest  in online chess amongst students?

The popularity of chess, according to numerous students from Fremont high school, started growing when school went online. People were bored and wanted something fun to do that would also develop their thinking and critical thinking skills. Chess was the perfect answer. Many other factors from the entertainment sector as well as the chess world came into play to further expand chess’ reach to newer audiences. For example, The movie “The Queen’s Gambit” was released in 2020, and it bridged the gap between entertainment and chess, which many did not know even existed. Finally, and perhaps the biggest reason of them all, and as all of the 5 people interviewed have said, the popularity of chess exploded because of prevalent presence in online media like youtube. This introduced the game to younger audiences, many of them being in our school. One extremely influential youtuber, Levy Rozman, more popularly known as GothamChess, made educational and entertaining chess commentaries and got many interested through his content. All of the interviewees agree that he was the main reason that they started chess.

The love of chess in school does not end at youtube videos. Did you know that Fremont has a chess club? The chess club meets every Monday at lunch in room B202 to talk and play with fellow chess mates. The club also hosted a chess tournament recently. Interviews with students revealed that a lot have started playing chess, or have come back in the recent months. 

“I like chess because it’s purely strategy” Jonny Diaz, a participant in the chess tournament, said. 

Many beginners’ favorite opening is Scholar’s Mate, where you can checkmate as white in just 4 moves. Players who have more knowledge of the game like the Vienna Gambit, while experienced chess players argue that the best opening really depends on the situation, but if they had to chose, they would pick the Italian game, Rousseau Gambit, which is risky but puts you in a huge advantage if gone unnoticed. In the game of chess, many claim that the queen is their favorite piece, as they believe it is the best, but experienced individuals know that the best piece really is the pawn, which is the backbone of the early and middle game, and is especially important in the end game. 

As to which websites students use to play,  most use chess.com as their preferred place to play, but some like lichess, which is open source and ad-free, and thus offers an unlimited amount of free practice puzzles and analysis.

Chess is a great game that promotes thinking and has many mental health benefits, such as improved strategic thinking ability, improved memory, attention and even better cognitive abilities. I am glad that chess has gotten as popular as it has, as it much better than traditional , and is also fun at the same time! Thank you for reading and “respect your opponents,” as a wise chess player said. You never know how good they might be!

* We do not condone or promote use of digital devices for non-academic purposes in class