Why Central Kitsap High School Students are Playing Chess

Central Kitsap High School students have begun to play chess on a large scale in recent months, due to the recent “chess boom” that occurred earlier this year.


JJ Jenkins

A physical chess game in progress on a wooden board.

by JJ Jenkins, Reporter, Copy Editor

Chess is a strategic board game that was created all the way back in the sixth century and to this day, 1500 years later, it is still massively popular. Chess can be played either physically or digitally by anybody, and consists of sixteen pieces for both players, sixteen black and sixteen white. During the game players will take turns moving their pieces trying to gain advantage and checkmate their king.

CKHS students have started to play chess in droves, in part due to popular social media streamers broadcasting themselves playing the game in front of live audiences online. YouTube content creators such as “Gotham Chess” and “Anna Cramling” have greatly contributed to the sudden popularity of chess this past year.

Senior Owen Meyer has recently started playing chess somewhat consistently due to the recent surge in popularity. Currently he’s rated 712 ELO in rapid (rapid chess is a game of chess where each person receives ten minutes of time to make their moves and their timer stops when it is the opposing players turn, once the time runs out the other player loses) on chess.com, an online site to play chess. 

ELO is the rating a player receives after playing a certain number of games of chess either online or professionally that applies a number according to their skill level, the more games of chess a player wins against other people who are similarly rated the higher their rating will become.

“I first started playing chess in sixth grade, and then I kind of stopped until this year cause it just got popular [because] popular Twitch streamers playing and then kind of just everybody’s always kind of looking for the next game that they can play with their friends. Chess is a pretty easy one to just play in chess that anybody can play and it’s fun,” Meyer said.

Chess has been around and played for centuries however it has never gained such popularity as it has in recent years, the first surge in popularity was with the release of the Netflix television show, “The Queen’s Gambit” and the second surge being the many streamers broadcasting the game to a large audience. Many people who already played chess are hoping it maintains this level of popularity.

“I feel like it’s really good for the game. I mean, tons of new people are getting into it, but it’s also kind of annoying. Having people learn chess for about a week and they drop it. I’ve had a lot of my friends go like they study the game really hard for a week and kind of just drop it, and they go like, ‘oh man, I want to be so good,'” senior Cole Erickson said.

While Cole wishes his friends would keep playing chess, he does not believe many people will continue to play, primarily due to its difficult and challenging learning curve. Chess has hundreds and possibly thousands of openings which are the positions a player will move their pieces to, each of these have their own advantages and disadvantages along with specific lines (chess lines are a series of moves a player makes following one after another) of attack the player may put into play.

“[I don’t think people who start playing chess are going to continue playing] because once people realize how hard it is to actually climb the ELO ladder, they’ll give up. It’s mainly about, it’s popular for this amount of time and then people are gonna start dropping it again, I do feel like the sudden surge of chess is going to probably help the amount of people that want to get into it, but the hype is dying down already and people are probably just going to play casually,” Erickson said.

Cole is rated 1900 ELO for rapid chess on chess.com which is about 1000 ELO higher than the average player at Central Kitsap High School. He hopes to become a titled FIDE chess player by the time he graduates college.

“When I get out of college, I would like to have a title, probably try to get a national master title from the US Chess Federation, but if I could get a FIDE title of candidate master, that’d be good,” said Erickson.

Cameron Whitehead is a senior at Klahowya High School who has been playing chess consistently for a few years and has a rapid chess rating of 794 on chess.com and only plays it casually as he says it is simply a fun game he likes to play.

“[I don’t have any crazy aspirations as far as chess goes], it’s just a fun game I like to play,” said Cameron.

Cameron, like Cole, also worries about the longevity of this resurgence of chess. Chess has exploded in popularity twice in recent years as stated previously, the first main time was due to “The Queen’s Gambit” television show, however the popularity largely died off.

“I like that more people are playing it, I think it’s a fun game, and it’s nice to have people to play with. Although part of me worries that it’s just another trend and that people will lose interest again,” Cameron said.

Owen Meyers believes that in order to help make the currently very popular board game stick, its players should try to introduce as many of their friends to the game as possible – in general, just try to get more people into the game. He does agree with Cole however regarding the fact that it is hard to start playing and get good at the game since everybody playing will be just as good if not better.

“Try to just introduce as many people as possible and the be nice to them in the beginning and try to teach them because if you’ve never played and you start playing, you kind of suck, it’s not going to be very fun because everybody’s just beating you,” said Owen. “But if you have a little but of guidance and somebody there to teach you the rules or give some advice, then it can definitely help so I think that would help, like kind of have friendly atmosphere around chess would help it stick.”

Anya Taylor Joy depicting the fictional character Beth Harmon, a female chess grandmaster playing the reigning world chess champion (“The Queen’s Gambit” (Phil Bray/Netflix)
Owen Meyers lost a game of chess playing as the black pieces on a whiteboard. (JJ Jenkins)