Surge in chess’ popularity spreads to P-CEP


Raica George

Mona Pandit, Salem sophomore, plays a game during a Chess Club meeting. May 25, 2023.

With all the intensity of a chess tournament, there is nothing but silence in the room. Rivals face each other; the checkered board and pieces are the only things between them and victory. The timer starts counting down, and the player with white makes their first move, advancing a pawn and hitting the timer. The player with black thinks for some time to get the best move, also moving a pawn and hitting the timer. The game continues on, with both players getting into a groove of planning their next moves and slowly progressing their pieces across the board. Black gains an advantage by taking a rook, and the coach of White visibly grows angry, only adding more stress. However, Black didn’t see a sudden move that White did. White moves their bishop and checkmate. The player stands up victoriously, and in that moment, all the stress dissipates. White shakes Black’s hand, and they get ready for the next round.

“When you won a game, it was a crazy achievement; you felt like you won the Nobel Prize,” said Nate Petrosky, Salem junior and the vice president of the P-CEP Chess Club.

Chess, considered by many to be a strategic game of war, has been around for 1,400 years, originating in India from its predecessor, Chatarung, according to At the start of 2023, the game gained an increase in its online player-base. According to Google Trends, site traffic reached its all-time high at the beginning of 2023, with an increase of 60% from the beginning of 2021. And according to, over 1 billion games were played on their site in the month of February alone, which even lead to server issues due to overwhelming site traffic.

Some people believe the internet plays a part in chess becoming a trend.

Brad Pypa, Plymouth sophomore, plays a game of chess. May 25, 2023. (Raica George )

“I don’t watch Twitch streamers, but I know a lot of them play chess,” Petrosky said. “You can play it with your friends, and it’s not blocked on school computers. It’s become a thing, and people are discovering it.”

There’s also been a social change in the chess community recently: the game has become trendy among students, whereas before, an interest in chess was something most chess enthusiasts kept to themselves.

“It seems to be far more widely accepted now if you want to play chess,” said Christopher Hren, a STEM and chemistry teacher who competed in chess during high school. “Whereas before, playing chess was for weird people and nerdy people.”

Online chess has also made it much easier for students to play the game. A board, all 16 pieces, and a friend to play with are no longer requirements. With just a phone, people can log on to and play against computer opponents or other people from all over the world without leaving the comfort of home and without the stress of a watching crowd.

“Online is definitely more convenient: it’s always with you, and there’s always a person to play against,” said Louis Allain, Plymouth junior and a frequent player of online chess.

Google Trends shows a large spike in popularity of online chess in 2023, with a 60% increase since the last spike in 2021. (Dylan Pusilo)

However, the increase in the game’s popularity has created some concerns. Students of P-CEP are increasingly engaging with chess during class instead of their schoolwork.

“It’s been very distracting because everyone’s playing it on the chess apps and In a perfect world, I think that being good at chess would be very useful for critical thinking,” said Hren. “Compared to other dumb things they could be doing on their phones, chess is great. But, ideally, they wouldn’t be distracted at all. It’s the best of the worst, the lesser of the evils, if you will.”

Some students agree that this could be concerning. Even with the benefits involved with chess, it can lead to distractions and take time away from other responsibilities.

“I play in school sometimes,” said self-proclaimed “chess god” Thomas Gardella, Salem junior. “I can procrastinate with chess a little bit.”

Even with the downsides of the spike in chess’ popularity, the game has become a driving force of unity among P-CEP students with a large fanbase of students who play chess and understand the game.

“It’s extremely easy to get into, and it’s a fun game,” said Gardella. “It’s universal; everybody likes it. There are no barriers of entry; anybody can play it. Even if it was just for a little bit, people started playing it, and they enjoyed it.”

Nathan Makins, Plymouth sophomore, plays a game of chess against Marcel Godard, Canton sophomore, during a Chess Club meeting while Mona Pandit, Salem sophomore, watches. May 25, 2023. (Raica George)