Americans can’t get enough of chess. And in the United States, they’re playing in multiple venues.
Millions flock to the game online, says Daniel Lucas, a spokesman for the US Chess Federation, the game’s official U.S. governing body. Internet chess moves allow people to execute a strategy against players from all over the world.
In summer months, many Americans opt to play outside on chess tables. The Saint Louis Chess Club, for example, permanently installed outdoor tables painted with boards when the club was creating Chess Pocket Parks for players in the Midwestern city.
Students who are 18 years old and younger represent the fastest-growing group of chess players, according to Lucas. Their numbers are rising because more and more schools understand the academic benefits of playing chess, he says. Students are joining school chess clubs and after-school programs.
Chess Forum, a shop that’s part of a robust chess-playing scene in New York City, organizes competitions and pick-up games for people of all ages. Chess Forum is located at the original site of Chess Studio, which drew American chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, Dada artist Marcel Duchamp and other luminaries. The forum is also a popular first-date spot, says owner Imad Khachan.
Bringing a date there is a smart move, Khachan says, because chess shows how a person thinks and responds to pressure, possibly even relationship pressure. He has helped to coordinate several marriage proposals at the shop’s chess table.
All told, some 70 million Americans have an interest in chess, according to the federation’s most recent study. For its part, it lost members during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, but at 83,000 members today, the number has nearly rebounded.
“Americans love competition, and it’s very much a single combat type of game,” Lucas says. “You against another person’s intellect.”