By Carson Bowyer | Guest Contributor
With chess being able to be played online, it is something that is easy and cheap to get into. Chess saw a massive increase in popularity — an average of 150,000 new members joining Chess.com over the pandemic — with people having a lot of free time and Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” coming out at the beginning of lockdown. The Baylor Chess Society has reaped the benefits of this increase.
“The show really helped chess grow,” Frisco junior Mark Mettler, president of the Chess Society, said. “Especially after restrictions were lifted, we started getting a lot of people in to play.”
Chess was also helped with the increased viewership on Twitch, a site for people to livestream a variety of things, mainly video games. Chess peaked at 370,000 concurrent viewers during PogChamps 3, a chess tournament held by Chess.com for streamers, in 2021.
This growth in chess’ popularity from the pandemic has led to many new members joining the chess club at Baylor.
“Our club has definitely grown,” Mettler said, “especially this year with less restrictions.”
The club meets every Friday in person to play against other members to show what they have learned by themselves or to get advice on their game, such as an opening they have been trying to learn.
They also have a group online for people who cannot attend the in-person meetings but would like to play against the other members and in their tournaments.
Many of the new players and members in the club are encouraged to join the club’s competitive teams that compete at many different skill levels in order to be exposed to chess and to learn faster.
“We have four different teams, with a best place on the A team and our newer players on the D team,” Mettler said. “We have training sessions to help, and I can also see our teams’ games online to see what certain people are struggling with and help them with that.”
However, deciding to play in the collegiate competitive chess leagues was not the idea of Mettler, but of one of the members in the club.
“I just saw an article about it on Chess.com,” Waco junior Daniel Guel, the club’s vice president and highest-rated player, said. “I just said in the group chat, ‘Hey, we should form a team.’”
The club’s A team currently sits in the collegiate league’s fifth division out of 15. They play online against the other members in their division.
“Each team has four players and everyone on one team plays everyone on the other team,” Guel said. “You play four games a weekend and whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins.”
The point system works with a win being one point, a draw is half a point and a loss is zero. The team was able to pick up second in the seventh division last fall in their first season competing.
“We’ve gotten more people to become more active in tournaments this year,” Mettler said. “But we’re open to all levels of chess.”