Trending in 2023 is one of the oldest games in the world and is played on the 17 year old website Chess.com. The site, which allows people to take lessons, solve puzzles and compete against computers or other players, broke its own record on Dec. 31 with 7 million active users in a single day. Last Friday, that number jumped to 10 million. Enthusiasm overloads the site’s servers.
Progress shows no signs of slowing down. Spurred on by renewed interest in the game thanks to the recent TikTok scandal and trends, traffic has “nearly doubled” since early December, according to the data. Blog Chess.com. All but five days of January set new records for the entire site in terms of the number of active users. And the Chess.com app has risen in the popular games section of the Apple App Store.
This is a bigger boom than when the Covid-19 pandemic drove people into their homes and their screens. And it’s more hype than when Queen’s Gambit lured the observers to grab their boats. “Honestly, it sucks,” Chess.com wrote in a Monday evening post. “This has never been a more exciting time for a chess fan, but that’s why it’s such a frustrating time now with service outages.”
The website, beloved by beginners, amateurs and professional players, is being replenished by a new group of chess enthusiasts, and they are driven by a sudden quest to make chess cool, a viral scam saga and a surge of short videos. which makes the game digestible for everyone.
“December and January were terrifyingly big in terms of chess analytics,” says Levi Rozman, a chess master who makes content on Twitch and YouTube like GothamChess. “It takes basically all of last year’s growth and gets it a month later.”
Unlike a pandemic or Queen’s Gambit, there is no single factor in chess intrigue. But interest began to grow when the game hit the headlines in the fall of 2022 when world champion Magnus Carlsen accused his opponent Hans Moke Niemann of cheating. A Chess.com review showed that Nieman could deceived more than 100 times in online games. This revelation was accompanied by an extremely strange theory about how Nieman may have used a sex toy to tell him the best moves in a match. Soon people outside the traditional chess world began to listen to us.
Then, in November, football greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi broke the internet when they each posted a photo of the two of them battling chess as part of a Louis Vuitton ad campaign. In December, more than 10 million people watched video from ChessBase India on YouTube about Carlsen playing at the World Blitz Championship.
That same month, Rozman began posting shorter videos on TikTok and YouTube and says his subscriber base has grown by hundreds of thousands of users. #ChessTok on TikTok has over 2 billion views. These shorter clips, combined with the video-sharing platform’s powerful algorithms, can attract new viewers who couldn’t stand a 30-minute explanation of chess. “It looks like we’re kind of demystifying chess,” Rozman says. “And there is a lot more attraction. It’s not a dull, elitist game.”