Mass lockdowns across the globe and coupled with the success of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has led to a chess boon said former World Champion and Indian Grand Master Viswanathan Anand to AFP.
Anand who was stranded in Germany during the early part of the lockdown credited the internet for the surprise chess boom which has led to millions of people playing and following the games online during the pandemic.
“People sitting at home seem to have discovered the game of chess. There are now 13 million people playing online. And then during the pandemic there was also a Netflix show about chess, The Queen’s Gambit, and that is also a bit spectacular,” said Anand to AFP.
While the rest of the sports struggled to cope up with the pandemic, chess rose to newer heights with the online platform Chess.com adding around 2.5 million new members since the release of The Queen’s Gambit.
“Just like other sports have TV audiences, our audiences are principally online. So, all that happened was that the chess players moved online to join the spectators. That’s not to say there were no adjustments to be made. It was quite complicated and there was a learning curve, but yes chess has done very well,” Anand said.
Anand also went on to credit the rise of Chinese players for threatening the domination of the Russians in world of chess.
“China may have peaked recently in terms of having two really strong players stand out but they have had considerable depth for a while. And the other thing is that they are very good in chess Olympiads, so they play well as a team. So we aren’t surprised by good Chinese results anymore,” he said.
He also said that the rise of Fabinao Caruana for the rise of USA in chess and tipped the Iran born French star, Alireza Firouzja for future stardom.
Anand led the Indian team during the Online Nations Cup during the lockdown and was also the part of the Online Chess Olympiad winning Indian team. He maintained that despite the increase in technology the online games failed to replicate the tension and atmosphere of a live audience.
“If you want to play, you need that sense of being sitting there in the hall feeling that tension. All those things, I think I need to remember again. It has been a very, very long break. We never had the world grind to a halt like this,” he said.