Chess popularity skyrockets in America thanks to Netflix's 'The Queen's Gambit'

By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — America is going crazy for chess.

The Netflix limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” has caused thousands to take an interest in the sport and has put chess sets on several “hot item” lists for the holiday season.

According to NPR, October sales for chess sets were up 178% compare to last year. Sales also spiked 215% on eBay.

Noah Chasin, president of the Marshall Chess Club in Greenwich Village – one of the nation’s oldest chess clubs – says he has also noticed a big increase in people suddenly becoming interested in chess. He says some are also renewing their interest after decades.

“There has been a really significant increase especially in the media, just with all of the excitement around ‘The Queen's Gambit,’ I think it may still be the number one streaming Netflix show in the world, which is kind of extraordinary for something related to chess,” Chasin said.

He says he was incredibly surprised to see chess sets as a “must-have” this holiday season but, is excited to see a new generation of people taking interest in the sport.

“I think it's fantastic. I love the idea of people, you know, during the holidays opening up presents and pulling out chess sets and playing because the more people that play the better it is for the chess community,” he says.

There have been some people who think they cannot learn the sport easily because they lack skills that they assume they would need. However, Chasin says it’s much easier to learn to play than the media may portray it.

“There is a correlation between math excellence and chess excellence but, they can be separated. It’s definitely something that you can play a lot of different levels and does not require any special skills other than knowing how the pieces work,” he explains.

As for Netflix’s limited series, Chasin said he has seen the show and enjoyed it, but says that chess isn’t as glamourous as “The Queen’s Gambit” may suggest.

“I personally found it very visually appealing and I will say that, unfortunately, most of the hotels and playing venues – other than the Marshall Chess Club, which is beautiful – where a lot of chess happened aren't quite as glamorous as what you see in that show,” Chasin said.

He says he thinks the show captured America’s interest because “the fierceness of the competition that's happening, not in a way that we typically see which is with physical strength but, rather with mental acuity.”

According to Netflix, 62 million households watched the show in its first 28 days. Its global reach has also been extraordinary with "The Queen's Gambit" making the "Top 10" in 92 countries.

Thanks to the show, the number of new players has also increased five fold on Chess.com.

Past members of the Marshall Chess Club include Bobby Fischer, the former world champion, and Howard Stern. To learn more about the club, visit MarshallChessClub.org.

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