by Matthew Calvino
The rise of chess in Christopher Columbus High School has been extraordinary to watch. Over the past few months, students who once distracted themselves playing online website games have now become competitive classroom chess players. Their website of choice: Chess.com.
The website contains hundreds of resources to improve their chess game and hone their skills playing this classic game. As this unfolded, the question emerged: why is chess so popular all of a sudden, even though clubs like the Chess Club have existed for years at the school?
There are a few answers to this question. The first possibility is simple - the fact that the Chess Club’s popularity has begun to spread awareness about the game, and more and more students have thus applied themselves to practicing the game. However, when questioning some of the most frequent players in the classroom, none of them mentioned their interest in chess coming specifically from the Chess Club.
Thus, the second possibility may be more plausible. The students have an innate need to be constantly stimulated. This a classic dilemma that has only recently been exacerbated by frequent access to devices such as iPads, phones and Macbooks. Or, it could now be the opposite of the aforementioned dilemma. Meaning, it could be the boom of chess that has now caused students to play in the classroom. However, students may have been already using their iPads and computers to play other games, so why chess?
Furthermore, another more plausible explanation is this: the students like to learn and improve at things, just not in their classes. Dr. B.F. Skinner’s psychological theory of positive reinforcement and negative punishment directly applies to this because of how instantly chess gratifies and punishes. The seconds of loading time to hop into consecutive online matches on the website of popular choice, Chess.com, helps provide redemption chances as well as chances to streak wins very quickly.
Some Columbus chess players weighed in on their thoughts as to why chess has grown in popularity at the school.
"I think it's probably blown up at Columbus because of the unprecedented success of the grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen," senior Stefan Anzola said. Carlsen is considered the best chess player in the world.
Students also noted that social media could be another reason for the boom.
"Honestly, I think it's because social media has popularized the idea of chess competitions. It is the fact that you can compete with others in a way that's non-physical and more mental," senior Nikolas Dimitrakis said.
"I see a lot of chess on TikTok and that could be a big part of why it's spreading so much," Anzola added.
Another possible reason for the surge could be tied to one word: competitiveness. At an all-boys school, competitiveness is an inherent trait that runs rampant throughout the halls.
"It's been going on for a few months and I enjoy the challenge of chess," senior James Friguls said.
"I like playing chess because I like to beat people at the games I love that take intellect and unmatched perspicacity," senior Brandon Menendez said.
Winning is a major motivational factor.
"I enjoy the fact that it is contingent on me guessing my opponent's moves rather than thinking about my own moves," Dimitrakis said. "I consider myself a very competitive person ever since I was a kid. I like to win."
COMING SOON: Columbus Chess Tournament with proceeds going to the Castaways Against Cancer.