Chess takes the crown

A global pandemic and a Netflix mini-series breathes new life into a 1500 year old game.

Being a student and working part-time, I try to actively avoid conversations about binge-worthy TV shows. But even I couldn’t ignore the whispers about The Queen’s Gambit and it’s 99% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

One weekend and seven episodes later, I felt no shame; it was just what the lockdown-doctor ordered.

As I do with most pop culture phenomena, I looked into the data. But a lot of people beat me to it (although apparently with not much originality): The Queen’s Gambit Sparking a Surge of Interest in Chess, The Queen’s Gambit’ is sparking a surge of interest in chess, The Queen’s Gambit Has Caused a Huge Surge in Chess Set Sales and Online Classes.

Even Chess.com, which I can only imagine is the official source of all things chess, is riding the coat tails of the show’s popularity.

I didn’t care I was late to the party, I was just inspired to make something by the sheer chicness of the show. So although it’s old news now, chess is having a bit of a moment, thanks to Beth Harmon.

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There’s not much to say — the intensity and attraction the show has brought to chess is undeniable. Maybe in our collective boredom, people were looking for entertainment without the guilt (i.e. not watching seven consecutive hours of a Netflix mini-series in one weekend). Then chess — one of the oldest and most intellectually challenging games out there — waltzed in and hit us with a fresh look.

Given the trends in the graph above, it’s difficult to tell whether chess would’ve gotten a new lease on life without the help of a pandemic and a second lockdown. But frankly, I don’t think anyone cares, so it’s an analysis I’ll leave for now.

Just like I didn’t bake bread, I haven’t played chess and probably won’t (although I watched family members play the other day, and can report it looked equally smart and thrilling). I was still compelled to make this, which makes me believe we’re all just looking for a pleasant surprise instead of the grim reality we’ve been facing.

Using both sides of my brain. Research, data analysis, data visualization, and illustration. 📈✏️💭

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