Chess craze sweeps St. Pius X


Staff photo

Freshman Matthew Dulaney and junior Randy Graebner compete in a tense chess match in the library. The game has taken off in popularity at school this year.

Andy Swartz, Editor-in-Chief

St. Pius X has been checkmated by a new phenomenon that has overtaken the school: chess. It seems like everywhere you look, someone is playing or talking about chess. I investigated where this trend originated, how it became popular at St. Pius and some of the star players.

Chess has been around for thousands of years, so how did it recently become so popular, seemingly out of nowhere? Sophomore Robert Turbe thinks that it is due to the popularity of chess videos.

“When you look online, you’re gonna see a lot more videos revolving around chess. I think one major thing was the ‘Queen’s Gambit’ show, that really took people who weren’t into chess and got them interested,” said Turbe.

In addition to this, chess has found its way onto already trending apps like TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Snapchat. The short video formats on these apps already have viewers enticed, and short chess videos fit perfectly into this format. 

“They [social media users] are paying more attention to chess,” said Turbe.

Also, the rise of online chess has made the game accessible in all situations. These websites allow people to play either alone to refine their skills or play with friends, with the most popular sites being, mathisfun, and LiChess.

One of the school’s most avid users is senior Cooper Howard. Since he started playing in February, he has played over 600 online games.

“Chess is my life. I definitely have a serious issue about chess,” said Howard.

Other factors have also contributed to the rise in chess’s popularity. Specifically at St. Pius, the new library renovations have made it so that it is appealing for groups of people to come and play chess before school, during lunch, and after school. During lunches, there are often people waiting for one of the four library chess sets to be open for use. 

Although the Pius Chess Club fizzled out at the end of last year, the club is returning for the remainder of the school year and into the future. Sophomores Michael Wright and Robert Turbe hosted an interest meeting for the club on February 16, before the event, Robert claimed the meeting would have a “record attendance for a chess club meeting.” 5 people showed up, but hopefully, more will come in the future. These two will lead the club going forward.

If you are interested in starting playing chess in the future, but nervous about how complex the game seems, Turbe said to not worry. 

“Chess is a very complicated game, but I feel like if you start off simple and start working your way up, you’ll slowly be able to understand. Like when you’re starting off in math, you don’t just hop right into Calculus, you need to learn the basic math first to get to that point” said Turbe.

He has been playing chess since his freshman year, and his rating has improved significantly, from 400 to 1300. 

“That just shows you how far you can get in a year,” he said

This rating is a hot topic among the chess players at the school. It’s a measure of how good a player is at chess, and players earn or lose points after wins or losses. Every player begins at a 1200 rating but usually drops to around 400-500 after a couple of placement games. From polling around the school, the average rating of St. Pius students is between 700-800, but there are a few outliers. In both directions. 

When talking about the best player in the school, there is one mysterious name that floats around the conversations at the boards during lunch. Darren. Every good chess player at St. Pius has heard of the mythical player, but not many seem to know if he really exists. 

“I never played him and I don’t think I’ve even ever seen him, but it’s known that the best player at the school is this freshman who’s like 1600,” said senior Rollen Williamson. 

We have yet to confirm or deny this chess wonder kid’s existence. On the other hand, some students have a strong opinion of some of the less talented chess players at Pius. 

“Definitely not Miles Johnson,” claimed senior Miles Johnson.

“Ethan Harmon,” said senior Lucas Voorhies.

“Ethan McKenley. I came from the bottom, now I’m at the top, he stayed at the bottom. Free YSL,” said senior Adem Byrdsell.

We wish the best to all of these students and their future chess pursuits.

If chess interests you and you would like to learn more about the game, play against opponents over the board, or just watch other’s chess games, you should come to the Chess Club, which holds meetings every Wednesday.