The Recent Explosion of Chess

Connor Bennett

Chess is a thinking game, a game of strategy, and…wait for it…fun!

Connor Bennett, Staff Writer

Chess is an almost ancient study. It’s become a staple of games. Its theories, concepts, and opening principles make it one of the hardest games among all to master. VERY FEW people who take up chess become exceptional or “grand masters.”

Chess began picking up traction in the 18th century in Europe but it wasn’t until the 19th century that it became widely played. Chess was in actuality invented in 200 bc by Ha’n Xin, a Chinese general for tactics of battle. It had another name: Xiangqi. This version of chess played on the intersections of lines. The pieces provided were: 1 general (king), 2 guards, 2 elephants (bishops), 2 chariots (rooks), 2 horses (knights), 2 cannons, and 5 soldiers (pawns).

An early Chinese chess board demonstrating the origins of the game. (Yellow Mountain Imports)

The rules of this game differentiated greatly from the game we know today.

Another precursor originated in India, its name being Chaturanga and its four player version Chaturaji. This game takes inspiration as an adaptation of Xiangqi and is widely known as the most recent precursor of Chess.

Chaturanga is played very similar to chess at base but it wasn’t until some adaptations that it is thought the true ruler of games was born.

Throughout history we see chess having peaks of interest including the 12th and 15th centuries where many works were written on tactics and even game analysis. Fluctuations of popularity continued until the years of Bobby Fischer, a young astonishing player whose aggressive tactics and theories were unmatched. The excitement and celebration surrounding this grandmaster peaked and from 1960- 1971 he held the game on his back.

A close look at a Chaturanga board shows how chess comes from it (

In recent years the popularity of chess has skyrocketed. This is likely due to the exciting group of grandmasters we have today including the famous Magnus Carlsen, known for his chess ELO rating of 2882, higher than that of Bobby Fischer in his prime. We can also bring attention to the various streamers, YouTubers, and media coverages that seem to have piqued the interest of a lot of people and in turn brought in new players. 

Personally I got into chess around 2019 while playing against friends. It wasn’t until a few months ago though that I really became obsessed. My peak ELO rating was 1213, a solid ranking for a beginner. I’m able to beat most people I come across with ease though I have high days and days where my brain just won’t work.

How can you improve at chess?

Chaturanga is closer to what we know as chess (and is also a yoga pose!) (Bona Ludo)

As a beginner the most important thing is to learn how to play the most common openings. Kings, pawns, and queens pawn are both extremely common book openings. By pushing your pawns to the center of the board you are in turn fighting for control of the most important area of the game. You can then support these pawns and build an attack on your opponent. More complex maneuvers and openings come from game experience.

Picking up a book or two on specific openings can also improve your game. I implore all new players to learn about pinning, kiting, pushing, and forking, all valuable attacking tactics for winning. Once you memorize some openings all that’s left is to play.

Don’t be afraid to lose, only experience can make you a better player and every loss is a valuable lesson.

Some openings for you to memorize may include: the London system, wayward queen attack-mate in 4 trap, Dutch defense, two knights game, and Italian game.

The fact chess has once again caught the attention of the public brings me hope for the longevity of the game. It’s truly astonishing and thought provoking to consider some of the things you can create with this game. It’s an art.

I don’t have any plans of quitting in the future and I hope to pass my knowledge on it down to my kids many years from now.