By Benjamin Davis’26
Chess is known internationally as the peak of high logic and calculation, esoteric to all but the most premier of masters. Human prodigies of the game achieve great renown, while titanic corporations produce seemingly omniscient engines for the sheer purpose of tactical dominance. Relying purely on the prowess of the competitors and not at all on luck, this checkered showdown creates a scenario unique in the field of play. But what is the reason behind chess’ rise to notoriety, and why does it draw devoted practitioners from all corners of the world?
Though widely believed to be an Indian invention, recent studies have suggested that chess originated in seventh-century Arabia. Quickly gaining popularity, it spread east to Asia and west to Europe, where it would also seize the respective people’s attention. Eventually, chess manuals were written, commencing its study as more of a science than a hobby. As champions were established, strategies evolved, and robots then attacked the professional scene. Chess became more than a game: it was the game. Everyone was familiar with the phenomenon, from young Chinese savants to the average American grandpa.
The chess community is often seen as geeky and cerebral today – not exactly the epitome of a revered social caste. Sadly, this delivers the false impression that only the dorky pariahs of modern culture can get involved. But this is not the case by any means, and multiple studies have shown that chess improves cognitive ability, memory, critical thinking, and more, as opposed to the other way around. This stigma is incredibly unfortunate, especially due to its responsibility of dragging such an esteemed practice out of the youth’s limelight.
There’s a reason that chess, though not what’s currently “in,” is still ubiquitous. National tournaments throng whole venues, complete strangers engage in vigorous matches on park tables, and clubs materialize at academic institutions. It is more than just a simple pastime or hobby; chess is a lifestyle, an intricate world filled with all sorts of quirks and nooks and crannies. Its overwhelmingly positive influence is held back merely by an illusory expectation, realized too much by too many. Somewhere around the globe, a player is waiting for their next opponent. The checkerboard awaits!