Sophomore Nic Boinet’s love for chess started with the lessons from his late grandfather when he was seven years old. Boinet said even though he never beat his grandfather in chess, his love for the strategy game developed quickly.
Chess is played with two players, each moving their appropriate pieces during their turn. The objective of the game is to put the opponent’s king in “checkmate” — a move where the king can no longer escape without losing the match. Currently, many players are opting to play online, on a computer or on a mobile device.
Chess.com is a popular online gaming service devoted to making chess enjoyable, a learning experience for beginners, and tournament styled for more experienced individuals. On the website, players can make an account to save progress, play with friends, see analytics from each game, and learn over 1,500 different lessons from masters.
Boinet said that he is now in the 96th percentile on chess.com, and the website has helped tremendously. For Boinet, chess feels like a productive hobby, as he said other hobbies have little benefits.
“When I started really getting into the sport competitively in 2020, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ was a huge factor for me, and so were Youtube, Instagram reels and TikTok videos which have risen in popularity in the last few years,” Boinet said.
Boinet says because of the popularity of “The Queen’s Gambit,” social media trends and ways to play chess on-the-go, the game is not being viewed as a nerdy activity anymore. Now, people are respecting the time commitment of the game, as well as supporting the chess community.
“I’m actually planning on starting a chess club next year — stay tuned for that. I think the reason why we don’t have one already is because the campus population isn’t involved in those activities,” Boinet said. He thinks another reason that Elon doesn’t have a chess club is that it’s not linked to Greek life.
Elon University does not have a chess club, although there are many players within the community. Junior Taylor Dunfee is hoping that a chess club is in the future for Elon’s long list of organizations.
“I think because of the small campus size, and not having enough widespread interest, there was never a huge club,” Dunfee said.“But with the recent surge in popularity, I think it’s more and more likely that we can get enough people together to really bloom here.”
Elon University has over 250 student organizations, including a board game club, but it does not focus on chess as a sport itself. Dunfee started playing chess in elementary school when he was a member of his school’s chess club. He has been playing heavily in the past two years, and has even been to a tournament in Las Vegas, where he had the chance to meet masters and well-known players.
For many, chess is a well-valued and pleasant game, but Dunfee said it can be challenging if studying the sport. Theories, such as the “chess opening move” are moves an individual can memorize beginning from a piece’s starting position. Dunfee said if somebody is committed to the game, they’ll learn to play well and have fun, expanding the community.
“Just this January, there was another surge of popularity, which has to do with chess.com and online chess tournaments. Because it’s so accessible, more and more people have been playing. You no longer need to track down an opponent, or go to the tournaments — you just pick up your phone or computer and play whenever and wherever you want,” Dunfee said.