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The upsurge in chess

There has been an upsurge in chess for 2 reasons; the success of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and more playing on chess sites like chess.com on the internet during the pandemic.

A few years ago I played in the RAC chess club and on our board one courteous banker launched, as a whim and to indulge his interest, a chess shop.

I never envisioned it as an earner but a chess shop now cannot sell chess sets quickly enough.

I enjoy chess puzzles and always do one daily. It’s my hope that I’m feeding the mind and thus warding off dementia.

There are two types of puzzles: one from an actual game and the other a composition – the best of which are composed by Sam Loyd.

I find the latter too contrived.

In solving a chess puzzle, I read the blurb first which always gives a clue. Words like “brilliant” make me look for surprising combinations.

If the opponent is about to mate then the first move must be a check. Then I visualise the board.

Yesterday, for example, a puzzle featured a back row mate was stopped by the Queen protecting a rook.

Thus the move, however unlikely, must be to shift the queen and this could be done by placing the queen in front of her.

If the queen takes, the mate cannot be prevented. I can usually solve a chess problem in 3 minutes.

One of the reasons that chess has not had such an upsurge before is that it’s hard to make it exciting. A long drawn out chess match is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Bobby Fischer generated a wider audience in the context of the Cold War but I doubt if anyone other than a chess player could name any modern grandmaster other than Magnus Carlson.

I read The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Nevis 18 month ago.

It is the story of how orphan Beth Harmon became first a chess prodigy than a world champion. The role was beautifully played by Anya Taylor-Joy.

She even took expert advice on how to hold pieces. The series reached well beyond the chess community.

Most people did not how to fill their lockdown time and chess became a more satisfying way of so doing.


About Jakub Celakovsky

An irregular club player without pretensions to greatness, Jakub Celakovsky is a student of chess and has contributed articles to many publications on the subject over the years. He came to Britain with his parents in 1981 and runs a pub on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, where he lives with his wife and two children. More Posts