Chess captures New Trier

The recent chess surge has been shocking to some, but expected by most students


AP/Eckehard Schulz

The library sees the chess board constantly in use and hosts a number of students playing chess on their iPads

At New Trier, at any given time during the day, you can find at least one person playing chess. Recently, there has been a surge of chess players. 

For advisers, it’s become the staple for their students. 

“I think the reason it’s so popular is because it’s so accessible and easy to play. The way that has set it up makes it really easy to just start playing one day.”

— Alex Kolanko

“During the time, where it’s their choice to do what they want, I see a lot of them on the Chess app,” said adviser and science teacher Benjamin Torrisi,

It’s gotten to the point where students have noticed other students playing chess during their lectures and classes.

“I’ve seen people playing chess while the teacher is talking. On average it’s like two per class,” said junior Caleb Sim. 

Sim also mentioned that it was more popular two years ago, during the pandemic. 

Sophomore David Pawasarat, has seen the same in his classes.

“Over the last few months, chess has gotten really popular, and there’s a rise in people playing chess, including in class.”

It caused some students to be disciplined, with sophomore Aspen Tomen, mentioning that she recently saw a student get in trouble for playing chess during a lecture by the teacher. 

Librarian Chair Erika Immel said when she walks around the library, she sees students play chess on their iPads.

“Sometimes, when the students congregate into big groups, playing chess, they get a little disruptive, and we have to break them up,” said 

The popularity of Chess is no surprise to students, however. The presence of Chess on social media has exploded since the pandemic. This year on Twitch, one of the most popular streaming websites, Chess has drawn nearly 27.7 million hours of viewership. This explosion can be attributed to several things, including the popularity of the Netflix TV show “The Queen’s Gambit.” 

With this popularity comes issues though. In recent months, students have been complaining about login and other issues with They cited the school board as having instituted network restriction on the website and the app, due to the somewhat disruptive effect that chess can have in the classroom. 

But that’s not the truth. “We have explicitly allowed traffic for,” said Michael Valadez, Network and Operations Manager at New Trier.

The real reason is more complex. On Feb. 6, made a community post explaining a recent issue plaguing their servers. Due to a massive jump in traffic, from roughly 7 million visitors to over 11 million, their servers were simply not able to handle the sheer amount of people. The server and database were overloaded, which resulted in many of the issues that students have been complaining about. 

To the average outsider, chess being so popular is quite odd, as it is a game typically seen as only for a select group of people. But has managed to appeal to a wide array of people through its accessibility. If it’s your first time playing, there are tutorials, puzzles, and other challenges to test yourself with. Other game modes spice up the way Chess is being played. 

“I think the reason it’s so popular is because it’s so accessible and easy to play. The way that has set it up makes it really easy to just start playing one day.” said Alex Kolanko, sophomore.