Chess Can't Shake Its Dark Side as Popularity Rises

Business Insider piece says sexism, cheating, abuse remain factors
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2024 2:25 PM CDT
Chess Can't Shake Its Dark Side as Popularity Rises
   (Getty / Simpson33)

Chess has been exploding in popularity of late, and Rob Price takes a deep dive into the culture for Business Insider. What he paints is not a pretty picture. Chess "is uniquely positioned to act as an accelerant for the internet's worst impulses: sexism, abuse, cheating, elitism, and toxic nerdery," he writes. Not that he doesn't love the game itself. Price played a lot of chess in the writing of the article—online, at tournaments, even at the trendy Club Chess nightclub in New York—and usually lost. But the games and conversations gave him insight into how chess is changing. For example, "You definitely can make in general a lot more from making content than what you can from playing competitive chess," says 22-year-old Anna Cramling of Sweden, who has nearly 900,000 followers on YouTube.

Price's story explores all this, with a particular focus on cheating—including infamous allegations involving anal beads. For the record, most players think the latter allegation is "absurd," but Price makes clear that chess "is an extraordinarily easy game to cheat at." That's especially the case online (where players can use computer simulations) but also in person. For top players, even "just a signal—a cough, a gesture, a vibration—that their seemingly innocuous next move will actually be critical, even if they're not told what the right move is, can be enough to make a player slow down and find the pathway to the (ill-gotten) win." Read the full story, which ends with practical advice for mere mortal players: Forget about grand game theory and just try not to make a bad blunder. (Or read other longform recaps.)

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