Checkmate Coronavirus: Feed

The biggest online chess marathon ever held

As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, confining millions of people indoors, online chess has exploded in popularity. The International Chess Federation has now joined forces with the largest global websites for online chess play (,,, and FIDE online Arena) to launch the "FIDE Checkmate Coronavirus" initiative, a month-long chess festival with more than 80 daily tournaments open to everyone around the world.

Starting on May 18 and running until June 16, this 720 hours non-stop online chess bonanza will include more than 1500 prizes with all participants being eligible for the prize-draw, regardless of their level of play or their score in the tournaments. The top prizes include 64 (the number of squares on the chess-board) one-week invitations to attend the 2021 Chess Olympiad in Moscow.

"On a chessboard, two kingdoms face each other in a battle where only one side can win. But in real life chess is a game that unites us, makes us feel like one family, one community, one planet. Stay safe and play chess. I hope to meet the lucky ones next summer at the Chess Olympiad 2021 in Moscow!" FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich commented..

"A very conservative estimation is that we will have 1,5 million games played throughout this unprecedented chess marathon - it will depend on how many fans will register to take part in the tournaments. But we are pretty confident that we will hit the 5-million-games milestone", says Emil Sutovsky, FIDE's Director-General.


The chess boom of the 21st century

Chess has a long history spanning several centuries, and once in a while, this ancient game turns into a global phenomenon. That was the case when Bobby Fischer player Boris Spassky in 1972, or when Garry Kasparov defended the honor of the human race against the supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997.

Over the past couple of months, chess has experienced a similar surge in popularity, but this time it wasn't sparked by a duel between two charismatic champions. The new chess revolution happened at a grassroots level, online, and born out of the forced lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Played under exactly the same rules for more than five centuries, the game has proved again to be perfectly suited for the online era.

"When the world told them to stay home, they became part of the global pandemic’s most surprising counterattack: a modern chess boom. Everyone’s newest form of entertainment is one of the world’s oldest games", writes the Wall Street Journal. Historic literature -like "The Decameron"- suggests chess was already omnipresent in the lives of those quarantined during the Black Death epidemic of the 1300s.

"Video game versions of most sports entail entirely different skill sets from the real thing; manipulating a remote device from a couch bears little resemblance to being sacked by a 300-pound lineman. But online chess is essentially the same game, and when other sports were halted in March under a worldwide shutdown, fans were left starving for something to watch — and do", explain David Waldstein of The New York Times. recently reported having experienced "10 years worth of site growth over just three months". A similar picture is described by, an open-source and non-profit platform, mainly operated by volunteers, and funded by donations. "'s daily registration numbers have tripled since the beginning of the lockdown in many countries. The number of games played every day on our platform has, on average, doubled in comparison to the same period in 2019", explains a spokesperson for this platform. All of them have struggled to cope with the rapidly increasing demand on their servers, being forced to scale up their systems.

Why chess?

Chess is intellectually stimulating and challenging, and it offers limitless possibilities already from an early stage of play: beginners can enjoy it as much as masters.

The king of games has simple rules (a couple of days is enough to learn the basics), but its underlying strategy is complex enough to keep you entertained countless hours, putting to use various different skills and brain functions: creativity, calculation, and memory are just some of them. Many consider it the ultimate brain workout, and educators around the world praise its value as an educational tool

But being a game in which two people compete for the victory, chess is, above anything, a very exciting game to play. It may look quiet to the casual observer, but chess has a strong appeal for very active, highly energetic people. The game also provides a much-needed social connection, for longtime players and newcomers alike.

Chess is also a great activity to reinforce boundaries between the youngest and the oldest in the family, building bridges between generations. For the elderly, self-isolation can be a particularly difficult time - but the wonders of technology are certainly helping to ease the burden for people all over the world. A video of a seven-year-old kid, Ruben Phillips, playing chess over a facetime call with his 71-year-old grandparent Mick, became viral during the early days of the lockdown.

"Sales of boardgames soared 240% during the first official week of coronavirus lockdown in the UK as families turn to traditional pursuits to while away the hours stuck at home", reports the Guardian.

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David Llada

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