Checkmate! Chess grows in popularity at Haven

Over the past year, Strath Haven Chess Club has seen big expansion.



2021-2022 Chess Club Co-President Akshay Risbud plays senior Caleb Young during a chess club meeting. Co-President Jonah Shor and Manthan Dhingra observe.

Gabriel Ball '24, Contributor

In 2022, the game of chess grew to unparalleled popularity. Online streamers and content creators devoted to chess experienced a surge in viewership.

Chess is an ancient game which began in India around 600 AD. It spread to Europe and throughout Asia in the subsequent centuries and became popular among the nobility and those of the upper class. Chess has long been associated with intellectualism and the elite. Then why all of a sudden has chess become a cultural phenomenon?

One of the newer members of the Chess Club is senior David Hagan. Hagan has been playing chess for just a couple months now, as he started playing at the beginning of the second semester. A lot of people in his classes had been playing chess, so he picked it up as a hobby.

“I think it’s a really interesting game because it takes a lot of skill and strategy and also time to develop that skill, and it’s a game that you can work at and improve like any other game,” he said. “But I think it has its appeal because of the way it’s a very cerebral game.”

I think it has its appeal because of the way it’s a very cerebral game.”

— David Hagan

Sophomore Cormac Tracy joined Chess Club earlier this year, and started playing chess this past summer during downtime at his job. 

“It really makes you think, you know?” he said. “It works on your focus and your critical thinking.” 

Chess’s connotation with intelligence and strategy can seem intimidating to some, but Tracy believes it’s all about practice.  

“For me it was just mostly,” he said. Just play as many games as you can. Practice is everything. Learn an opening, play it every time, and I guarantee you will get better.”

An opening in chess is the sequence of moves at the beginning of the game which sets up the first part of the game. Some openings such as the Vienna opening and a Centre opening can be played by players of all levels, while others like the French Defense or the Scilian opening are a bit harder to manage.

Mr. Babcock, the faculty sponsor of the Chess Club, has watched the club develop and expand in recent months.

“This year it has grown substantially,” he said. “Kids are coming Mondays and Fridays and some days even trying to catch a quick game in the middle of the week.”

If you come to the club, you might see students playing music, hanging out with friends, and sometimes even bringing snacks, all on top of playing chess. 

Chess Club runs on Mondays and Fridays during 5th block for those interested in joining. Players of all skill levels are encouraged to join and have some fun. *