Columbus chess scene sees pandemic resurgence
The game of chess is alive and well in Central Ohio, with local groups seeing a sizable growth in interest since the pandemic began.
Why it matters: Chess is as popular as ever online and in local schools, parks and private clubs.
- The game connects players from a variety of backgrounds and age groups in a way most other hobbies and traditional sports do not.
State of play: Our region features around a dozen chess clubs, per the Ohio Chess Association, along with high school teams and various private tutors.
- The Central Chess Club is based in Columbus and dates back before World War II.
What they're saying: "It's a real cross section of the community," tournament director Lou Friscoe tells Axios.
- The diverse membership meets for weekly games at the Hey Hey Bar and Grill near German Village, but meet-ups have paused since the pandemic began.
- Instead, Friscoe holds occasional outdoor tournaments at Griggs Reservoir Park that he says have drawn a host of new players over the past year.
Meanwhile, chess is growing in popularity among younger people.
- The club at Olentangy Liberty High School in Powell has doubled in size from previous school years, says advisor and assistant principal James Kim.
- While the popularity of Netflix's chess-themed show "The Queen's Gambit" played a minor role in spurring new players to join, Kim mostly credits students wanting to be more social after returning to in-person classes.
- "Kids are yearning for interactions and playing board games is a great bridge for students to communicate."
The intrigue: Friscoe, 80, has directed nearly 2,000 tournaments in his chess career.
- He still tabulates all brackets and results by hand before sending results to the U.S. Chess Federation to count toward players' ratings.
- Friscoe says he's glad to see such strong, young talent emerge in recent years, even if he prefers traditional play to online chess.
- "I don't have any fear of chess dying out."
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