The Baylor Chess Society thrives after the pandemic

Baylor Chess Club is increasing its membership due to an increase in virtual chess play during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Mark Mettler

By Carson Bowyer | Guest Contributor

Since chess can be played online, it’s easy and cheap. Chess has seen a massive increase in popularity – an average of 150,000 new members joining Chess.com on the pandemic – with people having a lot of free time and Netflix “The Queen’s Wager” get out at the start of confinement. The Baylor Chess Society reaped the benefits of this increase.

“The show really helped chess grow,” said Chess Society President Frisco Junior Mark Mettler. “Especially after the restrictions were lifted, we started getting a lot of people playing.”

Chess has also been helped by an increase in viewership on Twitch, a site where people can live stream a variety of things, mostly video games. Chess peaked at 370,000 concurrent viewers during PogChamps 3, a chess tournament organized by Chess.com for streamers, in 2021.

This growth in popularity of chess following the pandemic has led to many new members joining the Baylor Chess Club.

“Our club has definitely grown,” Mettler said, “especially this year with fewer restrictions.”

The club meets every Friday in person to play against other members to show off what they have learned on their own or to get advice on their game, such as an opening they have been trying to learn.

They also have an online group for people who can’t attend meetings in person but want to play against other members and in their tournaments.

Many new players and club members are encouraged to join the club’s competitive teams which compete at different skill levels in order to be exposed to chess and learn faster.

“We have four different teams, with a better place in the A team and our new players in the D team,” Mettler said. “We have training sessions to help, and I can also view our teams’ games online to see what some people are struggling with and help them with that.”

However, deciding to play in the collegiate competitive chess leagues was not Mettler’s idea, but one of the club members.

“I just saw an article about it on Chess.com,” said Waco junior Daniel Guel, the club’s vice president and top-rated player. “I just said in group chat, ‘Hey, we should form a team.'”

The club’s A team currently sits in the fifth division of the collegiate league out of 15. They play online against the other members of their division.

“Each team has four players and everyone on one team plays everyone on the other team,” Guel said. “You play four games a weekend and whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins.”

The point system works with a one point win, half a point draw, and zero loss. The team managed to take second place in the seventh division last fall in his first season in competition.

“We got more people to become more active in tournaments this year,” Mettler said. “But we are open to all levels of chess.”

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