Magnus Carlsen’s tense victory sends interest in chess soaring

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen’s tense victory sends interest in chess soaring

The recent World Chess Championship, which saw an unprecedented 12 consecutive draws before moving onto a rapid chess tie-breaker, is apparently causing “a mini-boom” in interest in chess.

I remember the World Chess Championship being televised by Channel 4 in the mid-1990s when I first started playing chess as a child. That may have spurred my interest a little.

“We’ve seen a lot more interest in school chess. A lot more people phoning up for lessons. A lot more inquiries online,” said Malcolm Pein, the chief executive of the charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC), which has seen increased web traffic…

CSC is doing its part to bring the game to a wider audience, encouraging pupils at mainly inner-city state schools to take it up. “Every private school has a chess club, but only a very small minority of state schools do,” said Pein.

I was lucky that my state school had a chess club. It was quite well attended, although that was mainly because chess club members were entitled to skip the lunch queue. The practice was eventually clamped down on, so only the geeks were left again…

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1 comment

  1. My secondary school had a chess club too, and chess club members were allowed to skip the lunch queue as well. Having said that, so were people in any other lunch club meeting* on a specific day, and Year 7 students (the youngest ones, who were typically used to primary schools with earlier lunch breaks) were always allowed to skip the queue. As such, my school was used to having 300 of its 800 pupils attempt to get food simultaneously (the hall only had table space for about 220 chairs, so this was a problem). Its response was simply to allow longer for that initial burst of people to come through – and give those who tended to get bullied in the lunch queue their own reserved tables.

    Most of the geeks did not do chess club, because geekdom wasn’t a separate social clique at my school. The popular ones would do one of the sports clubs in order to be with their popular friends, those who were good with their hands tended to do the woodwork group that met that day, and the rest mostly avoided the groups that met on Thursday. (Even the IT club didn’t attract geeks because it was seen by them as not being advanced enough; while more advanced than lessons, by Year 11 I probably knew more about how to teach IT than the teacher did, and we’d all picked up the “fun ways of decorating a presentation” stuff in primary school or Year 7, depending on previous background in PCs).

    On the other hand, chess club was a place that tended to attract lots of musically-inclined people, because it was the only day of the week that never had a music group. (The others had choir, orchestra, extra rehearsals for concerts, music appreciation or – sometimes – group private music tuition). This was especially so for the shyer members of the choir, who found chess a much better setting for socialisation without worrying about half the chorus line overhearing their chatter. (Chess has an unwritten rule about being quiet at table. Nobody in our chess club observed it).

    I had a lot of fun in chess club. There was a pecking order, based on chess rating system, and by the time I left secondary school only one other player could beat me using conventional play. Someone else liked trying to “beat” me by upending the chess table, but this tended not to work…

    My university had a chess club too, and I even played a tournament, despite being the worst player in the club. While I lost my match, this was still considered worthwhile, because the alternative was a match forfeit and a team penalty. The opposing team was amused because they were my home town’s club. (I haven’t joined them even after graduating, largely because their club night is the same one as my swimming club used to have, and is still reserved for swimming with friends). I don’t think I’ve played a physical game of chess since graduating, though I’ve played on the computer.

    Social skills club was open every lunchtime of the week, there were at least two sports clubs every day because some sports met up to 3 times a week, most days had a music club of some sort and each day also had one “other” club. I typically had social skills club on Monday and Friday (but in the run-up to Christmas and Easter, I’d be in rehearsals instead), choir on Tuesday, orchestra on Wednesday and chess on Thursday.

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