Netflix series sparks global chess interest

Netflix hit series The Queen’s Gambit has taken the world by storm and is currently the most watched show globally, topping the lists in at least 50 countries and receiving widespread praise all over the world. Now Beth Harmon seems to be contributing to a chess boom which has led to a dramatic increase in chess interest, sales of chess products and people playing online. Will it last?

The drama series that follows the story of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who discovers a huge talent for chess in an orphanage after losing her mother, appears to have created a huge global chess interest. The show is currently the most watched in the world and has reached the #1 spot in 50+ countries and received almost unanimous praise from movie critics.

The question is, how will this benefit chess itself?

Google Trends, which provides insight into search trends, shows that chess searches almost doubled in the weeks after the release of the show. According to UK newspaper Metro, eBay reported a massive 273% surge in searches for ‘chess sets’ on the online auction site in the 10 days following the show’s release.

Chess & Bridge, the UK’s number 1 chess shop based in London’s Baker Street, has experienced a spike in sales. Employee Nick Stylianou told chess24:

Everything chess has been going through the roof recently – certainly since The Queen’s Gambit show was released, but also since lockdown. Very generally everything we have has been selling well, from chess computers to chess sets.

Chess & Bridge Managing Director Malcolm Pein, the CEO of the Chess in Schools and Communities charity, talked to the BBC:

Chess has been everywhere on the major news channels:

In chess-crazy Norway, the home of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Øystein Brekke, who owns the country’s biggest chess shop Sjakkbutikken, confirms the trend with an increase in sales in recent weeks, which he thinks could be related to the show.

The trend can also be seen in the Play Magnus Group, with Chief Product Officer Gerald Tan saying:

Our app products have grown significantly over this period, especially our learning app Magnus Trainer – Learn & Train Chess, on iOS, which has seen over a 300%+ increase in installs over the past 30 days.

David Llada, FIDE’s Chief Markting and Communications Officer, said the world’s governing chess body is very well aware of the surge and they are trying to take advantage of it.

Both the challenge and the opportunity now is to devise the right strategy to capitalize on this growth and make it sustainable. We need to find a way to engage with all these people who are having a first contact with chess thanks to this TV series. They come to us with a very favorable view about chess and the chess world, and we need to take advantage of that.

Among these millions of people there are parents, but also political authorities, upper-level policy and decision makers, potential sponsors. We will benefit from this for years to come, mostly in indirect ways.

Whether it will last remains to be seen. In any case, perhaps the upcoming $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour, which features the world’s top chess players, will benefit from the series?

We’ll soon find out, with the first event, The Skilling Open, set to begin on November 22nd!

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