Most teens tend to have a lot of free time on their hands. Though this is usually filled with watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out with friends— none of which are inherently bad— there is an alternative to these activities: the game of chess.
Okay, chess doesn't sound like the most beneficial or, frankly, exciting way to spend your time as a teenager. However, chess is, in reality, not necessarily what one might imagine it to be. There are many false perceptions about chess, and many benefits. Follow along with 5 reasons why you, as a teen, should play chess.
1. A Growing Game
There is no doubt about it: chess is rising in popularity.
This rise is attributed mainly to the popular show The Queen's Gambit, released in 2020. Following young female chess prodigy Beth Harmon, Queen's Gambit explores many of the intricacies of chess, from different openings, defenses, calculations, and overall mentality. The highly-rated show was the kickstart for the rise, and this popularity was carried on through different content creators via the conduit of Twitch.
Twitch, an entertainment platform for streamers, soon started to see chess on the rise. Many well-known streamers, such as xQcOW and Ludwig Ahgren, took up the game, resulting in Twitch chess tournaments wherein many of the competitors trained under grandmasters and international masters. Due to this increase in popularity, chess is easier to get into than ever, which leads me to the next reason.
2. An Excess of Content
Chess is not a game that takes little time or relies on inherent talent to get into. Rather, to get good at the game, hours of practice and learning are required. Thankfully, this content is plentiful.
There are several chess channels on YouTube with treasure troves of free information, though with money, you can get access to even more outstanding courses. Videos targeted at all skill levels are plentiful— especially for beginners. Some examples of these channels include agadmator, GothamChess, and Eric Rosen. Videos like these delve into basic principles of chess, from the opening to the middlegame and endgame.
Here are a few of my favorite beginner videos:
- The Ultimate Beginner Guide
- 1 Hour Beginner Chess Lesson with TierZoo
- 7 Most Common Chess Mistakes
- 6 Checkmate Patterns You Must Know
- 10 Chess Tips To CRUSH Everyone
- Common Opening Mistakes | Beginner Chess Lesson
- A Beginner Lesson in the Stafford Gambit (one of my favorite tricky openings; Rosen is a borderline pioneer for this gambit)
- Advice for an Amateur Player | Chess Lesson with Andrè Guilhoto
- Don't Make Your Life Miserable (Like Me) - Know Your Openings!
- 10 Fun Chess Games for Beginners
- Destroy Everyone With the Scandinavian Defense (3...Qd6!)
GothamChess is an especially excellent way to learn chess, dubbed "the internet's chess teacher." He provides commentaries, analyses, and lessons, and his content is surprisingly entertaining as well as educational. In fact, there's also lots of content for simple chess entertainment on YouTube, from channels such as chessbrah, BotezLive, and GMHikaru.
Lastly, lichess is a great way to learn openings or tactics. It's completely free, and it also has many user-made studies. Chess.com is the more popular website, and though it has great content, most of it requires a subscription (although it is completely worth it if you're looking to learn chess seriously).
3. A Good Way to Socialize
Chess is actually a pretty good way to socialize and make new friends. If you have a school chess club, it's easy to join and start playing with other people. Though some people believe that only nerds and geeks play chess, that's not always the case. Chess is appealing to many different types of people, and I personally have seen lots unexpectedly get into the game.
It is, at its core, a game, and games are meant to be played with other people. You can play anywhere using online chess sites, from lunch to the bus ride home.
Tournaments are also a major part of chess. Though they're not necessarily for lower-rated players, they can be a surprising amount of fun. With your own team consisting of people from your school, you can form closer connections. Reviewing games, going over mistakes, and simply discussing how to get better assists you on your chess journey and allows you to make friends.
You can also sometimes make friends with your opponents, depending on how open they are to conversation— one of my teammates later told me that he found out his opponent was from Brooklyn and a Tottenham Hotspur fan.
4. Mental Benefits
It's pretty clear-cut: chess has plenty of mental benefits.
Several studies have shown the positive impact chess can have on your mental state. Chess can:
- Improve memory — chess requires lots of calculation and keeping possible moves in mind
- Elevate your planning abilities — this is not shocking, since planning is the most important element of chess
- Help prevent dementia
- Improve symptoms of ADHD — while this may be unexpected, people with ADHD can play chess (the famous grandmaster Eric Hansen has ADHD)
- Help to see things from another person's perspective
What is important to note is that, though there is a correlation between chess ability and what can be defined as intelligence, intelligence is not necessary to be good at chess. More important than a base level of intelligence is practice, studying, and experience.
5. College Applications
You may have been waiting for it, and though it's not the reason you should be playing chess, it's definitely a useful addition.
Colleges look at extracurriculars, and chess contains a lot of the elements they look for. The correlation between IQ and chess ability, the mental benefits, the social aspect of it, and the implications of hours of studying and training showcases a lot of useful qualities. Winning or placing high in tournaments and competitions is an excellent thing to put on your application, or even writing about the entire experience of it. Moreover, showing that you're passionate about something, especially if that something has a good link to critical thinking skills, is what colleges like.
In conclusion, chess is a challenging and enjoyable game which you, as a teen, should play. It's not always easy to get into, but it is easier to start now than ever before. It has plenty of social and mental benefits, and tends to look good on college applications. You can always try it out by watching a few GothamChess videos and playing on chess.com or lichess, and see if you enjoy it— there's easily more pros than cons!