ST. LOUIS – Chess is a game that can be traced back over 1,000 years but it is suddenly one of the hottest games this holiday season.
The newfound popularity of the game is being attributed to people staying home more during the pandemic, and the popularity of the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit. After the show premiered in October, the sale of chess sets in the United States spiked 87 percent and the sale of books about the game rose 603%, according to market research firm NPD Group.
The home to The World Chess Hall of Fame is right here in the Central West End. Brian Flowers, the Marketing Coordinator for the World Chess Hall of Fame, said foot traffic in the hall of fame has increased. Flowers says people are walking in talking about having just watched the Queen’s Gambit and feeling inspired.
Flowers also said Q Boutique, the gift shop in the hall of fame, is selling more chess sets than ever before. This year the sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday doubled the sales from last year.
This past weekend with the start of the Central West End Window Walk, Q Boutique had its top sales weekend in history. For the rest of the month as part of the Window Walk, Q Boutique will be offering 20% off in-store purchases. If you can’t make it to the store, they are offering free shipping on online purchases. Flowers said buy your chess sets sooner rather than later because they are going fast.
Across the street from the Chess Hall of Fame is the Chess Club. There you can play chess. You have to reserve a spot. The first time is free, then you are asked to become a member. The Saint Louis Chess Club offers virtual chess lessons. Flowers said they have seen more people than usual interested in lessons.
They also have a YouTube channel with chess instructional videos. Since the release of The Queen’s Gambit, the Saint Louis Chess Club has experienced a 69% increase in on-demand video views on their YouTube channel.
It is not just people who are new to chess that are finding The Queen’s Gambit interesting. Flowers said the Grand Masters that he has talked with say they really enjoy the show. Flowers says the directors did a great job consulting with experts in the chess world. Some of the chess games you’ll see being played in the show are from real-life games throughout history.
If you are interested in learning more about The World Chess Hall of Fame and their current exhibit here is the link.