Is Chess The Original eSport?

I have the good fortune of working in an educational establishment. While there we get to spend several weeks working with disenfranchised and disillusioned young people who have been sadly let down by the education system in our country. During this period our goal is to try and get them “onside” to win them over and get them engaged. In doing this I made a really interesting discovery.

All kids are the same

Okay so they are not, they are all very different. A reoccurring pattern I am seeing though is that they all seem to really like video games. I mean I like video games. I work for an eSports website it comes with the territory. But I don’t like video games in the same way these guys do. They really know their stuff. They are good at them too.

Unusual talents

However, while the typical school drop out teen is obviously going to be into playing video games, let me tell you something that might surprise you. Quite a lot of them play Chess. Now Chess might have a negative reputation. It isn’t really a sport associated with lower classes, or indeed the younger generation, but in many ways, it is deeply accessible. I have literally purchased a Chess set from Poundland for a quid, and I’m fairly confident I could get one cheaper if I hit up car boot sales etc.

Not a forgotten art

Here is the thing, when these young people suggested we have a game I gladly accepted. Shamefully not entirely for their benefit. I love winning. I know I could never compete with them on Modern Warfare or on Fortnite. Those are young people games that need better reactions. Chess, however, takes a certain amount of grey matter. It is a cerebral game. Yep, you got it, I lost.  A lot. Turns out that a self-proclaimed strategy gamer can’t beat a bunch of 16-year-olds in a game of Chess.

More common ground then you’d think.

Here is the thing. Chess probably has a lot more in common with video games then you might at first think. A fair few games are rooted in the ideas from more traditional games. Chess has had a key influence on modern strategy. The way that in most strategy games different units move in different ways and have different strengths is straight out of the Chess handbook.

Also, you could make the bold claim that Chess is a sort of precursor to eSports. Other than Poker can you name another board/card game that has major tournaments? Plus there are electronic Chess boards and plenty of Chess games on IOS. Okay it is possibly too bold to claim that Chess is an eSport but you’d be hard-pressed not to suggest it is at least a precursor.

The future of the thinking man’s game

While it is heartening to see that the game isn’t now solely the realm of the bourgeoisie there is no doubt that it isn’t as popular as it once was. From my time spent working in schools I have seen that teachers are still keen to teach kids how to play and that many establishments still run Chess clubs. It is also amazing to see the type of people you might not associate with the game playing it, and actually being quite handy as well. While it is never going to have a tournament as big as The Fortnite World Cup or the Dota 2 International I hope there will always be a place for Chess. A game that encourages you to always think ahead and plan. In modern society this instinct is often lacking. It is nice to see it return in some form.

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