11 Reasons Why Chess Is The King Of All Games

11 Reasons Why Chess Is The King Of All Games

| 74 | Fun & Trivia

Ever since 2020, chess has seen tremendous growth as a game. In December 2019, chess was averaging at a little over 1,900 viewers per month on Twitch. Fast forward to February 2021, when PogChamps 3 was happening, and that number grew to 30,000.

While events like PogChamps and The Queen's Gambit have elevated the game's popularity to new heights, that doesn't explain why chess is still so successful. After all, hype can only last for so long. Millions of the newer chess players are still enjoying the game, long after Beth Harmon made her last move against Borgov.

So, why is this ancient board game so magnetic? What makes chess one of—if not the—greatest games of all time?

Here are 11 reasons:

Chess Has Great Gameplay

Have you ever tried to eat a juicy and delicious steak using nothing but flimsy plastic silverware? If you haven't, let me tell you: it's a terribly frustrating experience. You try to savor that fine meal, but the plastic fork shatters in your hands while your food gets colder and colder.

Playing a game with beautiful graphics and a great storyline but awful gameplay is much like that experience. You sit there trying to have a good time, but you simply don't have the means to do it. In the gaming world, gameplay is king.

11 Reasons Why Chess Is The King Of All Games

Gameplay is, at an elementary level, the way a user interacts with a game. There are quite a few technical factors that go into "great gameplay," and let me tell you: chess hits them all. And it hits them hard. Good playability, just the right balance between challenge and reward, plenty of tools for players to improve... you name it! makes this point stick out even more! Fair pairing is a no-brainer; you can't make illegal moves (even that mysterious pawn move is legal!); we take care of your clock for you; you can learn all the rules for free. What a great time to be alive!

That alone would be reason enough to make it a great game, but there's more.

You Can Play Chess Over And Over Again

Time for some mind-boggling numbers. Let's suppose two random people are playing a game of chess. After only two moves by each player, the game could've reached one of 197,281 different positions (including the Fool's Mate). After four more moves for each side, there are 84,998,978,956 possible positions.

In the video below, Dr. James Grime from the Numberphile YouTube channel talks about the number of possible chess games. If you like numbers, I highly suggest you watch the video. If you don't like numbers, I still think you should watch it as it'll blow your mind.

According to Dr. Grime, if we take into consideration only three sensible moves per player per turn and a 20-move game (20 moves for each side), you would still have 1040 different games that could arise. I know this doesn't mean much to us, but Dr. Grime puts it into perspective: "If, for example, everyone in the world paired off and they had to play a [different] game of chess every day, (...) to play all possible games, it would still take you trillions and trillions of years to play them all."


11 Reasons Why Chess Is The King Of Games

As you can see, chess is a game that's full of possibilities and replayability. You'll hardly ever play the same game twice unless you're playing for a quick draw with the Bongcloud. Yet the game is consistent enough that it doesn't feel like you're navigating a sea of chaos every time you start a new game. That balance is just divine!

Chess Is Cheap

If you do a quick search online, you can find a complete tournament chess set and board for less than $20. What's more, that chess set will probably last for a lifetime—no patches or upgrades needed.

If you don't feel like you need a tournament-approved chess set, the price goes even lower. For less than $15, you can find decent sets that will also last forever.

Would you rather spend $15 on a month of Netflix? That's fine. You can play chess for free on! And if you're good enough, you don't even need an internet connection to play—you can do it using nothing but your mind! Take that, Grand Theft Auto!

You Are The One Leveling Up

Do you know that Dragonite you spent hours training to make it invincible in? When you turn your console off (or play the next generation of Pokemon), all that work will go down the drain. What a waste.

As satisfying as it is to level up your character or the monsters you carry around in your pocket, there's nothing like leveling yourself up. When you're playing chess, you are the one getting faster, sharper, and stronger. Not only that, but you can also transfer the skills you've acquired from chess to other aspects of your life.

11 Reasons Why Chess Is The Greatest Game

We also have the added benefit that people think chess players are geniuses. Would you mind not letting them know that's not true? I appreciate it.

Chess Is Visually Appealing 

"Appealing visuals in chess? Are you serious? Have you ever seen games like Assassins Creed or Watch Dogs? How can you even compare chess to them?" Well, first of all, I'm not comparing chess to those games. Chess is clearly much better (wink).

When I say "appealing visuals," I'm not talking about mind-boggling 3D effects or ultra-realistic representations of reality. But if you've ever taken some time to appreciate the beauty of a wooden chess set, you know what I mean. Take an extra eight minutes to watch the video below, and I dare you to not fall in love with the shapes and elegance of chess pieces:

Chess Is Timeless

Chess is one of the oldest board games in the world. The last time chess had a meaningful change in its rules was most likely more than 400 years ago. Compare that to the fast-paced world of online games where new versions or new game patches come out very often.

While some might say that's boring, I would suggest it's marvelous. Try watching a replay of Counter-Strike 1.6 or playing the first few versions of FIFA. You'll tear up, and not positively. Aside from the nostalgia, there's little value to doing that.

Now, I invite you to take a look at this game played in 1851, aptly called the Immortal Game. If this game doesn't give you the chills, I don't know what will.

Chess Brings Us All Together

If you enjoy classical, near-perfect intellectual battles, chess is the game for you. If you like fast-paced games fueled by trash-talking, chess is also the game for you. Chess has something for everyone.

From the classy World Chess Championship to the meme-esque PogChamps, chess appeals to all audiences and brings us all together. It's hard to see a game that can bring together men in suits, women in dresses, and streamers wearing whimsical shirts. Yet, somehow chess can pull it off.

Chess Is Skill-Based

If you like gambling, this is probably not a good thing about chess. But if you enjoy playing games where the outcome depends (almost) purely on your ability, chess is perfect for you!

While games of chance can be fun, they can also be disheartening. There is a scene in the hit show "The Office" that illustrates this point. Kevin, the office's accountant and seasoned poker player, is at a poker table that includes Phillys, a saleswoman with no poker experience. Kevin goes all-in with three queens but loses after Phillys accidentally finds out she had "all the clovers" (a flush).

11 Reasons Why Chess Is The Greatest Game Of All Time

While skilled poker players do tend to win more in the long run, this sort of unlucky blow can and does happen occasionally. And let's face it: once is more than enough. So, apart from the sporadic mouse slip, the future of your chess games depends exclusively on you.

Chess Is An Action-Packed Game

"Now you're just pushing things." I know, this seems like a bit too much. I don't blame you if you call me out in the comments. However, let me explain myself.

While two people sitting down and staring at a board for hours on end may not seem like much, in reality, it is. With every passing second during a chess game, both players intensely calculate the infinite possibilities ahead of them. Although the board remains unchanged for several minutes, the players and spectators constantly move pieces around in their heads. IM Levy Rozman's video lets you peek behind the curtain to appreciate all the action going on inside GM Garry Kasparov's head while playing against GM Anatoly Karpov:

I don't know of many games where both players are always playing. Even people watching the game are thinking about multiple variations and trying to figure out the next move. Now, that's what I call action!

I understand if you're not satisfied with my logic, though. You prefer "real" action—intense battles with stuff flying around the screen and where every millisecond counts. Well, I leave you with this short clip:

Chess Was The First Game Played Online

When it comes to online gaming, chess is the OG. Chess was one of the first apps on a computer and the first game ever played online. If that's not cool enough for you, I'll give you one more: chess was likely one of the first games played between Earth and space. It happened in 1970, when two Russian cosmonauts played against ground control. They even had a special zero-gravity chessboard with them to make this possible.

Does Valorant have special zero-gravity gear for their players? Didn't think so.

Chess Is A Mix Of Science, Art, And Fun

There's only one thing that can bring together art, science, and fun together—and no, I'm not talking about papier mache volcanos.

Chess competitions have been around for a few hundred years. As with any other competitive game or sport, serious players who dedicated their lives to chess have developed numerous techniques to improve and get ahead of the pack. In particular, GM Mikhail Botvinnik (who even looks like a scientist, by the way) gets credit for giving chess a systematic training approach for professional players. Chess improvement became a science.

11 Reasons Why Chess Is The Greatest Game Of All Time
GM Mikhail Botvinnik. Photo: Dutch National Archives, CC.

Still, chess leaves room for improvisation and creativity. Take some time to go over some of GM Mikhail Tal's best games and I dare you not to be awestruck. Much like Salvador Dali paintings, Tal's jaw-dropping sacrifices can take you to a surreal world that will leave you breathless.

Tal's games are only a tiny fraction of the truly stunning games played throughout history. Check out this masterpiece created in 1912. Legend has it this game was so beautiful that spectators started throwing gold coins over the board after the game was over. Simply exquisite!

Now, the best part of it all. Not everyone is as smart as a scientist or inspiring as an artist. Yet, we can all have fun with chess. Sure, my games lack precision and when I move my queen within the enemy pawn's reach you can bet good money it's a blunder. Nonetheless, I still have a lot (maybe even too much) of fun with chess.

And my guess is that if you play chess (or if you start playing) you will too.

What are your favorite things about chess? Let us know in the comments below!

Pedro Pinhata

Pedro Pinhata is a Sr. Digital Content Writer for who writes articles, feature announcements, event guides, and more. He has been playing chess since 2019 and lives in Brazil.

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