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Hit show sparks chess frenzy

            Hit miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” has led to a surge of interest in chess, with one popular website registering millions of new players and academies reporting unprecedented demand.

            Netflix said the show, which follows the turbulent career of a fictional female child prodigy in the 1950s and 1960s, has become its most-watched ever and is currently the number-one ranked program in 63 countries.

            Gaming site Chess.com said the series had prompted a wave of interest — already piqued by the pandemic and top-flight chess players appearing on the Twitch gaming platform — with new daily registrations up 400 percent.

            “Since the release of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ we have seen roughly 2.5 million new members join,” the website’s Nick Barton told AFP.

            Worldwide, Google reported searches for “chess” are at their highest level in 14 years.

            It is just the latest burst of popularity for a game that is believed to have originated in India in the seventh century and was played – and occasionally banned – by medieval European kings, before becoming more established in the late 1800s.

            In modern times, chess had a resurgence during the Cold War.

            That period forms the backdrop for “The Queen’s Gambit”, and the story of a youthful American taking on a wily Soviet grandmaster is inspiring another generation of players.

            “There has been a massive surge in adults interested,” according to chess master and Sydney Academy of Chess director Brett Tindall, who called it “unprecedented”.

            Tindall told AFP he has fielded calls from 40-50 adults looking for lessons in the last few weeks, and when carrying academy-branded kit he reports being stopped in the street and asked his opinion about the series.*AFP

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