During the pandemic, the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit famously sparked a huge increase in chess interest — but one online play engine turned what would have been a spike into a groundswell that eclipses even esports. Jessica Lucas traces how the royal game became a digital juggernaut.

By January 2023, Chess.com reported hitting over 10 million active players in a single day—more than the daily average of World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, and Among Us combined—leading the site’s servers to crash. Its online schedule now features a who’s who of chess grand masters who provide content for users almost 24 hours a day. A new class of chess celebrities, like sisters Alexandra and Andrea Botez, who recently surpassed 1 million Twitch subscribers on their joint account, and international master Levy Rozman, who has over 3 million YouTube subscribers, regularly appear on Chess.com.