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The Latest No-Good, Utterly Depraved, Satanic Teen Trend: Chess

Lock up those fiendish teens, they're employing the Karpov strategy!

Beth Harmon studies up on her chess skills.

A while back, I saw a meme on Tumblr showing a printed warning on a school classroom. It said something along the lines of, “Stop ditching class for chess, you’re in high school, you’re here to learn, why are you ditching for chess of all things.” I wish I could find the meme, but ultimately, I didn’t save it because I figured it was just one of many surrealist shitposts you might see at night before you fall asleep.

However, as the week went on, I only saw more and more posts about teens and chess. Apparently, this is bigger than an angrily worded printout of dubious origins: this is reality. The teens have lost it. They’re playing chess under the school bleachers during C period.

To which I say: what in the actual fuck?? I might have gone to a nerd school in my day, but even then, we weren’t having people ditch class for chess—let alone to devise (admittedly awesome) chess-playing strategies. One of my girlfriends would show up to AP Physics tests stoned out of her mind on edibles, that’s the kind of teen antics I’m used to hearing about. But chess? Utterly unthinkable.

AND utterly delightful. Don’t get it twisted, I might be baffled, but as someone with innate Mama Bear instincts, I’m loving that the current vice is just playing literal mind-games. Even more than that, apparently for a lot of kids, it’s less actually playing the games and more watching them.

In bringing this up to the rest of the TMS staff, I learned that live-streamed chess tournaments are becoming pretty popular on the internet and that teenagers are some of their biggest fans. One writer’s teen cousin confirmed (yes, we’ve got the on-the-ground teen scoop) that this is a real thing, and that it’s especially popular in schools that don’t actually have chess clubs. Which, when I think about it, must be most of them.

So, the next time your students ask to “go to the bathroom” while clutching their phones, or the next time your teenage kid says they’re “going to go study” with Jimmie down the street, rest assured: they’re not going to snort a mixture of cocaine and adderall like we used to. They’re just gonna watch some dork on Twitch play chess. Maybe you could join in, too.

(Featured Image: Netflix)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).