By Evan Keeler, contributing writer
The chess club at Nantucket High School has been a long-lasting program that has spanned many a year during its stint. Now run by ESL teacher Devin Durand, it hosts a couple of members and holds meetings usually on Wednesdays. After winter break, the meeting of the week of January 3rd was postponed, as was the meeting right before break because many were absent for that span.
With the recent resurgence of the chess world, chess has stepped into the spotlight along with many of the strategy games at the forefront of the public’s interest. Because of the game’s great complexity, with absolute geniuses dedicating their lives to it, such as Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and current five-time World Champion, Magnus Carlson, many are put off by the game, having to compete with those who are so high level and having such a long road ahead in order to reach said level, most people don’t have the time, nor the energy to do such a thing.
But in recent events, a lower level that many can strive for has been popularized. During the May 2020 season, “Chess.com” announced an amateur chess tournament that boasted many widely popular streamers on the site “Twitch” that were interested in the game. It was announced that these newcomers to the game would be coached by masters of the game’s highest level, Grandmasters and International Masters, and over the next month or so, the players were taught from their beginner level to the highest level that they could reach in the allotted time.
Once this tournament began on June 9th, the 16 contestants that were participating went through a double-elimination bracket, with the winner of the championship bracket being Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani, as well as the consolation bracket winner, Charlie “moistcr1tical” White, both ending with a score of 2-1 respectively in both final games. This amateur tournament brought many new players who previously either played for fun or those who had been wary of the games high skill requirement, to finally begin to take the game seriously and try to improve their skill, and it has shown in the high viewership of the 1st, 2nd 3rd, and 4th pogchamps that have happened up to this point.
In these tournaments, many high caliber people have participated, such as the actor from the office, Rainn Wilson; World-class strongman, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson; the extremely popular rapper, Sir Robert “Logic” Hall; and professional poker player, Daniel Negreanu. Because of these celebrities bringing in many people into the Chess atmosphere, the scene has seen booming popularity, even seeing 613,000 viewers at peak for the 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship on a single stream of the event.
Durand has said that the hit Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sanders, has also brought a lot of attention to the game. The series follows a fictional woman by the name of Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon and her rise to the court of world champion. This trippy but sophisticated series was released on Netflix on October 23rd, with endorsement by many professionals of the game. From the grasp that Netflix has over the populus, many became interested in the game through this popular miniseries. Durand also said that he was hopeful that a future master of the game may lie somewhere in Nantucket.
The Nantucket chess club is also doing more things of interest. For example, it will be holding a chess tournament that is proposed to run from the middle of February through to its end. Registration is open to all and will be held in Room 107 of the High School. Durand has stressed that all skill levels are welcomed and encouraged to join the event as the more participants the higher the level of competitiveness. The tournament will be run through a classical tournament bracket and the seating for said tournament will be determined by a random drawing that is done by Durand himself. This event should allow for every participant to get a great deal of experience with tournament play, not to mention playing with an actual board unlike the popular chess apps Chess.com and Lichess.com.