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Players win thousands in new St. Louis chess tournament, chess interest spikes during pandemic

Interest in the sport has skyrocketed because of the downtime many people experienced during the pandemic and the popularity of the Netflix show "The Queen's Gambit"

ST. LOUIS — Sunday was the final day of an inaugural weekend chess tournament put on by the local Italian landmark Piazza Imo on the Hill and the Saint Louis Chess Club.

It’s their first fall tournament, with hopes of many more to come. 

Adults played each other at the boards Sunday afternoon. Thanks to funds collected by Piazza Imo, top players had the chance to walk away with a prize fund of $2,250. The tournament was open to the public.

On Saturday, kids in grades K-12 got a chance to play. 

The chess club’s scholastic manager and players in the tournament said interest in the sport has skyrocketed because of the downtime many people experienced during the pandemic and the popularity of a 2020 Netflix show.

"There was a series that came out on Netflix called 'The Queen's Gambit' and it was a huge success and spiked chess interest across the globe. I would say chess interest is up like 30-40%," said scholastic manager Richard Pointer.

He added that part of his job is to introduce kids around the city to the game of chess.

Washington University student and tournament competitor Philip Keisler said St. Louis is a good place to learn how to play the game.

"I think the nice thing about St. Louis is there are so many resources available. So you can really get a great start in chess," he said.

The Saint Louis Chess Club is located across the street from the World Chess Hall of Fame, making the corner at Euclid and Maryland avenues in the Central West End a premiere spot for the game in St. Louis — and across the world.

The club takes new members all year, at all levels. Visit the Saint Louis Chess Club website to learn more about how to connect with the club.