- Chess saw a surge in popularity in 2020 following the release of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit.”
- The trend spread to TikTok, where creators can gain millions of views with videos about chess.
- ChessTok creators say it’s an uplifting community based on a shared love of the game.
When chess enthusiast James Weber noticed a lack of chess content on TikTok, he saw an opportunity and began posting comedic videos about the game.
He told Insider his early videos didn’t gain much traction, and he has since deleted them. But in June 2021, six months after he began posting, a TikTok skit where he references chess master Eric Rosen went viral and, in his words, “the rest is history.”
Weber now has over 170,000 followers on the app and is the creator behind the most popular video under the #ChessTok hashtag — a skit where he depicts playing chess with his girlfriend which has been viewed 9 million times.
ChessTok is one of the latest communities to flourish on TikTok, and is bringing in millions of views as both seasoned and amateur players flock to the app.
The hashtag currently has 198 million views, and its creators frequently get millions of likes and high engagement. The videos range from top players going head to head and detailed analyses of moves, to comedic skits about the chess world.
ChessTok follows a broader cultural boom surrounding game
People have been playing chess for thousands of years, with early versions of the game dating back to the 6th century, according to Live Science.
But last fall saw an uptick in the game’s popularity after the release of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” which follows the fictional story of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmo (Anya Taylor‑Joy), in October 2020. The following month, Netflix said the show was its most-watched limited series.
Weber told Insider he noticed interest in chess “boom” around the time “The Queen’s Gambit” was released, and TikTok became a new home for the flourishing community. While many of ChessTok’s top videos are comedic, many others are educational, offering players tips and tricks about the game.
Nick Moore has racked up 25,000 followers on TikTok posting primarily educational chess content. Moore told Insider, “It doesn’t matter if it’s instruction, educational, or entertaining. ChessTok unites a community with a common interest.”
TikTok allows chess enthusiasts to connect in a new way
According to Weber, TikTok has allowed the chess community to connect and see themselves in the content they are consuming.
“Chess content is such a small segment on TikTok that whenever a chess player views my post or another ChessTok creator, they really connect with the creator,” he told Insider.
Comment sections under videos tagged #chesstok demonstrate the levels of engagement in the community, often featuring hundreds of users sharing advice, asking questions, and encouraging the creators to keep making content.
This is one of Moore’s favorite parts of ChessTok. “Most people are engaging and I like being a resource to try and promote chess,” he told Insider via Instagram.
Daniel, a member of the ChessTok community who also runs the Instagram @thechessblog, where he has close to 10,000 followers, told Insider he thinks ChessTok still has room to grow.
“A bunch of strangers can have nothing in common apart for the game of chess and that’ll be enough,” he said.