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Chess: Should it be mainstream?

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I hear a lot of folks say that they wish chess were more mainstream. They want it to be popular and appreciated by a great number of people. Some even find zany new ways to promote the game in hopes of gaining new fans. But I say: Why? What is the actual point?

Chess has always been sort of considered an activity for nerdy, geek-type kids. Rest assured, I know plenty of non-geeks who are very powerful players, but I digress. The captain of the football team is rarely also an accomplished chess player. That’s just the way it goes.

And so what? To me, part of the draw of chess is its inherent secrecy. It’s like being in a society very few realize exists. While seventeen zillion Americans are guzzling beer on the couch while watching large, sweaty men knock each other over in hopes of putting hands on an oblong ball, a few of us are sneaking away to the local coffee shop for blitz chess. Neat!

What if chess became really popular? We’d have kids wearing flat-billed ball caps smoking bud in the restrooms during rounds; we’d have new and ridiculous slang chess words created constantly; tournament fees would go up drastically; there would be chess reality shows sponsored by large corporations; chess equipment prices would soar. The list goes on and on.

Would anything good come from a sudden popularization of the ancient game? Well, sure. It’d be easier to find casual or tourney chess just about anywhere; tournament purses would rise astronomically; new and possibly very neat chess equipment would be manufactured; people who never would have considered chess might find they have true talent and master the game quickly. Etcetera.

Still, I think that if our beloved game went mainstream it would cause much more harm than good. I vote we keep our secret society just the way it is and forget about trying to recruit the masses. Something tells me it won’t work, anyhow. It’s hard to entice Joe Cool to learn how the knight moves when the alternative is awesome video games on the Xbox. Just sayin’.

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