- 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 get millions of views with videos about chess.
- The creators of ChessTok 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 started posting comedic videos about the game.
He told Insider that his early videos didn’t get much attention and has since removed them. But in June 2021, six months after he started posting, a TikTok sketch referring to 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 showing his girlfriend playing chess, which has been viewed 9 million times.
ChessTok is one of the newest communities thriving on TikTok, bringing in millions of views as experienced and amateur players alike flock to the app.
The hashtag currently has 198 million views and its creators often get millions of likes and high engagement. The videos range from top players competing and detailed analysis of moves to comedy skits about the world of chess.
ChessTok follows a wider cultural boom around game
Humans 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, the popularity of the game increased after the release of
“The Queen’s Gambit,” which follows the fictional story of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmo (Anya Taylor-Joy), set in October 2020. The following month, Netflix said the show was its most-watched limited series.
The show caught the eye of one of the world’s top chess players and sparked a massive spike in interest in the game, as Insider previously reported.
Weber told Insider that around the time “The Queen’s Gambit” was released, he noticed an interest in chess “boom” and TikTok became a new home for the thriving community. While many of ChessTok’s best videos are comedic, many others are educational and offer players tips and tricks about the game.
Nick Moore has amassed 25,000 followers on TikTok which posts mostly educational chess content. Moore told Insider, “It doesn’t matter if it’s instructional, educational or entertaining. ChessTok unites a community with a common interest.”
TikTok empowers chess enthusiasts to connect in a new way
According to Weber, TikTok has enabled the chess community to connect and see themselves in the content they consume.
“Chess content is such a small segment on TikTok that when 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 show the level of community engagement, often with hundreds of users sharing advice, asking questions, and encouraging the creators to keep creating content.
This is one of Moore’s favorite parts of ChessTok. “Most people are involved and I enjoy being a resource to promote chess,” he told Insider via Instagram.
Daniel, a member of the ChessTok community who also runs the Instagram @thechessblog, where he has nearly 10,000 followers, told Insider that he thinks ChessTok still has room to grow.
“A bunch of strangers can’t have anything in common for chess and that’s enough,” he said.
Check out Insider’s Digital Culture team coverage here for more stories like this.