It’s early in the morning, 7:45, before first period at Pinecrest High School, and kids filter into the AP English classroom. They have made an extra effort to get to school early, no small feat for a teenager, to play the newest sensation - chess.
Since Covid, chess has made a huge comeback, soaring in popularity around the world and in Moore County, where it is being played by people of all ages. In middle schools, senior centers, and everywhere in between. “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix has been a hit, and online sites have seen a 3x interest.
Chess.com is the most popular Internet site with 94 million members, offering players the chance to match wits with someone at their level or play against a computer.
The students trickle into the room, some with their chess sets, find a partner, and start playing. Someone brings in a dozen glazed donuts. I want to speak up about the choice of breakfast, but I’m the photographer. I stay quiet. Soon, there at 24 kids, and the room fills with youthful energy.
One stands as he plays, some sit quietly and concentrate on their opponent’s next move, and others have a running conversation about the game's finer points. Mostly guys here this morning, but the girls are holding their own.
They are preparing for the first-ever Pinecrest Grand Championship to be held later this year. Details are still being worked out, but it will be a multi-elimination tournament with a trophy made mostly of repurposed parts and of course the creds that go along with being the first at anything.
Makes me want to call a friend and break out the old chessboard. Or should I be playing an online computer?