Who could have guessed that this thousand-year-old tactical board game would have a born-again resurgence in popularity?

At 86 Elm Place in Nutley, New Jersey, Martha recalls the Kostyra family gathering round the kitchen table for game night in her childhood home. "Checkers, carom, chess, cards, Chinese checkers, and Monopoly were just some of the games we played regularly," she said in one of her "Remembering" columns for Martha Stewart Living. "This kitchen table was the site of almost all the games we eight Kostyras played. Because both Mother and Dad were schooled as teachers, we were not encouraged to just play as much as we were encouraged to become proficient—as expert as possible, actually."

black and white checkered chess board
Credit: Phat'hn Sakdi Skul Phanthu / EyeEm / Getty Images

To this day, Martha enjoys a good board game that engages your brain and keeps you socially connected. These games stimulate several senses: you have to listen to bids, remember what's been played, communicate with your partner, and plot your next move. These games also promote continued learning: you learn with each round played and new tactic acquired. One of our all-time favorites? Chess. The game of chess, a​ two-player​ board game​,​ is one of those satisfying activities to pass the time. These days, we all feel like we have more time at home than ever before​ and are finding creative ways to keep busy during the pandemic. ​It's no secret that chess has been around forever​, whether you are just now noticing ​the game or have been perfecting your board moves for a long time. Ultimately, thanks to pop culture (and yes, the Netflix original The Queen's Gambit), ​this classic board game ​is redeemably modern once again.

​It's common knowledge that the general idea of chess is to leave your challenger's King vulnerable in order to claim a proper checkmate. However, there is more to the game of chess than just that, right?

At some point, we have all seen the iconic black and white chess board, and its pieces are arranged the same way every time: The second row (or rank) is filled with pawns; rooks go in the corners, then the knights next to them, followed by the bishops, and finally the queen, who always goes on her own matching color (white queen on white, black queen on black), and the king on the remaining square. The rules of movement are the same: Pieces cannot move through other pieces (although the knight can jump over other pieces), and they can never move onto a square with one of their own pieces. However, they can be moved into positions where they can capture other pieces (by landing on their square and then replacing them), defend their own pieces in case of capture, or control important squares in the game.

According to Britannica, chess is "played by two opponents on a checkered board with specially designed pieces of contrasting colors, commonly white and black. White moves first, after which the players alternate turns by fixed rules, each player attempting to force the opponent's the principal piece, the King, into checkmate—a position where it is unable to avoid capture." While some are lucky enough to learn the ins and outs of the game from a family member, others who want to pick up the pastime can learn from chess masters virtually. A few popular sites to learn the game of chess are Chessable and Chess.com. Here, newcomers can take chess courses, learn strategies, ask questions in online forums, as well as pick up advanced-level tactics. After learning some new skills, you can go head to head virtually with other chess players.

​Learning a new ability, while being stuck-at-home can not only bring families closer together, but chess is one of those games that can be played in-person or virtually whether it's online or via Zoom. ​And while the pandemic won't last forever, the new skills and hobbies picked up during this difficult time will be with you for a lifetime. And that is, as they would say, checkmate.


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