Walking around Hatfield campus, one may run into large chess boards that have been put near the Aula, Thuto, and 10’zs. According to ‘Sprout Landscapes’, they are there to allow students to blow off steam and interact with others in-between classes.

Chess has a long history that spans many centuries and is, therefore, a game most associated with older generations.However, the Netflix-produced series The Queen’s Gambit have helped sky-rocket the game’s appeal. The game itself, although somewhat daunting to begin with, is less complicated than its reputation suggests. You may believe the game requires a high level of thought and for you to be a ‘genius’ right off-the-bat, but most people around campus just play for fun, to take their minds off of the demands of campus life. The many benefits of playing chess include an improvement in memory, calculation, visual-spatial skills as well as critical-thinking ability, all of which can lead to reduced cognitive decline (postponing the onset of dementia).

One of the many students who make regular use of these boards is Jermi Ramakrishnan, a third-year Industrial Engineering student. He played in high school and still, of course, enjoys the game now. He sees it less as a ‘Queen’s Gambit’ style high-stakes game but, rather, as a way to ‘kill time’ in-between classes. When asked if chess helps him in his studies, Ramakrishnan said no – for him, it’s all fun and games. 

Chess’ popularity seems to be on the rise, from TV-shows and online games galore – some of which are quite lucrative for players. Recently, there was a huge scandal in the chess world when the 31-year-old Grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen (who rose to that rank at the age of 13), was beaten by 19-year-old Hans Niemann. The episode saw Carlsen accusing Niemann of cheating as, at the time of the tournament, Carlsen was ranked first and Niemann 40th. What raised further suspicion is that Niemann has previously been banned from online-tournaments for cheating. These scandals are not limited to these international tournaments as UP has had its own chess scandal – the case of the missing king piece belonging to the Thuto board remains unsolved (if you have any information regarding ‘King-gate’, don’t hesitate to reach-out to PDBY).       

The world of chess is very interesting and large, and one PDBY reckons could see a UP student, a Magnus Carlsen or Beth Harmon, rise up and clinch the title of Grandmaster. ‘Queen’s Gambit’ showed Harmon come from nothing to become Grandmaster so, what can start out as merely a way to kill time could, maybe, become something that completely changes someone’s life… could that someone be you?

Chess is an official sport at UP and students can join the university’s club for R500.

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