Is chess really cool again?

Chess is back for 2020. Well, it never really went away, but apparently it’s cool again. Was it ever cool? Either way, it’s back in full force with clubs, cafes, theater performances and even chess (more on that later) popping up in the capital. Same voguewrote about it, which must mean it’s officially cool, right?

First up is Casual Chess, the central London café run by female chess players who meet every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (upstairs in Leon on Tottenham Court Road of all places) to fight for first place. Everyone is welcome, men too, even if the club is exclusively female. Those looking to get involved can use their helpful Facebook group to arrange a meet up with a player of a similar level – could chess be the new Tinder?

If you’re FIDE 2000 or higher (I guess that’s great), you can post it to the group and the organizers will match you with a top player to compete against. As someone who doesn’t know his pawns from his bishops (I’m ashamed to say I’ve never played), this game of chess seems very civilized.

Plus, it’s completely free. Well, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you just have to buy something from the Leon counter. And on Fridays, the team collects a £3 donation for running costs, but offers free tuition to women and underrepresented people in the chess world. Again, so civilized.

For the bravest chess fans, let me take it up a notch and tell you about Chessboxing.

Chess is an unorthodox mix of two of mankind’s oldest sports (is chess really a sport, though?), in which opponents fight on a chessboard in the ring with rooks of chess and boxing alternated until there was a winner either by checkmate. Knock out. Civilized? Chess players are crazy!

The next nerd fight takes place on St. Patrick’s Day at the Dome in Tufnell Park and promises to be the ultimate test of brains and brawn.

For the most voyeuristic of the chess curious, aka me, get into chess with Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, the play currently playing at the Hampstead Theatre.

Set in Reykjavik in 1972, it takes a look at the players, Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer and what became “the match of the century” – the first chess game to attract such worldwide media attention. It is set against the Cold War and features an intense confrontation of superpower, fame and superiority on both sides of the Atlantic.

You’ll have to be quick as this is his last tour – the last show will be on January 18 – but there are still tickets available. Get them here.

Looks like pawns and bishops are pretty badass after all. I could grab the coffee on their free chess lessons for girls and get involved.

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