Every so often, a game catches the attention of the younger generation while simultaneously prompting the ire of parents and teachers.

From billiards to dice and from Dungeons and Dragons to the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, the younger generations’ games have troubled adults with a capital T, to quote Professor Harold Hill, and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.

Teachers and parents may find themselves encouraging their students and children to play one particular game that has surged in popularity recently. Some parents and school clubs may even go so far as to hire tutors for the game. That’s because, while the debate still rages over the comparative merits of video games or even tabletop role-playing games, this strategy-based simulation involving two opposing armies bent on assassinating their enemy’s king has long-established benefits for sharpening up players’ mental facilities.

Readers might have already guessed the game under consideration is chess. Teenagers are falling in love with it in massive numbers.

According to the website AtOnce.com, chess has witnessed a total U.S. participation increase of 15% in the past year. Additionally, female participation in the game increased by 20%. But by far the greatest growth was seen among teens aged 13-17, causing more than a little head scratching among teachers who suddenly had to contend with students playing chess on their phones during class and prompting articles from The New York Times and the gaming magazine Polygon.

In our current social media-dominated culture, one obvious explanation for the seemingly sudden explosion in interest could be the rise of chess streamers. A whole generation of young chess prodigies are making a name streaming their matches to audiences across the world, often adding a humorous or dramatic flair to the game.

The very best players in the world, Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, have become internet celebrities, with followings rivaling that of the biggest YouTube stars. Other players, not quite as accomplished as Carlsen or Nakamura, such as Dina Belenkaya or the Botez sisters Andrea and Alexandra have become known online for their large personalities and antics as much as their play. In addition to the presence of charismatic chess personalities, the enforced isolation of the Covid era, which forced bored children and teens to search for new ways to interact with one another, may have also had a role in leading them to the game.

Whatever the reason for the development, most teachers and parents can probably agree that, all in all, the chess explosion is a good thing. As Dr. Tim McGrew, professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University and a chess champion himself, explained to NowKalamazoo, the ability to truly concentrate on a task, as one does in chess, is “a skill that’s transferable to so many other areas of life.”