You walk into your next-period class. You take a quick glance before you take your seat, only to be reminded that you’d have to make it through the period solo. What could you do to pass the time? Listen to music? No, the earbuds would be too obvious. Text your friends? Nope, sneaking your phone would be too risky.
Your teacher asks the class to open an assignment on your laptops. Alas! The perfect opportunity. You swiftly grab your laptop from your bag and yank it open in relief. You type two words connected by a period into the browser’s search bar, the words that will single-handedly solve your hour of boredom.
But wait - maybe this “distracting laptop game” isn’t all that bad.
Chess.com is a website just as simple as its URL: a black background with a green and white chessboard at the center of its attention. The concept: you simply play chess. You can choose to either play with a computer or with another chess.com user across the web. The play itself is no different from a regular handheld chess board and pieces, other than for its handy convenience and newfound popularity.
Take a quick stroll in the hallways or take a quick look around the classroom, and you’ll be guaranteed to see its simplistic layout displayed throughout laptop screens.
But why chess?
Chess has had its stereotypes since the beginning of high school culture and has been reinforced through the depiction of chess players in some of the most famous high school movies ever. It’s been portrayed as the sport for the academic superheroes, the mathletes, and the classic nerds with cartoonishly big reading glasses. Even in today's society, social stigmas reserve chess for those who are extremely academically driven and value academics over their social lives.
With the rise of chess.com, however, these stigmas and stereotypes seem to have dissolved - but why is this?
A student at Germantown Friends School remarks that “chess.com changed these stereotypes because of the wide range of people who play it.” Other players suggest that chess would have always been a popular game if it weren’t for its inconveniences, inconveniences that chess.com essentially gets rid of.
Jerry Yuan ‘26 says, “Not having a board or the inconvenience of having a board was definitely a reason why chess didn’t spread as fast before the rise of chess.com,” while Jordan Bellosi ‘27 plays chess.com “because it makes playing chess so much more accessible [and] you can play the game almost anywhere!”
Just like the popular browser games before it, chess.com has been used as a way to pass time during the school day. “I play when I have [free periods] or am bored with friends,” says Leo Cook, ‘26. Sometimes, it's been used to pass the time during class.
However, compared to Tetris, Minesweeper, and Doodle Jump, surely chess.com is not the worst game students could be distracted by during class. At least chess.com “requires more brain power and strategy,” as Jordan adds, and surely teachers wouldn’t mind.
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Well, that definitely isn’t the case, and Ms. Neu, a teacher at Julia R. Masterman, makes this clear. “I think it is disrespectful to play any game, read a book, or do anything but pay attention while the teacher is providing instruction. Although, if time is provided for the students to complete a task and they are finished, I don’t have a problem with it,” says she. So, though we thank chess.com for all it has done to help grow the chess community, it may be best to leave it out of the classroom.