Netflix just figured out a new way to keep its viewers in check.
The streaming service has sparked a renewed interest in chess after the success of its buzzy drama miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a troubled prodigy who takes the chess world by storm in the 1960s.
Downloads for Chess.com’s app have skyrocketed in the United States since the series debuted last month, according to new data from App Annie. Among strategy games on the iPhone, the app has jumped to No. 3 in the United States and No. 2 in the U.K., the data shows. Among all games in the United States, the “Chess” app rose 256 spots since the series debuted. It’s now No. 62.
Oddly, the iPhone version of the app seems to have benefited much more than the Android version. In November so far, new “Chess” accounts on iOS are outpacing those on Android by 61%, a rep from Chess.com tells me. Normally, the two versions track about the same.
The popularity of chess has, of course, ebbed and flowed over the last 1,500 years. By some accounts, the game dipped in popularity in the late 20th century following Bobby Fischer’s 1970s heyday, at least in the United States. But COVID-fueled lockdowns have been good for the game. Over the last several months, as homebound people around the world have sought out new diversions, online chess tournaments have emerged as an increasingly popular spectator sport.
The Queen’s Gambit was based on a novel and written with a one-and-done story arc, and so far no plans for a second season have been announced. That means the bump in interest is likely to be a fleeting one for chess unless the creators can figure out a way to milk the idea.
Your move, Netflix.
This post has been updated with additional data.