BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Chess is having a moment- Google searches for “how to play chess” are spiking, “The Queen’s Gambit” is Netflix’s largest limited scripted series to date, and chessboards are flying off of the virtual shelves of retailers like eBay.
Danielle Little, founder of Young Royalty Chess Academy, says there has been an increased interest in the game since the pandemic started.
“It’s a game that you can play endlessly with different variations,” she said. “The culmination of quarantine and the release of the show “The Queen’s Gambit” has really sparked interest- I think the show did an excellent job showing how intimate but exciting and invigorating chess can be.”
Little, 22, has been playing for over ten years.
She got started while waiting to be picked up from an afterschool program.
“Another student who was there taught me, and then it got to the point where we were playing and I was beating the people after school,” Little recalled.
She moved to Buffalo and attended Buffalo Seminary, where she met a parent who was a chess tournament director.
“We started a chess club, and I started to engage in tournaments,” Little said.
By her senior year, Little was ranked #41 of young women in the nation by the U.S. Chess Federation.
Now, she’s bringing the game to the Queen City with the Young Royal Chess Academy, teaching in schools, communities, youth organizations- any place that works with youth and has a passion for chess.
She works with students five and up-and of any age- to teach them the game, and the decision-making, strategic planning, and analytical thinking skills that come with it.
“Anyone and everyone can learn,” Little said. “With chess, there’s a lot of connotations and ideas that it’s only for smart people, or you have to have some crazy IQ- it’s not that at all, you just need the right teacher.”
Young Royal Chess Academy was named the 2020 Black Business of the Year by BBB-accredited minority business directory That Brown Bag.
Chess can help fill the gaps in a person’s thinking style, Little added.
“Each move says something about how that person makes decisions,” Little said. “The biggest part is helping people to make more strategic and in-depth decisions that are going to lead them to wherever it is that they are trying to go, or wherever their checkmate is.”
Little says “The Queen’s Gambit” accurately portrays chess tournaments and competitive play.
“You’re walking into these spaces where it’s primarily male-dominated, and there’s not a lot of estrogen, and there’s not a lot of flair and pizzazz,” Little said. “When you think of a chess player, I’m not necessarily the typical person who comes to mind.”
But chess is a game for everyone.
“It’s not about age, ability, or the different things that would limit a person in a typical sport,” she said. “It’s really just your mind- you can win or lose no matter what.”
Young Royalty Chess Academy offers in-person and online lessons.