The bad news: the popular New York-based chess program Chess NYC won’t reopen its doors anytime soon. The good news: it doesn’t need to! Chess NYC has used this period of quarantine to redefine the game of chess—online—and the program is more exciting, fast-paced and alive than ever. One might even call it…the Chess Renaissance. For kids, at least.

“We’ve built our operation—our reputation—on the belief that kids shouldn’t be asked to sit still for unreasonable periods of time,” Chess NYC director Michael Propper says. “And we’ve taken that approach to our online programs.”

Until they believe it’s safe for kids to resume play in-person again (and even after it’s safe again), . Why? First and foremost, they’re proud that online chess cuts down borders. Kids get to meet, chat with and match with kids from all around the world—England, Africa, Canada and, of course, the United States. During this turbulent time, we could all use a little bit of cultural harmony, right?

Also—most importantly—Chess NYC has revolutionized the way kids play chess online. Their “Play N Stay” online programming cuts out the three areas that had previously given chess its stodgy reputation. One: kids have been known to complain, “Chess is too slow.” Well, Play N Stay eliminates that by only allowing 20-minute sides (this means the game is, max, 40 minutes). Another one of the complaints is that kids say that there are “too many draws.” Boom: Play N Stay doesn’t have draws, instead, instituting a tiebreaker system. Three: kids often say, “Chess is hard to learn!” Well, not anymore—Chess NYC promises that, with their system, you’ll be ready to compete in Level 1 matches after three short lessons.

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