“I’m horny for chess,” is a phrase that sounds like it belongs in a porn catering to intellectual kink—and yet, here I am, using it not in porn but in my actual real life and very much meaning it. If you’ve watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, you may well know exactly what I’m talking about, too. Despite featuring little actual sex or nudity (there’s some mature content, but on a scale of zero to Normal People, this show clocks in at around a five), the episodes—all of which do indeed focus on mastering the game of chess—manage to be incredibly sexy.
Maybe it’s an effect of social distancing for the past 832 months that seeing two people sit across from each other and play chess feels incredibly intimate. Or maybe it’s the intellectual strain required to make each precise move on the board, with intense stares and dramatic sighs to match. Whatever it is, it made me want to learn that language and feel some of the brain-twisting heat myself.
After watching only one episode, I was Googling both “how to play chess” and “beautiful chess sets.” And it seems that I’m in good company. According to Google Trends data, the search term “how to play chess” skyrocketed right alongside the late October release of The Queens Gambit. The good news is, that as far as activities go, chess is a perfect one for a winter in quarantine, when we can expect to be stuck inside anyway. That’s because in addition to giving us something to do to stave off our boredom and existential dread, the benefits of playing chess extend to cognitive gains: Playing chess has been linked to slower cognitive decline as you age, and one study found that chess players outperformed non-chess players in cognitive ability tests. Chess has also been found to activate the right side of the brain, boosting creativity.
And to make the most of those benefits of chess, novice players like me can sign up for online classes. The Mechanics’ Institute is hosting free two-hour chess classes for women every Sunday until December 27, which take place via Zoom, and Chess.com also offers free lessons. So, now that you know some of the brain-boosting benefits of chess and online resources to make the most of them, are you ready to play? If so, shop five pretty chess sets below.
1. ZitounaWood Rustic Chess Set, $119
Since I’m still horny for chess, I might just explore my interest by creating an OnlyFans account for playing chess in my underwear. If I do, this rustic board is perfect for the cottagecore aesthetic that I’m aiming for.
Shop Now: ZitounaWood Rustic Chess Set, $119
As much as I would like to drop a full paycheck on a fancy chess set, I am still in the learning phase and have no one to play with aside from my dog. So for those, like me, interested in doing the practical thing and starting with a reasonably priced and still aesthetically pleasing wooden set, consider your board selected.
Shop Now: Chess Armory 15″ Wooden Chess Set, $29
3. JouryStore 12″ Wooden Chess Set, $75
When I get to a Bobby Fisher level of confidence in my chess game, I’ll purchase this gorgeous board to pat myself on the back about it.
Shop Now: JouryStore 12″ Wooden Chess Set, $75
4. GamieTM Glass Chess Set, $22
A glass chess set says, “I trust myself with breakable things, and I am therefore very responsible.” (It’s a good counterbalance to the plants inevitably in various stages of decline throughout your living space.)
Shop Now: GamieTM Glass Chess Set, $22
Chess appeals to my sense of drama, so what better set on which to beat someone than this metal one?
Shop Now: Classic Game Collection Metal Chess Set, $63
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