But, like, how good is chess ACTUALLY?

Humor by Michelle Fu
April 8, 2021, 9:51 p.m.

Today on video game reviews, we’re going to be looking at chess, which is apparently the hot new online multiplayer with the youths these days. 

“But chess is one of the oldest and most distinguished games of all time!” you protest. Shut up, I don’t care. As a certified video game reviewer for The Occasionally, I’m going to be rating chess on its story, characters, balance, gameplay and enjoyability —  determining, once and for all, if chess really lives up to the hype.


The premise of chess certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Two warring kingdoms? That might as well be stock fantasy/medieval archetype #23. It’s perfectly serviceable, but come on. I expected more. What are they fighting for? Where is the intrigue? What do the peasants think? I’d like a peasant perspective, please. 


Here’s where things get interesting. In chess, the characters are but blank slates for the player to determine. Is your king a brash leader who undermines his own safety by charging into battle at the first opportunity (Bongcloud, anyone?), or is he a coward who stays home for the entirety of the war, hiding behind his own pawns until it leads to his downfall? Do your knights find themselves trapped behind enemy lines, or do they assert dominance over the center of the board? 

This is certainly inventive storytelling, and for that I have to give chess credit. However, like the story, I want more. Sacrificing a knight would be so much more meaningful if, instead of a random horse, he was a poor young man from the provinces who had always dreamed of serving his king and worked tirelessly against all odds to achieve his position. And I know that I’d blunder my pieces much less if they had, I don’t know, NAMES. 


Let’s get this out of the way: This game has some serious balance issues. The queen, for one, is ridiculously overpowered. Who’s going to main bishop over queen? Literally no one, that’s who. Sure, relying on the queen is a pitfall, but we seriously need to #nerfthequeen. 


We need to talk about this. The rules are simple enough, with a few snags, but chess is the kind of game where it’s almost impossible to seriously improve without knowing the meta. I’m talking textbooks full of openings, tactics and analysis. This is not a game where you can get by with sheer dumb luck and instincts; casual players hopping on their chess server hoping for a light and breezy time will be utterly destroyed by Alekhine this and Sicilian that. To add insult to injury, the game is entirely balanced around this kind of knowledge. What’s that? I’m just bad at chess? I don’t know what you’re talking about. 


So after all that, here’s the most important question. Is chess fun? If you like using your brain for some reason, then you’ll probably enjoy it. If you get tilted easily (looking at you, FPS gamers), then probably not. 

Overall, does chess deserve all the praise it gets? On one hand, the story and characters are lacking, the balance has issues, and there’s an overdependence on knowing the meta. On the other hand, it runs at a crisp 60fps (or better, if you’re playing in person, but does over-the-board chess even exist anymore?), it’s free to play and if strategy floats your boat, then it will be a fun and addicting experience. After weighing the positives and negatives, I’m going to rate chess an en passant/10, would blunder my queen again. 

Editor’s Note: This article is purely satirical and fictitious. All attributions in this article are not genuine, and this story should be read in the context of pure entertainment only.

Michelle Fu ’24 was the Graphics Managing Editor for Vol. 262-264. Before graduating, she could be found grinding out p-sets, shredding on the violin, and taking stealthy photos of fluffy dogs.

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