Along with the rest of the world, Malaysia has seen an increased interest in chess after the release of Netflix's hit miniseries The Queen's Gambit
According to Utusan Borneo, Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) committee member Muhammad Firdaus Ismail said many individuals who previously had no interest in the game are now beginning to learn it and purchase items related to chess since the series premiered on 23 October.
"We can see that the series has influenced many viewers to learn more about chess. This, in turn, increases the demand for things such as chessboards and chess-related face masks," he told Bernama recently.
Muhammad Firdaus, who is also the manager of TRAJU Team chess classes in Putrajaya, said they have seen an increase in the number of students signing up too — not just for classes, but also for online tournaments
"More and more kids, some who are very young, have started to show their interest in chess," he told SAYS.
He also noted that anything related to The Queen's Gambit has become a hot topic of discussion on social media, which has continued to spur public interest in the game.
The Queen's Gambit, adapted from the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, is reported to be the most-watched limited series on Netflix
The show drew over 62 million viewers within the first 28 days of its arrival on the streaming service.
It follows the life of prodigy Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who started playing chess in the basement of an orphanage until she becomes the greatest player in the world, all while struggling with addiction.
In the United States, NPR reported that in the wake of the show's popularity, chess set manufacturer and supplier Goliath Games saw an increase of over 1,000% in sales at Walmart. Meanwhile, online sales of chess sets on eBay also increased by 215%.
Back home, Malaysia has yet to see a player achieve the title of Grandmaster — the highest achievement awarded to chess players by the International Chess Federation
However, for now, Muhammad Firdaus said the national chess team will concentrate on preparing for the 2021 SEA Games in Vietnam, aiming to bag more gold medals next year.
21-year-old Yeoh Li Tian bagged Malaysia our first-ever gold medal in the men's rapid chess event during the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.
Aside from Yeoh, Muhammad Firdaus said another young player, 18-year-old Wong Yin Long, is also the country's hope for a medal next year.
Besides that, maybe inspired by The Queen's Gambit, he added that the MCF has newly set up a National Junior Programme, an intensive preparatory programme to identify and train new talents for the 2021 SEA Games.
He said a total of 10 talented players under the age of 21 have been identified so far.