Why Chess.com Should Not Be Banned

The Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) has taken measures to prevent the excessive use of the popular chess site, Chess.com. Ever since the release of the hit TV series, The Queen’s Gambit, chess has experienced a significant increase in popularity on streaming platforms and online chess websites. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, this growing trend has become more than an activity to counter boredom, but an enjoyable pastime activity. Excessive usage of these online chess websites during class has caused the district to block the site on the school website to deter class distraction. While this development makes the district’s intention to enhance classroom focus clear, restriction of chess websites is an counterproductive attempt to accomplish this goal.

Students, including myself, will simply turn to less educational and more problematic sites to fill their desire for personal amusement during class time. Further, such action is a testament to the district’s focus on inconsequential issues.

The distracted student population has not been deterred by the chess.com ban. On the contrary, such behavior has devolved into the usage of less academic and arguably more problematic apps. Freshman Taejin Chung illustrates this trend as he has switched from playing chess.com to “The Simpsons Road Rage,” a mindless racing game based on the hit TV show, the Simpsons. This example, while relatively harmless, shows a trend illustrating the destruction of integrity in student website usage, showing the counterproductivity of the district’s attempt to fight low attention span.

The district has gone further than simply blocking chess.com. Other popular sites that they have chosen to block include lichess.org and chess24.com, which have interfered with the ability to both play and watch top-level chess events. Not only does the district ultimately fail to improve classroom attentiveness, but also prevents the possibility of enjoying chess before, between, and after classes, fostering an environment in which a harmless academic activity has become unplayable for some. Others have found methods to bypass the restriction by way of virtual private networks (VPN), or by wasting cellular data. This may be somewhat inconvenient, but when finding something enjoyable to do during uninteresting school hours, they will not be stopped.

In addition to being a healthy activity to cope with school boredom, chess acts as a means of “relieving stress after completing classwork,” according to freshman Robert Silverman. With the daily pressure of academic performance, applying one’s brain to something academic with low stakes, can really be beneficial.

Most concerning of all is the knowledge that the district has completely mismanaged their priorities. Far more problematic sites than chess.com have been left untouched. “Sites that promote radical propagation or focus on less educational content should be at the forefront of the district’s agenda,” noted junior Christopher Seo.

Political content and multiple social media platforms that promote problematic school culture have been essentially ignored by the district, whereas sites that are arguably beneficial have been undermined. While it’s clear that the district intends to counter classroom distraction, “it’s clear that people will remain distracted and their efforts would be better suited towards something more productive,” Seo added. Improving the inclusivity and campus culture are more impactful changes that require the administration’s full attention; focus on banning educational websites simply should not.

The message that applies beyond just this development is the fact that we as a community shouldn’t turn small things into a large problem. Focusing on larger issues to promote communal improvement needs to be our priority. Nothing will prevent people from being distracted in the classroom; I can definitely attest to that. I must admit that I have focused my in-class distraction into gaming sites (which I will not name for fear of them being banned) rather than more educational and enjoyable chess sites. This district should band together in a beneficial way that goes beyond inconsequential factors and focuses on the whole community.