HBO focuses on the boom of the St. Louis Chess Club during the pandemic | Sports

Just under a year and a half ago, HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” chronicled the remarkable rise of chess in St. Louis, funded by wealthy philanthropist and controversial political donor Rex Sinquefield – who made city ​​of what has been called the gambling capital of the world.

HBO’s first look explained how Sinquefield has attracted many grandmasters not only to play at the club, in top-tier tournaments, but also to live in St. Louis “at his own expense.”

The show is back for Round 2, this time focusing on how the St. Louis Chess Club unexpectedly thrived during the pandemic as major sports faced many obstacles. The success of chess is fueled in large part by a rapid growth in interest in online play, created in large part by people cutting back on their normal activities and looking for something else to do.

Soledad O’Brien is the correspondent again, in a report that’s part of the latest edition of “Real Sports” which premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday and will also be available on HBO Max. This segment mixes new and old material, with most of the original content arriving at the start of the 12-minute piece.

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As was the case with HBO’s first look at the Chess Club, there’s no mention of some of the controversies Sinquefield has been in locally regarding his political and other contributions.

The focus is once again on the game, this time on its rise during the pandemic. It’s quite a contrast to the early days of COVID-19, which led to widespread shutdowns last spring.

“You said, ‘Boy, this is going to be a disaster,'” Sinquefield said of his outlook at the time. “And it looked like a disaster at first. We had to stop all the big tournaments.

But in the long run, the opposite has happened. The game’s rise in popularity was sparked by an infusion of young gamers and YouTube commentators who became celebrities themselves with the rise boosted considerably by the success of the Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit”, in which chess is a centerpiece.

“It was the year that chess, one of the oldest games in the world, tapped into the power of new media and became fashionable,” says O’Brien.

Sinquefield talks about the online growth of chess being “hundreds of percent worldwide”.

He says the game has had its biggest boost since American Bobby Fischer beat Russian Boris Spassky in a high-profile competition nearly half a century ago.

Online chess is the perfect sport for the age of lockdown,” says O’Brien.

And the St. Louis Chess Club has benefited from its large presence in cyberspace.

“Chess exploded,” says Sinquefield. “In terms of viewership growth, we’ve probably eclipsed all other sports.”

To that end, the club in the Central West End announced last autumn that it is tripling its expansion and that much of this new space will be used for classrooms and tournament space.

“We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” Sinquefield says.

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