The halcyon days (if there ever were any) of the covid pandemic can still be felt today with the resurging popularity of online chess. However, the world’s largest chess website has become a victim of the king’s game’s success because its servers are struggling to meet the game’s online popularity.
Yesterday, Chess.com, the premiere platform for online chess matches, issued an official statement in a blog post that addressed why their servers are struggling, why the game’s gotten so popular, and how they plan on fixing the website’s database crashes, according to PC Gamer.
According to Chess.com, traffic for the website has doubled since December, which has skyrocketed the app toward being the second most popular free game in the iOS app store in the US. For five days in January, Chess.com set new site records for active members and reached one million visits from Google for the first time on January 19. Chess.com set a site record of 31,700,000 games played on January 20. The influx of players shows no sign of slowing seeing as how the site regularly has more than one million games played an hour.
Chess.com said the chess boom came as a result of “lockdowns, Pogchamps, and The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.” Standouts for the game’s popularity over the course of the last three years are the admittedly baller photo of football players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing the game, the infamous anal bead scandal, and popular streamers hosting wacky chess tournaments.
“Back when chess first began booming during the COVID lockdown, our servers struggled to handle the traffic. We made a lot of investments in hardware and other improvements that allowed us to scale,” Chess.com’s statement wrote. “When The Queen’s Gambit boom happened, we experienced another massive increase in traffic, mostly without interruptions in service.”
To further explain how much stress the Chess servers are under, Chess.com added a chart of the site’s daily active members. According to the site, there are more than 250,000 new accounts created each day. In addition to servers having to account for thousands of players commenting and chatting during matches, the Chess.com database must also contend with the staggering 16,000 chess moves made per second on average.
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While Chess.com technically has a good problem on its hands, it’s still a problem nonetheless that causes its databases to buckle under the stress of its concurrent player base. In fact, when writing up this article, the Chess.com landing page was down due to a data overload.
“To address the challenges our databases are experiencing, we are separating database tables, sharding databases, and putting services in memory. We are also working on cleaving off our most problematic database with users and gameplay. Each of these things takes time because there is SO MUCH DATA to move around,” Chess.com wrote. “We are also working on more ‘graceful’ failures so that if things do go sideways and everything is exhausted, we can recover more quickly and with less interruption.”
Chess.com ended its blog post by reassuring players that it would be rolling out “more short-term fixes today” that should stabilize players’ online experience and have a much better and more stable experience by later this week. Other major updates will be implemented in the next two to three weeks.
“We love you, we feel you, we are sorry, and we are working as hard as we can to return to stability and provide the best possible experience—today and in the future, when we reach 15 million or even 20 million people playing chess in a day,” Chess.com wrote. “Chess is incredible, and it’s a joy to share this game with all of you.”