Although eternally popular, chess has never been described as sexy.
Chess is a game of strategy and complexity. It conjures up images of leather armchairs and oak panelled libraries. Accompanied by the ticking of a grandfather clock and the smell of furniture polish. It is an intelligent pastime that many people regard as quite boring.
Then, Netflix’s 2020 mini series, based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel, comes along and changes all this forever. Anya Taylor-Joy portrays an intriguing and attractive redhead that trashes any mental image we may have had before of a typical chess player. Namely, a beautiful, young woman who mixed raw passion for the game with a weakness for alcohol and narcotics.
Since the series aired, it has been very difficult to buy a chess set. In fact, in the US alone, sales rose by 125%. And sales of books about chess rose by 603%. These stats are probably a flash in the pan and will undoubtedly decline but there is a lesson to be learned here.
Cycling is enjoying a renaissance at the moment but it is still suffering from being regarded as functional and secondary to the car. It has a glamorous side - the Tour de France, for example - but this is very much cycling’s Formula 1, not real life.
So, imagine what would happen if the right person in the right movie made cycling as cool as The Queen’s Gambit made chess.
If you choose the right messenger, you can dramatically change how the message is received.