KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – World records may be broken, bonds built, and rivalries rekindled as the best chess players in the country converge on the Chess Capital of the United States, Saint Louis, for the 2021 U.S. & U.S. Women’s Chess Championships, an elite, invitation-only gathering designed to discern one thing: who has the right to stand atop the pinnacle of their sport and definitively declare ‘checkmate’?

Many viewers across the country may find themselves extra interested in the tournaments this year, as interest in chess has gone viral following the wildly popular release of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit and the extra time at home to both watch and learn to play due to COVID-19. In fact, 62 million households streamed the show in the first month that it was available. Chess searches on Amazon skyrocketed to 857% on Amazon in that same month, and chess sets even made it into the Top 25 Toys on the popular e-commerce site in 2020. Registration on chess.com has almost tripled since 2017 and is boasting 1.5 million players daily. To not say that chess has taken the country by storm would be a blunder!

We had the opportunity to sit down with the first-ever African-American Grandmaster and U.S. Chess Hall of Famer Maurice Ashley.