The Resurrection of Chess at Nonnewaug High School


Andrew Greene

Senior Ben Shea, left, and junior Luke Cenatiempo pose with a chess board in Nonnewaug’s LMC.

WOODBURY — An old game has found new life at Nonnewaug High School.

Chess is a game that has been played for centuries, combining strategy, focus, and persistence. A game that for a long period of time was considered nerdy or weird has recently had a large influx of players at Nonnewaug.

Kyle Viveros, a junior swimmer and tennis player, recently joined the new chess wave.

“I just saw people playing and it looked like something fun to play in my free time and during work time,” Viveros said.

Many students have discovered the benefits of chess: the ability to relax and have fun while still developing strategy skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and other cognitive skills. 

“I would say there are many benefits to playing chess. The strategies chess players use can be utilized in real life,” said Todd Fontaine, a Woodbury Middle School teacher and former chess club advisor at Nonnewaug. “Strategy is an important aspect to being an effective chess player. You have to make sure that the moves and decisions you make will positively influence your decisions later.”

Kyle Viveros reacts to being checkmated during a recent game of chess in Nonnewaug’s LMC. (Andrew Greene)

Over the past few years, Nonnewaug has seen a significant increase in the number of students playing chess in their free time. Whether online or on a physical chess board, a large percentage of the population at Nonnewaug has begun to indulge in this age-old pastime.

Chess is also a great way for students to socialize with each other and make new friends.

“I saw all my friends playing it and I just had to give it a try, and I ended up loving it,” Luke Cenatiempo, a Nonnewaug junior, said. “Tt challenges my brain in such difficult ways.”

But has chess become more of a distraction for students in school rather than something beneficial?

“I don’t see any negatives to playing chess,” Fontaine said, “unless you become too obsessed with it and it begins to take away from your enjoyment of other activities.”

Ben Guerette, an English teacher at Nonnewaug, doesn’t believe that chess is that big of a distraction, either. 

I noticed people [playing in class] once in a while, but it doesn’t seem to be the biggest distraction like TikTok or Instagram,” Guerette said. “I really only notice it when people are done with their work and have a minute to spare. I don’t really mind it because at least they’re using their brain and not watching useless videos.”

Chess has gained not only popularity in Nonnewaug but in the media as well. In an article from, it is stated that since January 2020, more than 102 million new users have signed up on, a 238% increase from their previous player base. 

“I think that chess has become more accessible in today’s society,” Fontaine said. “People can easily play it wherever they are and can also find many different apps to help them improve their game.”

Alongside this increase in players is the addition of chess to media, such as the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit — which is responsible for Cenatiempo joining the wave.

“I recently watched the show The Queen’s Gambit, and it inspired me to pick up the game chess,” Cenatiempo said. “All my friends play it, and we have a great time.”