Finding (check)mates on and off the board

The Flowstate Chess Club plays chess in the undercaf twice a week. PHOTO COURTESY OF PABLO CARDENAS/FLOWSTATE CHESS CLUB

What started as three students playing chess in the Hayes-Healy lounge has grown into a 63-person-strong chess community at USF. Third-year political science student Pablo Cardenas, third-year advertising student Stephen Mondesir, and first-year computer science student Milo Briley formed the Flowstate Chess Club in August 2022 and now meet regularly with dozens of other members to bond over a love of the game. 

Named after the mental state one experiences while playing, Cardenas, the club’s president,  credits the club’s quick growth to hosting their meetings in the Undercaf every Monday and Friday at 7 p.m. “I wanted to put the chess club in a public spot… if people see us playing, people won’t be afraid to come by,” said Cardenas. Thanks to the growth, the club has been invited to participate in Destination USF, the school’s biggest campus event for incoming first-year students. 

Chess is a growing phenomenon off campus too. The game has not been this popular since the days of Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the ‘70s. The servers of popular chess websites, like, are having a hard time hosting the massive surges of new players coming onto their sites. Club Vice President Briley and Secretary Mondesir credit the Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” for the popularity boost, but Google Trend data shows that that may not be the case. The spike in popularity that the show created in late 2020 is only a little more than half in size compared to the spike that chess is currently experiencing. While the reason for the 2020 spike was clear, and other websites are at a loss for why this boom is occurring — but the timing was perfect for the Flowstate Chess Club which was still in its early stages.  

Cardenas and company are excited with the growth but have struggled to keep up. Their biggest issue is the number of chess sets they have. The club only has nine boards, five of which were bought from the club’s fundraising. The low number of boards can cause people to wait thirty minutes or more for a game on busy nights. Pablo plans on running more fundraisers and implementing more ways for the club to afford sets, such as selling hot chocolate during club meetings. As of now, the clubs largest source of funding comes from their monthly tournaments, where hopeful competitors can pay between $5 and $10 to battle for prizes.

Students are also joining the Flowstate Chess Club for the sense of community. “I really feel like it’s a family… coming into this club, it made me build confidence and want to meet more people on campus,” said Alex Austin, a third-year psychology student who has been part of the club since it was founded. “It’s definitely allowed me to find my community. I like to think that the chess club gave me sort of my second family” said Cardenas. The Flowstate family is always open to new members, no matter a person’s experience level with chess. So give it a try, you might just find some new mates. 

Students can learn more about the club on their Instagram, @theflowstatechessclub. 


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