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The Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit and lockdowns may have catalyzed a chess renaissance, but’s savvy and often comical marketing strategy has grown it into new—and younger—markets over the past three years. Since early 2021, the company has rolled out a stream of new, offbeat robot opponents designed to attract and engage new users; a cast of “Cat Bots” introduced in January includes Scaredy Cat, Catspurrov, and the viral sensation Mittens. “We saw that there were ways we could actively grow the chess community, not just take care of the people who are already a part of it,” CEO Erik Allebest says. His team’s gambits have paid off. The site surpassed 100 million users in December, and daily active users doubled to 11 million between November and January, with Gen Z players powering the recent growth wave.

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