If you’re a fan of Chess.com, don’t be surprised if you encounter an outage or two. The chess-playing platform has grown so popular that user traffic is straining its servers.
On Monday, Chess.com reported(Opens in a new window) that its user traffic had nearly doubled since early December — or less than two months— to 10 million active members, the most the site has ever seen before. But on the downside, the site’s servers are buckling under the user load, which can trigger a 502 database connection error.
“Our servers are struggling, especially during peak hours, typically around noon to 4 p.m. ET,” Chess.com wrote in a blog post. “We are very sorry for the issues; we know it’s super frustrating.”
A service error on the site.
Still, the growth is a positive sign for both the state of chess and the website. Founded in 2007, Chess.com saw a boost in user growth starting in 2020 with the arrival of COVID-19, which caused many people to work and study at home—and stream the chess-focused Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit(Opens in a new window). But even as the pandemic has subsided, the site continues to grow.
Chess.com, which is a freemium site, has 10 reasons why user adoption has been up. They include a social media post showing(Opens in a new window) soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing the game, chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen accusing Hans Niemann of cheating, and Chess.com being featured in app stores.
“31,700,000 games were played on January 20 alone, a site record, and we are now regularly seeing more than one million games an hour,” Chess.com added in the blog post.
To address the uptick in user traffic, Chess.com has been adding more server hardware. This includes buying a new shipment of cutting-edge servers slated to arrive this week. But the site still sees no easy solution to fixing the capacity woes. The problem? The site’s databases still need time to write information stemming from the flood of user activity.
“250,000+ new accounts are being created each day. People are playing games (16,000 chess moves per second on average). People are adding friends. They are commenting, chatting, and doing awesome chess things. All of this generates data that needs to be written to our databases,” Chess.com added. “Sometimes our systems max out, and just as when someone exercises too hard and has to stop and catch their breath, our servers also become exhausted and need to recover.
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“When that happens, they quit working, and our site and apps become unresponsive. It is a huge bummer, and unfortunately, there isn’t anything ‘quick’ we can do to resolve the issue,” the site said.
Chess.com describes the problem as a technical bottleneck that involves “unscalable” parts of the chess-playing platform. The good news is that the site plans on resolving the bottlenecks by better optimizing the platform, but the process will be lengthy. “We are also working on cleaving off our most problematic database with users and gameplay. Each of these things takes time because there is SO MUCH DATA to move around,” the site added.
Still, Chess.com expects the site to restore some stability in the near-term. “We are not taking this lightly. We are implementing more short-term fixes today and, more broadly, expect to have a much better and more stable experience by later this week. Some major changes will be in place in 2-3 weeks that we hope will allow us to properly handle the next wave of chess enthusiasm.”
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