Chess has been a consistent motif through the first few volumes of the series. At the start of the series, we see the two primary teams RWBY and JNPR collect a variety of "relics", which are the white chess pieces while black are also present. Ozpin is particularly focused and doesn't talk much when his students are collecting these relics, and the members that collected the white relics ended up heavily involved within Ozpin's circle in the fight against Salem, also involved in collecting actual relics.
It's also been shown consistently with the various moments in the series where forces under Salem (or more directly under Cinder), are seen using black chess pieces to represent themselves. Now that we've been provided further context, and "Darkness" and "Light" have been embodied in physical characters with the gods, it seems this entire world has turned into a chess match between the gods, with Salem and Ozpin fighting for the sides of Dark and Light respectively. If the God of Light wins the chess match, the gods return to the world to live among the people. If the God of Dark wins the chess match, the gods wipe everything out for good this time.
Pretty high stakes game. Just some early morning thoughts that occurred while re-watching the series.