Chess' New Opening
In late October of 2020 the TV series, The Queen’s Gambit came out on Netflix. This popular mini-series was much more than just a fun watch, it also piqued people’s interest in the United States with sales of chess boards rising over 87% and book sales rising by 603% in the three weeks following the series’ launch. Beyond that, online formats for playing chess such as Chess.com, Internet Chess Club and Chess24, which all require subscriptions to play on, saw membership increase by 40% when they combined their individual increases together.
Chess has also taken over Twitch streaming. Twitch.tv is the most popular internet streaming platform and boasts popular chess streamers such as Americans Hikaru Nakamura, Levy Rozman (GothamChess) and Eric Rosen, as well as Canadians Eric Hansen, Aman Hableton (Chessbrah) and Alexandra and Andrea Botez (BotezLive). These Twitch streamers may even earn their livelihoods through Twitch streaming, such Alexandra Botez who made upward of $100,000 this past year and Levy Rozman earning his living with a combination of Twitch and Youtube streaming.
Chess streaming isn’t the only way talented players can make money. Current chess world champion Magnus Carlsen owns a chess teaching service called Play Magnus. Five-time US national champion Hikaru Nakamura has a sponsorship from Red Bull, and former world champion Garry Kasparov came out with his own chess MasterClass. Many chess tournaments also have cash prizes such as the Grand Chess Tour which boasts cash prizes totaling $1,750,000 and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour which has total cash prizes amounting to $1,500,000 for the ten tournaments that comprise the tour.
Pogchamps is a tournament that has occurred three times so far which features famous internet personalities such as actor Rainn Wilson, poker player Daniel Negreanu, popular Twitch streamer xQc and Youtuber MrBeast. These popular figures get trained by famous chess players such as Hikaru Nakamura, Levy Rozman, IM (International Master, the second highest title achievable by a chess player) Anna Rudolph, and Alexandra Botez. The first Pogchamps had a total of $50,000 of prize money on the line and was the first chess stream on Twitch to ever break 1 million unique views. The third Pogchamps tournament, Pogchamps 3 offered $100,000 worth of prize money with another $100,000 matched in donations to non-profit organizations. Pogchamps 3 was also the most watched tournament of the three garnering 375,000 viewers for the first match alone.
With chess ballooning in so many areas, the question remains, will the game continue to undergo rapid expansion, or will it die down once the pandemic ends and people begin spending less time at home? If the chess community continues reinvigorating their tournaments with celebrities and makes games more watchable with interesting streamers and commentators, it seems as though the game’s popularity will continue to gain traction. If the best way to predict how something will perform is based on past performance, then chess’ nearly 1,600-year-old history seems promising.
Photo caption: Chess has come back to the forefront of modern life.
Photo Credit: Pixabay