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Checkmate: Why Chess is Becoming the Esports Craze of 2020

When one thinks of esports, perhaps the board game chess is not the one that immediately comes to mind. However, multiple esports teams have been making investments into the centuries old board game. Whether via sponsorship by record-holding chess participants, sponsorship of tournaments on sites such as Chess.com, or the emergence of celebrities and publicly-recognized grandmasters, chess is becoming relevant again and proving why it has stood the test of time.

A chess board. Photo courtesy of Chess.com

What is Chess?

In case you are not exactly familiar with chess, the rules are simple. Each player controls one side of a mirrored board, as shown below. The object is to move your pieces across the board until you place your opponent’s King piece in checkmate, a game state which renders the piece indefensible. The game has millions of combinations of player moves, swaps, and mind games to earn victory against your opponent. But to some, chess is a lifestyle. People like Hikaru Nakamura rose to fame earning him the title of Grandmaster.

Why Esports?

I’m sure you’re probably wondering at this point what any of this has to do with esports. Well, these worldwide chess players are making the digital chess world a reality. Hikaru was recently picked up by Team SoloMid after his streaming career picked up through Chess.com. A chess prodigy being picked up by TSM is massive news, as it could bring younger players who may be unaware of what chess exactly is to the forefront.

In addition, esports organizations themselves are sponsoring Blitz Chess tournaments. Most recently, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) hosted a tournament sponsored in partnership with Chess.com. And with the COVID-19 pandemic encompassing many events, these chess tournaments have resulted in online events and massive followings on Twitch.

The Verge reported that chess viewers accounted for more than 8 million hours of views on Twitch – a record number. With online tournaments becoming more realistic, many popular streamers including Félix “xQc” Lengyel began playing the game for their larger audiences. Many more streamers may not exclusively play the games on their channels, but rather play every now and then for either tournaments or intermittent casual play.

In the age of digital gaming, chess’ status as a premier streaming game is an incredible sight. Introducing newer players to a game old as time itself shows the incorporation of games into the modern age. 

In summary: why not take a look at chess? It’s the world’s oldest game turned into the newest craze.

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