Chess has enjoyed a massive popularity growth thanks to the combined effects of the pandemic and the worldwide hit that was Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit series. This has also fueled a massive growth of the timeless game’s audience on Twitch, with some of the top players in the world regularly broadcasting their games to the masses. If you’re also one of those new converts or are just getting into the world of live broadcasts, these are the streams and events you must not miss if you’re interested in what’s happening on the 64 squares.
Why does chess work so well on Twitch?
To some extent, everything works when there’s a big-enough audience to watch, and the success of Netflix’s adaptation of The Queen’s Gambit, coupled with a massive shift in the entertainment landscape during COVID times, led to explosive growth in interest in chess. The game allows for tons of skill expression and offers the sort of complexity that a game like Dota 2 does, with an endless variety of potential approaches and outcomes.
Different time controls also allow for unique streaming experiences. You can marvel at the elite player crushing their opposition having just one minute to make all the moves in bullet or enjoy rapid games with the sort of downtime a card game offers when you’ve got a lot of time to think through the match, offering tons of opportunities for audience interaction.
Here are the best chess streamers you should watch.
In many ways, Nakamura is nearly single-handedly responsible for chess’ massive growth on Twitch. As one of the best players in the world, not many can match his insights and strategies on the board among the content creators. He also has the wit and personality to match his skills, adding up to an entertaining and educational stream.
His incredible prowess in faster time controls is a great part of his appeal, but his willingness to take deep dives into his matches against fellow super-grandmasters and analyze them in detail is why his chess content is valuable even to those who are playing on a higher level and aren’t only interested in speedruns and other challenges where the skill difference between the players can sometimes overshadow the struggle.
You can catch his streams over at twitch.tv/gmhikaru.
Alexandra and Anna Botez
The Botez sisters emerged as one of the powerhouses of Twitch’s chess streaming community. They combine great entertainment value with forays into the gaming scene and great engagement with other content creators on their channel. Not that they are slouches when it comes to playing chess either, as evidenced by Alexandra’s Woman FIDE Master title and Andrea’s string of titles over her high school years, making for a potent duo to go up against over the board.
Their humor is also on point, as evidenced by Andrea’s immortal decision to ask Magnus Carlsen at the World Chess Championship match’s press conference about how the knight moves. There’s also a reason why the “Botez Gambit,” hanging your queen, is now a staple of internet chess humor.
GothamChess (Levy Rozman)
The International Master from New York has one of the largest YouTube channels in the scene with a wide variety of entertaining and educational content, from the Guess the ELO series to tournament recaps. It’s (mostly) all family-friendly fun when it comes to Levy’s pre-recorded content, but it’s a different story on his Twitch channel, where the nonstop fireworks and the constant flow of spice guarantee a good time for viewers who enjoy a more down-to-earth streaming experience and a real New York attitude to go with it.
As an International Master and Woman Grandmaster, Anna Rudolf has experience broadcasting events at numerous top-level tournaments in the chess scene. The 33-year-old Hungarian stands out on broadcasts with her bright red lipstick and linguistic versatility. In the past, she has made videos for Chess24.com in both English and Spanish.
With the international appeal of chess, her ability to create content and conduct interviews across multiple languages only adds to her strength as a broadcaster.
The Chess.com broadcasts
Operated by the biggest online chess platform, the Chess.com channel is also involved with popular events like Pogchamps, and there’s often a substantial overlap between their hosts and the other big individual streamers on the platform.
The website is also the premier source of tournament broadcasts, producing live coverage for all of the largest chess events in a wide variety of languages. If you’re looking for consistent and varied chess content with gameplay from the highest levels, its channel is a must-follow.
Another American GM, albeit slightly lower on the mountaintop than Nakamura, the 26-year-old Naroditsky (affectionately referred to as “Danya”) began his streaming journey in late 2019 and never looked back.
With an emphasis on community and making high-level gameplay accessible, his streams are well worth checking out even if you’re not that awesome at chess yourself. With a slightly larger focus on the educational side of things when it comes to his speedruns, Danya’s content is a great way to learn new chess principles and improve at the game.
Eric Hansen & co. (the Chessbrah group)
Arguably the most “native” to Twitch of the whole bunch, the Chessbrah channel is managed by Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton. Both are strong players in their own right, with the Grandmaster title to prove it. Eric also became Canada’s youngest-ever GM at the tender age of 21. Sometimes it’s chess, sometimes a popular video game, or maybe a tournament analysis featuring heavy-hitters from the community like Yasser Seirawan, but there’s always something to watch on their channel.
You can find their streams at twitch.tv/chessbrah.
These are the biggest names on Twitch to keep an eye on, with regular online tournaments to pit them and other top talents against one another. This dynamic competition is only growing. The biggest chess sites are all hosting tournaments specifically to promote online chess broadcasts: both chess24’s Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and chess.com’s Rapid Chess Championship offer fans a chance to watch their favorites in action. And that’s just the online part of it.
The in-person 2022 Candidates Tournament is penciled in for a June 16 start, with the best players in the world fighting for a chance to challenge Magnus Carlsen for his crown. With Nakamura confirmed as a participant and the whole world watching online, it’s going to be an event like no other.