Chess is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the Internet

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,080   +131
Staff member

If you would have told me a decade ago that millions of people would elect to watch other people play games rather than participate themselves, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Add in the fact that some people are earning a comfortable living playing games for strangers and the concept gets even more absurd. And then you tell me that traditional board games are part of the mix? Ok, now you’re just making stuff up.

Yet, here we are. Not only is it real, it’s becoming increasingly more common.

Since 2016, time spent watching others compete in two-player strategy board game chess online has increased by more than 500 percent.

One player at the forefront of the craze is Alexandra Botez, a 24-year-old that runs a Twitch channel with her 17-year old sister. Described as a child phenom, Botez played chess competitively for years and was even the first female president of the Stanford University Chess Club. Since September 2019, however, she’s worked as a full-time streamer and has amassed more than 63,000 followers on Twitch.

“It's crazy to me to have this kind of support and this kind of viewership online for chess,” Botez told NBC News. But should we really be all that surprised? After all, the Internet has changed the lives of billions by opening up opportunities that previously weren’t possible. Why should chess be any different?

Masthead credit: Chess by alice-photo.

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Posts: 164   +270
What about the entire sports industry? People have been watching people play games rather than participate for centuries.

Great point lol. Additionally I think the thing that most people miss when talking about Twitch game streams is that it's something that's easily emulated. Traditional sports have a pretty high resource barrier to entry. Take football for example, you have to get at least two teams of people to play, a field to use, and gear. Compared to playing fortnite or apex, your average viewer can just play without needing to know anyone. Additionally, most people will never get to play any traditional sport in a competitive level. The barrier to tournament play for video games is much lower as well. I think these lower barriers help viewers bond/relate to the streamer because unlike millionaire football players, they "could" play on a level similar to a streamer.


Posts: 4,737   +5,147
I play on Chess .com everyday. Not interested in watching matches. I just like playing grudge matches. 3min games.


Posts: 614   +518
What about the entire sports industry? People have been watching people play games rather than participate for centuries.

That always confounded me actually. I loved playing soccer & basketball in high school and university, but I never enjoyed watching any of it on TV.