Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Streaming Platform Twitch Helps To Spread Interest In Chess

NOEL KING, HOST:

Twitch is a platform where professional gamers play games like Fortnite and Counter-Strike. In other words, it's not where you'd go looking for something old-fashioned like chess. But a few years back, five-time U.S. chess champion Hikaru Nakamura set up a channel there anyway.

HIKARU NAKAMURA: To me, it was a way of trying just to broaden the reach and try to reach out to a lot of people who maybe have only played chess from time to time or people who are just getting into chess in the first place.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And then the pandemic hit. Nakamura noticed a flood of new people visiting his Twitch channel to learn how to play chess like a grandmaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAKAMURA: The one I was talking about was c5, knight c3, bishop e7, knight d5, bishop d5, cd5, knight d4, trying to win the pawn on d5, d6...

KING: On the channel, Nakamura explains some of his competitive matches with other chess players, but he also coaches beginners.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAKAMURA: So like, here what I did was I moved the pawn and bishop. And now I'm going to push this pawn in front of my king. So now I can move my other bishop and then my knight, and then I can castle. Yeah. That's it (ph).

Coming from the chess world where many people view me and most the other top players as superstars to sort of this other side of it where I see the streamers and I think of them as superstars, it certainly is quite different and interesting. But I think there's a mutual respect.

INSKEEP: Although not everyone respects the idea that Nakamura is courting video gamers to the world of chess...

NAKAMURA: It's a very old game. It's been around for probably 1,500 to 2,000 years now. And even the modern-day rules have not changed in the last couple hundred years. So there are people who feel very much that chess, as it is, should stay that way as opposed to, say, in a sense cheapening the game by trying to make it more popular.

INSKEEP: He says his goal is to break down some barriers.

KING: And if you want to join in but you're nervous about playing for the first time, Nakamura says don't worry about it.

NAKAMURA: Trying to be good at the game takes a lot of time and work to learn patterns, to study opening strategies and so forth. So the main thing is just, like, have fun with it, and try to learn some of the basic patterns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAKAMURA: (Laughter) Checkmate with Point 1. Ooh - ooh, la la.

INSKEEP: Hikaru Nakamura now has more than 500,000 followers on his Twitch channel. And if you should follow him, too, eventually you may be able to follow all of this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAKAMURA: Cd, ed, rook d6 - and then he had rook fd1. 'Cause of king f6, there's knight d4...

(SOUNDBITE OF WU-TANG CLAN'S "DA MYSTERY OF CHESSBOXIN') Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.