It’s one of the most famous board games of all time, but until recently chess wasn’t getting a whole lot of attention on Twitch. That began to change last year, however, when chess streamers started to raise the profile of the game on the streaming platform – and thanks to the release of a certain Netflix series, those numbers have now reached new heights.
In January last year, chess was averaging 3298 concurrent viewers over 24 channels on Twitch, peaking at 29,820 viewers. This month, that average is 24,048, with around 132 channels streaming chess at any one time – reaching a peak viewership of 161,968 on 16th January (via TwitchTracker). That was thanks to the efforts of siblings Alexandra and Andrea Botez, whose BlockChamps event – a crossover tournament with popular Minecraft streamers like Pokimane, LilyPichu and Fundy – pulled in over 91,000 concurrent viewers and over 1m unique views, breaking the chess viewership record for a single stream (via Chess.com).
So, why the sudden enthusiasm? The Covid-19 pandemic has forced real-world chess tournaments to move online, with Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen holding an online invitational in April 2020, and a FIDE Online Nations Cup taking place in May. Some professional players like Grandmaster Hikaru “GMHikaru” Nakamura found an audience in online streaming – and collaborations with big-name variety streamers gave chess a Twitch boom in the summertime. But the real game-changer, of course, has been critically-acclaimed Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. Since the series was released on 23rd October, chess viewership on Twitch has increased dramatically – as has the number of channels and streamers choosing to play chess.