Chess: An obsession on YouTube – Telegraph India


It improves focus, can be a learning tool, makes cold logic a part of life. So are you playing the game…. online?

Viewership of live chess games has soared on YouTube and beyond.


Let’s get to a fact straight away: There have been over one billion views related to chess globally on YouTube in 2020. Chess is one of those few sports that can be played at home on the board or online without compromising the experience factor. In fact, since the pandemic began, viewership of live chess games has soared on YouTube and beyond. Here are three people who are using the power of YouTube and more to make all the right moves to connect with viewers globally.

And please, don’t get stuck at Queen’s Gambit, there are more films and documentaries you can watch. “I haven’t seen Queen’s Gambit but I have seen the impact it has had…. On Google Trends, it’s clearly evident that after the release of Queen’s Gambit, the term chess was searched a lot around the globe. There are actually so many more movies and series you can watch, like Pawn Sacrifice, there is one documentary by Bobby Fischer on YouTube for free, which is amazing,” says Samay Raina, the stand-up comedian who is also a chess enthusiast.

Tania Sachdev holds the titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster. She is now also a much-followed personality on YouTube (with 76,000-plus subscribers) and beyond.

Using YouTube to reach out to chess enthusiasts

Chess is the most widely played game with millions who enjoy the game, but are not professional chess players. YouTube is a great platform to bring the game in a more personal interactive way to a wider audience and fans.

The few skills that matter

Chess is a 100 per cent skill game. There is always scope for getting better and stronger in every aspect of the game. One needs to work constantly. The rule is simple — the more you work on the game the stronger you get. Talent is everywhere, hard work is rare. When you have both is when the magic happens.

Shapes her life

I started playing when I was six and took it up professionally after school. It started as a hobby and I took to it immediately. All I ever wanted to do was play, whenever we would have any guests over or family over I would always bring out the board. My parents noticed all of this and found a local coach and it took off from there.

It’s the life I know. So I don’t know what I would have been if it wasn’t for chess; the game has shaped me completely. It’s the way I grew up, winning and losing games and championships, all the travels. All of it defines me.

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Message for young girls who want to take up chess

The numbers are evolving. Every female chess player winning medals and doing well inspires more girls to take up the sport, and this has an exponential effect. So to girls I want to say, do it if you love it. More importantly to parents, who play the big role here — to encourage their child in the field/sport they want to pursue.

Samay Raina

Many know him as a stand-up comedian, and others know him as a chess enthusiast. When it comes to livestreaming and chess, Samay Raina is the man to tune into on YouTube where he has 722,000 subscribers. Here are his moves.

A less stressful life while playing chess

Chess is a sport which you can still play indoors and is, in fact, one of the few sports that you can play indoors. Like if you take an example of football, if you play online, like FIFA, that’s a video game and not a sport, but chess is a proper sport online. If you play a long game, you still have to apply your brain, and everything is happening like how it happens on the board. The game itself is so beautiful and whenever I get free time, I just play chess. It helps me not get bored. So many people have been playing chess in India and people sitting idle at home are playing chess.

YouTube is making chess more accessible

There are so many events happening these days online and the best part is ‘the commentary’, without which it cannot work. Commentary by Sagar Saha, Tania on Chess.com, chess24, ChessBase India and so on… people now understand what these grandmasters are playing.

YouTube has definitely helped in that because all the events that are livestreamed like actual events, ‘previous’ events, crypto cup; and I am sure, going forward, all big chess events are going to be livestreamed on one or the other channel. That has definitely helped bring chess to the masses.

First moves

I started playing chess when I was a child. My grandfather used to play with me and then I went to another school in the seventh grade when I stopped as chess wasn’t in the curriculum. I started again in college when I started watching this channel named Agadmator who used to make amazing videos and till date I watch his videos. I am inspired by so many chess players — Anish Giri is one of my favourites, Vidit Gujrathi is now a very good friend but I also look up to him. Cyrus Shah, Magnus Carlsen, Vishy (Viswanathan) Anand, all these guys are legends and I love the fact that I at times can stream with them, it’s a complete honour for me.

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The combination of chess and stand-up comedy

These days you can hardly tell the difference between these chess players and comedians because all the chess players are now making funny content and all comedians have started to take chess seriously. I think it goes hand in hand. The way it is going is so organic and so natural that I don’t see anyone saying that it doesn’t make sense, it completely makes sense.

ChessBase India

Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal have a simple plan — showcase every aspect of the sport and also make parents aware of its potential. Their YouTube channel has a whopping 727,000 subscribers.

A life-changing move called ChessBase India

ChessBase India was founded in 2016, with the aim of powering chess in India and to make it the most popular sport in the country. With that in mind we have worked consistently. And it has been very nice to see the growing numbers, especially during the lockdown when people got more time at their homes. We started following chess and the effort taken by many people including stand-up comedians, like Samay Raina, Biswa Kalyan Rath and Vaibhav Sethia,  has brought a lot of new fan following to the sport. For me, my life still remains the same, dedicated to the cause of making chess the most popular sport in the country.

The duo behind it

ChessBase India was started by me and my wife Amruta. And now it’s grown into a company where there are more than 10 employees. The workload is basically divided, not in any specific way. We have different projects on which both of us work, but usually Amruta is the one who tightens things up, who makes sure that there are no leakages in the processes, operations, she takes care of a lot of little things. Just to give you an example, if suppose I’m the one who’s doing the interviews, and I’m looking out for people to interview, good games that have happened, interesting personalities, stories and so on, Amruta is the one who’s thinking about, if the equipment is good enough for the interview and so on. The thing is being framed while shooting. So the little improvements that she brings have a massive impact, and I think this is how we function. Basically, we do a lot of ideating together, and we work together.

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Spreading awareness via YouTube

Chess Base India is five years old. We started in 2016 January but from 2017 — or, say, late 2016 — we became active. I feel that there are many different ways in which our channels can be used to promote chess. The main aim is to identify the talents in the country, to showcase them, also to teach people what chess is all about. For example, you can today be interested in chess, but there are so many different elements to it — how to make a career out of chess, how to improve at chess, how to improve at the various phases of chess…. Our YouTube channel mainly functions on spreading awareness of chess… within the game, like you can say, learning tactics, positional play, a lot of different ideas in the game itself… opening, middle games, end games, and also out of the board. There is a special playlist with interviews with parents of top chess players, including Magnus Carlsen, Alireza Firouzja, Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa and, now, Abhimanyu Mishra. So parents also get an idea of what it is like.

Chess and the school curriculum

I think chess becoming a part of our curriculum is a very good idea. There are two schools of thoughts here, one is that chess is a sport, chess has to be played for fun… for enjoyment. And, of course, there will be certain people who will become serious about it and take it up as a career. So, to introduce it into your curriculum and make it a compulsory subject may not be such a good idea, but the other school of thought is that chess has so many benefits… right from the fact that you have to make decisions, you have to be analytical, you have to own up your losses, you have to think before every move, you have to concentrate hard. So, all these things develop many skills in kids who will then go on to become not just chess players, but maybe entrepreneurs, doctors, pilots…. Playing chess will help them in these fields.

Picture: Tania Sachdev/Alina L’ami

Picture: Samay Raina/Instagram

Picture: ChessBase India





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