28 June 2020

Pog Champs (*)

This month I'm running a short series on The Switch to Online Chess, a transition that has been a natural reaction to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the planet. The theme also fits well with the much longer series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016).

Online chess has a natural ally in streaming, where Chess.com took the lead several years ago; see, for example, Twitch.TV/Chess (February 2018). Fast forward to the Covid-19 crisis and we learn Chess.com Launches PogChamps With Top Twitch Streamers (May 2020):-

Starting on June 5, the inaugural 2020 Chess.com PogChamps will kick off, featuring 16 of Twitch's most followed streamers. Over two weeks, top streamers like Boxbox, Voyboy, and yassuo will compete for their share of $50,000 in prizes. With so much on the line, GM Hikaru Nakamura, WFM Alexandra Botez and Chess.com's IM Danny Rensch will be providing commentary throughout the event's two weeks, with Nakamura and Botez providing lessons for each of the competitors.

What's good for Chess.com ... is it also good for chess? More specifically, Is Pogchamps a good way to promote chess? (chesstech.org; June 2020). On the 'Yes!' side is David Llada, 'FIDE Chief Marketing and Communications Officer'. On the 'No!' side is Stefan Löffler, 'Features editor of ChessTech'. Arbitrating the debate is GM Nakamura on his own Youtube channel.

PogChamps is an Embarrassment for Chess? (21:54) • '[Published on] Jun 13, 2020'

Objectivity is not a prerequisite. The clip currently has more than 430.000 views and nearly 2600 comments, so this isn't some flash in the pan phenomenon. Nakamura pinned a viewer comment to the top of the list:-

This whole Twitch chess boom got me to dust off my Chess.com account for the first time in like seven years.

What's my opinion? Who cares. Score another win for Chess.com.

[(*) Pog: An emote found on Twitch.tv, often used when a streamer does something cool, Urban Dictionary: Pog.]

1 comment:

Mark Weeks said...

Received from AL...

[Start of msg]

Subject: I should be disqualified from commenting
Date: 30-Jun-20, 16:57

I don't think organized chess should despair that more people would rather watch celebrities making blunders than will watch GMs making brilliancies (oh, all right, mostly draws). Nakamura could be over-optimistic to hope that 10% of the pog watchers will eventually read a chess book or visit a chess club, but fans are fans. We need them, their individual chess abilities are irrelevant because their children could be our acorns. Maybe your 300 pound chocolate-loving neighbor would have a heart attack if he ran 50 yards, but the local soccer club would like to have him in the stands.

[End of msg]

...What's soccer? If you're not American and you don't know, look it up.