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Anna Cramling Talks Chess, Streaming, Vin Diesel

Anna Cramling Talks Chess, Streaming, Vin Diesel

Mick
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WFM Anna Cramling was always destined to be part of the chess world. As the daughter of two grandmasters, GM Pia Cramling and GM Juan Manuel Bellón López, Anna was exposed to the world of professional chess at a young age. A competitive player with a peak FIDE rating of 2175, she began streaming her chess journey on Twitch in 2020 and quickly gained a following of over 218,000 people.

As a titled player, Anna brings a high level of chess knowledge and competitive experience to her stream and mixes her wholesome and entertaining personality with years of insight and expertise. She’s also a chess commentator as well as an active player who is representing Sweden in the 44th Chess Olympiad

Anna took time out of her schedule to explain to Chess.com about her life as a chess streamer. What’s it like behind the scenes at a Candidates Tournament? What’s the secret behind starting a highly successful chess stream? And is it true that Vin Diesel is her favorite actor? Find out below.


Chess.com: What made you decide to start streaming?

Cramling: It was actually when I started commentating chess around two and a half years ago. I commentated on an international tournament in Stockholm, the Rilton Cup. Before that, I thought there was no way I could commentate chess... Then I got contacted by you guys, Chess.com! I was asked to commentate for Chess.com on the 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship match. When I did that, I realized that I thought it was pretty fun.

I also realized you don’t have to just play chess to do or be around chess; you can actually do more things with chess than just play it. Until then, the only thing I’d ever known was to play it. A lot of people in chat were saying I should start my own channel; I decided to give it a go!

I never thought that I would keep on doing it because I had no idea what I was going to talk about for several hours. That was my biggest fear: not knowing what I was going to talk about. It worked out, I guess. I’m still streaming!

Who are your own personal favorite chess streamers, and why?

I watch a lot of BotezLive. I’m about a similar level to them in chess and think it’s cool that even though they’re not an IM or a GM, they’ve been able to make chess fun for so many people! They’re always innovative and doing new things; they’ve done so many cool things for chess and have started so many trends, like playing hustlers and things like that. So yes, probably BotezLive.

How would you describe your Twitch community?

People are definitely very wholesome in my community, and I’m really happy about that. I’m glad I’ve been able to build a community that is like this. I’m not the most wholesome person in the world for sure, but I try! I’m happy that this is reflected in the whole community and that everyone is nice together. During TwitchCon in Amsterdam, being able to see so many people come together and become friends just made me so happy.

It’s really cool to see people come back to the stream now that I’m home. I love it. I think that’s one of the things that motivates me the most to keep going, the fact that I really love the people in my community.

What’s the most memorable or exciting moment you’ve had on stream so far?

Oh, there’s a lot of them… But I would probably say my one-year anniversary is the one that comes to mind right away. A lot of people from my community sent a 10-minute video showing their faces and saying, "Thank you" for everything I’ve done. I cried on the stream!

One of the mods had talked to my parents so they knew all about this, and they came into my room with a cake… That’s probably the most touching moment that’s happened during these last few years. Just being able to see that you actually made an impact on different people. It’s easy to forget when you’re just streaming and doing your thing.

Also, probably all the challenges I’ve done! I’ve done so many challenges over the last couple of years.

What’s the craziest bet or challenge you’ve received (or started) while streaming?

The thing is I haven’t received them; I’ve created them on my own! I don’t know why I put myself through this, to be honest! I’d say the craziest one I’ve done is when I did the 2200 challenge: I think I had to reach a 2200 rating in a few weeks or a month… and if I didn’t reach it, I had to tattoo "2200" on my body.

I also did a "2100 or I’ll dye my hair pink" challenge, another 2200 challenge where I’d wear a t-shirt saying, ‘’I’ll never reach 2200” until I reached the rating… I’ve done a lot of them! But I think the craziest one was the tattoo one—I’m not a tattoo kind of person, so doing that would have been pretty big for me.

As a titled chess player, do you feel any additional pressure while streaming?

I don’t think it puts any pressure on me; I don’t really have any expectations that I need to reach a certain level. What I try to do is to show chess in a fun way and bring in everybody and have them follow my journey. I feel like that's more important than what the actual results are.

When I’m streaming, I don’t feel pressure to win all the time or anything. Worst-case scenario, if I’m not enjoying chess because it’s going really badly, I can just switch to another game and then go back to chess afterward.

A picture of WFM Anna Cramling playing competitively at an over-the-board chess event.
As an experienced competitive player, Anna brings high-level chess insights to her stream. Photo: Anna Cramling.

With my community, I’m having fun, and they’re hopefully learning something—because as a titled player, I still feel like I can teach my community things and explain my moves. That in a way gives me confidence, the fact that I feel like I can teach people things. But if I’m playing against people who are around my rating and I lose, then I don’t feel too bad and I’m pretty relaxed about it. It’s definitely different than when I’m playing competitively in tournaments over the board.

Imagine you could do a chess-based collab on your stream with anyone in the world. Who would it be, and why?

There are so many people… The first one that comes to mind is Harry Styles, who I’m a big fan of. I’m also reminded of him because I ran into him when I was in Paris. I randomly ran into him at a restaurant a few weeks ago, which was crazy.

There are a lot of musicians I like, but he’s the one who comes to mind because of that. He probably doesn’t remember me, but if he does, it’ll be as the girl who screamed and ran away because I was so shocked. If he ever wants to do a collab and play some chess, we can do that.

We found some questionable internet facts about you on one of those "celebrity facts" websites. Can you please confirm or deny that your favorite actor is Vin Diesel?

What?! Actually… I do like him as an actor. I love The Fast and the Furious, like I’ve watched every single movie twice. I don’t think I’ve ever publicly said that he’s my favorite actor... I love the series and he’s one of my favorite actors in it, though. Maybe he’s not my favorite actor, but he’d be in the top 10. They definitely just made some of these up!

A screenshot of a website claiming to know facts about WFM Anna Cramling, including her favorite actor and actress.
Rule #1: Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

You’ve had a busy few weeks, traveling around Madrid, Paris, and Amsterdam. What were some of the highlights for you from the last month?

I think TwitchCon is up there. Being able to meet everyone in person was definitely a really big one. I love meeting different streamers, people from Chess.com, meeting the community… That was just a really cool experience. The fact that 5Up wanted to play chess with us at the Chess.com booth, and I was able to play with him—that was one of the highlights!

I would also definitely say the Candidates Tournament. It was actually my first time going to a Candidates event. Since I was a little baby, I’ve been to a lot of tournaments, either playing or especially watching as a companion for my parents… but I’ve never been to a tournament like the Candidates.

It was really cool to see the top players fighting for first place. Also, I felt a little bit like a reporter—I was streaming the closing ceremony, the press conference… It was just really cool to be able to show these different behind-the-scenes parts to a larger audience. No one else was streaming the closing ceremony, and most people watching don’t know how a closing ceremony at a chess tournament looks.

You asked a great question at the press conference too.

I wanted to see what would actually be considered a fun opening for someone at that level. I imagine for them, a fun opening isn’t something like a Bongcloud because they just immediately think it’s bad, right? But it was really interesting to see what they actually thought, and they all had different answers. 

To put you on the spot—what's your answer to the same question?

Oh no! Hmm… Actually, I think the King’s Gambit is really fun. The Bongcloud can be fun, but the issue with that is that you don’t know if your opponent is going to do it as well… If they don’t do it too, it’s not as fun! I enjoy the King’s Gambit. I’ve played it a bit on stream. It’s a fun one, and there can be a lot of attacks with it.

What changes do you think could be made to encourage more young women to enter the world of chess?

I think that for getting more girls to start playing chess, role models are very important in general. We’ve now seen female streamers and I think that's a great thing, but it’s also very important to have women who play chess in tournaments. People like GM Judit Polgar, for instance; people like that who are ambassadors for chess are very important. Judit Polgar has done a lot for chess after she retired from the competitive side of the game as well.

I think that when girls see other girls playing chess, or women playing chess, this stereotype that "girls don’t play chess" kind of disappears. Girls will think, “Oh, that looks cool. I want to do this too. How do you do this? Show me!”

That’s kind of what I’ve been seeing. In Sweden, something that’s been very fulfilling for me is knowing that there are a lot of young girls who’ve asked my mom: “How can I be a chess streamer?’’ Girls who are 10, 11, and 12 years old have asked that—and that’s made me really happy and made me realize how important it is that we have role models in chess.

How about at a tournament level?

I think apart from that, in tournaments, it would be important to have more female arbiters as well. Just basically make playing a tournament as a girl not feel like something bad can happen—and if something happens, that they know who they can talk to.

I feel like it’s important to have a committee of people who actually understand that things like sexism can happen during tournaments—it doesn’t have to be sexism, but also racism, or anything else—but knowing who to talk to if something bad happens during a tournament and that there are consequences for it. I don’t really feel like that exists now.

If something happens, you can talk to the organizers, but… what if someone is friends with the organizer? There are a million things that can make you not want to talk to the organizer. 

Making sure that the arbiters also go through classes and training on how to act—and not act—and making sure that they are not sexist themselves would be a good start as well. I think that would make a big change in tournaments.

As far as role models go... Players, commentators, ambassadors, they can be anything. They don’t even have to be women; they can be men who promote women too. Just in general, lifting women up in these different areas would make a big change.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring chess streamers? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over the last few years (about streaming, chess, or life in general)?

I feel like it’s so important that you actually have fun. If you’re streaming and not having fun, it’s just not going to work. You need to really, really, really enjoy it. The first six months of my streaming were just me doing it because I was having so much fun. I still do! I think it was so obvious as well, and that’s something that brings people in.

If people see you having fun, they want to join in. But if you’re not, it’s almost impossible to hide it, and I don’t think there’s any point then. You need to enjoy what you’re doing, and if you don’t enjoy it, change it. Listen to yourself and ask yourself what you think is fun to do, and do that on stream. That’s the most important thing. Then you’ll be able to be yourself and everything else will follow.


Catch up with Anna's chess journey on Twitch, Discord, YouTube, and more. She also has her very own club on Chess.com that you can join.

Is there someone you want to see as our next Streamer of the Month? Let us know in the comments below.

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