Articles
What Life Is Like For A GM On Twitch

What Life Is Like For A GM On Twitch

Mick
| 30 | Other

Chess.com’s Streamer of the Month for April is GM Benjamin Bok, one of the highest-rated chess players who regularly streams and produces content on Twitch. This popular Dutch GM, currently based in St. Louis, has developed a fanbase of almost 32,000 people, and we had the pleasure of speaking to him about what life is like as a content-creating GM.

This brand-new Streamer of the Month series introduces you to some of the best chess streamers, big and small, and gives you an insight into who they are, what their communities are like, how they became successful streamers, and (most importantly) what their favorite memes are.


Chess.com: How long have you been streaming chess, and what made you decide to start?

Benjamin Bok: I’ve been streaming for almost two years; my first stream was on May 30, 2020. The reason why I started was because I saw a lot of chess streamers taking off, and I thought to myself ‘’I’m also good at chess, I like to think I can talk, so why don’t I give this a shot?’’

With that being said, it turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be! You have to figure out how OBS works, all the alerts, you need to get bots integrated… that kind of thing. Also if you start, it’ll take a while until you get a following. But that’s the main reason I started, I saw the potential and why it could be fun.

What’s your favorite thing about streaming? What makes it fun?

What makes it fun is all the interaction with so many people that I usually wouldn’t have. Also, what I really like about it is the fact that I wanted to play in all these tournaments anyway, like Titled Tuesday or Arena Kings, and I figured OK, if I play, I might as well stream! So even if I don’t win a prize, let’s say, I can still make a YouTube video out of the games or stuff like that.

You’re a very high-level chess player. Not many popular streamers are also GMs. How is it different streaming as a GM compared to someone who’s a more intermediate player?

I feel like for myself, how I perform in those tournaments that I mentioned earlier actually matters more in a way! For example, if I perform well in Titled Tuesday or make it to the finals in Arena Kings, I’ll have more viewers and I can see my follower count increasing.

With other more intermediate players, their performance doesn’t necessarily matter as much. That makes it a bit more difficult, balancing streaming and also actually playing well. I guess that’s the same for someone like Hikaru! But you get used to it pretty quickly.

You mentioned Hikaru and watching chess streamers taking off back in 2020. Who are some of your own favorite chess streamers or people you’re inspired by?

I like watching Hikaru, as well as Daniel Naroditsky. I like the Botez sisters as well; they do a lot of fun and cool stuff with traveling and IRL activities, that kind of thing. From time to time, I also like watching the Chessbrahs; I’ve known both of them for a long time and they’re good friends of mine. I guess those are my favorite channels in the chess community!

Besides that, I also like watching HasanAbi, especially when something political is going on. It’s sort of like a politics class but in a fun way.

Something special about streaming is that every sub-community is unique. How would you describe your community?

That’s a good question. In general, they’re really quite supportive—although sometimes I feel like they’re just a bunch of trolls! But overall, they’re really supportive and wholesome, I would say.

I like knowing that I have people following me and rooting for me ahead of tournaments; that’s always a nice feeling to have. That being said, if I play a serious tournament like the Rapid Chess Championship, sometimes when the rounds become really important I have to switch the chat off so I can focus 100% on the game. In general though, I really appreciate the support from my followers!

You’ve also provided live commentary for events, including the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix! How was that experience?

So let’s say I do commentary on Chess.com’s stream; I just join a Zoom call and there’s a producer who's taking care of the technical stuff. He’s actually the streamer, so to speak, and then we provide the coverage. It's definitely easier.

When I do commentary for Hikaru, sometimes it can be quite challenging! In that case I run the stream, so I have to make sure everything looks good in terms of the layout, the boards, myself and my co-host, and pulling up the live feed. There are many different things to take into account! It can be challenging, but I really do enjoy doing it.

I’ve done a couple of Arena Kings tournaments before and had a call afterward with one of the Chess.com producers; from that I really learned a lot about how you can make things look a little better. They’re really good at making everything look perfect.

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

A while ago, I was pushing a lot for the world record in Puzzle Rush Survival! It was quite funny; on one stream I just decided I’ll do some puzzles and try to make it educational. I ended up making a pretty deep run and then thought ‘’Hey, what’s the actual world record for this?’’ Then I tried breaking it, which turned into a big thing! Those runs that I had are definitely memorable. I once had a run where I scored 206, and at that point the world record was 216.

I also had a run where I made it to 247. It’s always a bit weird in the sense that some players have had a higher score but didn’t stream it, so the question is whether that score is legit.

I also had a match about a year ago against Eric Hansen, where we each put up $1,500, which I won! That was also pretty memorable.

That’s a lovely transition for the next question: what’s the craziest bet or challenge you’ve received while streaming?

The bet against Eric was a big one for sure, but I also have one more that comes to mind. It was pretty late and I kind of wanted to call it a day, but one of my viewers really wanted me to keep doing puzzles. He offered a reward; if I got 100 puzzles in 100 minutes, he'd gift a certain amount of subs. So, I tried and failed, and he offered a higher amount. In the end he offered something like 5,000 subs if I made it, but I had to say no, I had to go to sleep!

That was definitely the craziest bet I ever received. I wonder if he would have paid up if I’d done it; generally this guy is trustworthy and pays his bets. The next morning I was gonna join Hikaru for Tata Steel coverage, so I didn’t wanna oversleep or be a total wreck.

Your Twitch channel has close to 32,000 followers now. Can you tell us a bit about the future of your stream? Do you have any milestones you’re aiming for or plans/ideas that you’d like to pursue like a 24-hour stream or breaking the world record for Puzzle Rush Survival?

I think something like a 24-hour stream is not something I can see myself doing! Maybe the only way I’d consider doing that is if I were to do a subathon. I’d have to set the parameters pretty high, though. Besides that, the next milestone in terms of followers would be 40,000. I would really like to be involved with a big chess event, whether that’s something like PogChamps or Twitch Rivals! Right now though, I really like playing in all the tournaments that Chess.com has.

We haven’t mentioned one important thing about online chess: the memes. What’s your favorite chess meme?

Well, people actually made my microwave a meme... it was just there, and people kept talking about it. I don’t know how exactly it became a meme or why people are so obsessed with it, but right now I feel like it needs to be in the background of my stream at all times. If it’s not there, people just start rioting! I would say that’s the biggest meme of my channel, for sure.

And finally: what advice would you give to aspiring chess streamers? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned?

I would say try to start a YouTube channel early on where you can also promote your Twitch channel. Start a Discord for your community, and try to be active on other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, maybe even TikTok. That’s also something that I see a lot of other successful streamers are doing. Also, try to do a lot of collabs!


We hope you've enjoyed reading the first-ever Chess.com Streamer of the Month article! Is there anyone you'd like to see next? Tell us in the comments and stay tuned for next month's edition.

Want more Bok? Catch him streaming on his Twitch channel: https://www.twitch.tv/gmbenjaminbok.

Mick
Mick Murray

Mick is a writer and editor for Chess.com and ChessKid. He enjoys playing the Caro-Kann and Italian Game to varying degrees of success. Before joining Chess.com, Mick worked as a writer, editor, and content manager in Japan, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

More from Mick
Can You Solve A Puzzle From A Five-Time Armenian Chess Champion?

Can You Solve A Puzzle From A Five-Time Armenian Chess Champion?

From Turtleneck Trauma To Chess Success: An Adult Learner Story

From Turtleneck Trauma To Chess Success: An Adult Learner Story