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Turning Dolphins Into Sharks: Meeting France's Most Famous Chess Streamer

Turning Dolphins Into Sharks: Meeting France's Most Famous Chess Streamer

Mick
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Kevin Bordi, also known as BlitzStream, is France's most-watched chess streamer. As one of the earliest adopters of playing chess on Twitch, he has over a decade of experience creating chess content and has witnessed monumental shifts in the popularity of online chess. With 173,000 followers on Twitch and 190,000 YouTube subscribers, he is one of the biggest chess content creators outside of the English-language sphere.

We spoke to Kevin to find out more about how he got started, his famous move against GM Magnus Carlsen, the similarities between chess and poker, and more. 


How long have you been streaming chess, and what made you decide to start?

I think I've been streaming on Twitch for 10 years already. I started at the very beginning, but it's so long ago that I don't remember the exact year, whether it's 2012, 2013, or 14... it’s very long ago and it’s hard to find the archives from when I started! But I started streaming right at the start of Twitch.

I started because I was watching a guy on YouTube, Jerry from ChessNetwork. He was a big inspiration for me because I liked his content. I really enjoyed watching it, and I had some time at night and I wanted to play chess. So I thought, wait, let's try to do something like what this guy is doing. And then I discovered Twitch existed and so it was possible to do it live.

That was really what made me decide to start because the thought of recording myself playing chess and then posting it on YouTube was not the thing I wanted to do... even though I liked Jerry’s content. When I heard that it was possible to do it live on Twitch, I decided that sounded right. So that's how I started streaming.

How long did it take you to start getting an audience?

Strangely enough, my channel became quite popular very quickly. I think after 4-5 months I had 30 or 40 viewers, which was a lot for Twitch at the time! That really looked like a lot of viewers back then.

Then I got very lucky, and I would again say thank you to ChessNetwork, because one day I saw that he had made a post on Twitter saying something like “Check out this guy’s stream, great channel.” This was maybe six months after I started. From that time onwards, I never had less than 100 viewers on Twitch! That was really a lot at the time; it was one of the big streams that existed back then. I started with a channel in English and it was really amazing for me that the guy who inspired me to start was encouraging people to check out my channel.

An image of NM Kevin Bordi and his dog, a shiba inu called Misha.
Kevin and his spectacular dog, Misha.

Why do you call your community ‘Sharks’?

We were playing sub battles against other streamers' teams. The first five we played, we lost! And I was desperate. With all these losses, I started to play a type of character, like a sports coach. Except it was a coach who was absolutely crazy because he lost every match, you know?

So I started to find some speeches by amateur rugby coaches on the internet, of teams in like the third or fourth division, and I would deliver a speech in that character to my viewers before every sub battle. It’s not the inspirational stuff you’d hear on TEDx or something. It’s a bit more… aggressive. 

One day, I found a speech by a very famous coach, who was one of the best basketball players France had; he had a crazy Olympic Games where we got a silver medal in the Olympics and he was the key player. So he’s like a great man in French basketball, and he said “From a dolphin, you can’t make a shark”. He was basically explaining why his team was losing and said he can't do anything because there are only dolphins on the court and he can’t turn them into sharks. From this we kind of started a running gag, like whenever guys started to lose the game, we’d say, "You can't turn a dolphin into a shark." And well, the thing started like that and it stayed.

What is the ZEvent, and can you tell the international audience more about it?

So the ZEvent is an event created by ZeratoR, who is one of the biggest French streamers. It's one of the biggest—maybe it's the biggest—charity events worldwide for Twitch. He's inviting top French streamers to gather together in a place organized specifically for the stream, and you have the top 40 or 50 French streamers there getting together to raise money for charity. This year it was for environmental protection.

My community raised like 118,000 euros for charity, which is really a lot by French standards! All together, the 50 or so streamers in the event raised something like 10 or 11 million. It’s one of my favorite events. The energy there is very positive and it’s nice to raise money for charity to help other people, so it was really very cool.

How about the B Cup?

The B Cup is another special event. It was the first edition last year in December. The event is played on the internet, but to get in the tournament you need to play from a certain place; in this case, we played from the biggest e-sports location in France, next to the Louvre. So we gathered together like 120 people to play in the tournament on Chess.com. It’s the first event of this kind, where people meet together in one place to play online chess.

Our goal, our big dream, would be to organize more in the future. We’re going to organize the next B-Cup on June 17 as the second edition, but our dream would be to make it an international event one day and to create international online events, like having people from Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, everywhere, all meeting in an e-sports place and having a worldwide tournament. Not just from home, but playing from actual places so the chess community can gather together and really spend time in one location. It’s not like the usual chess tournament where you can’t speak! It was a lot of fun to have people in one place, sometimes screaming that they lost their queen or things like that.

Around the world, we’re seeing young people pick up chess and a general ‘mainstreaming’ of chess as a hobby. How have you seen chess grow in France in recent years?

I know chess is getting bigger all over the world. I see it from the stats, I see it from events, and a lot of other metrics. In France as well—but I can’t say much about that! I just see it from these metrics. I see there are more people playing chess, but I can’t say I have a concrete example of something that made me feel like there are so many people playing chess nowadays. I would say we had a very big buzz in France during the Candidates tournament with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave playing very well; it’s definitely getting bigger, but maybe less than the big boom we’re seeing in other countries right now.

You have your own bot on Chess.com. How do you feel like your bot compares to your real-life playing style?

My bot definitely plays differently than me! It’s more of an homage to my Grob against Magnus, which is a move that kind of made me famous. So it’s playing a lot of unsound openings, which is not something I do much of.

I’m very bad at openings for my level at least, and so I’m always finding myself in difficult positions, but I usually try to play quiet and technical positions if I can, trying to get to the endgame and simplify… but my bot is going crazy! 

I would say my bot is definitely a tribute to the Grob against Carlsen, which is probably my best chess memory, so I like that the bot is set up like that, but I wouldn’t say it plays like me. I haven’t played a match against it, so I don't know if the bot is stronger than me… what I can say, and this is a message for Danny, is that I could beat his bot. So if Danny wants to give mine a try, let’s see!

An image linking to Kevin Bordi's bot on Chess.com.

You’re a titled chess player and obviously have lots of over-the-board experience - but is it true that you learned how to play chess on a Game Boy?

Yes, totally true. My dad had a game, I think it was called Chessmaster, and I had a few games on the Game Boy like Mario and things like that... but my dad had the chess game. I really wanted to play this game, I don’t know why but I wanted to, so I put the game in the Game Boy many times and tried to learn by playing. I was moving the pieces and learning step-by-step how they move to be able to play a game.

My dad said it was too complicated because I was six years old and said it’d be more fun to play Mario, but I wasn’t stopping, and really wanted to know how to play this game! One night my dad decided to teach me the rules so that I could play against the Game Boy. Then I had chess at school, and eventually, I went to the chess club after that. That’s how I started to become really serious about chess, but at first, I was really just fascinated by this game on the Game Boy.

You’re also a tennis fan. If you could pick any tennis player to join you on stream, who would it be, and why?

I would pick Gael Monfils. I know him a bit, and he has a very nice Twitch channel as well. He doesn’t have many streams in English unfortunately, but his streams are amazing and he’s really cool. He has such good energy and explains the game really well. For sure I'd pick him.

And then I’m hesitating between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer… Federer is such a great attacking player. I had a debate not long ago with a friend—objectively Djokovic has achieved more than Federer, but people put Federer in front because of his playing style, which is so immaculate and clean. But I really think that Djokovic might even be a class above... his movement on the court, his vision, and his defense are crazy good. But I would pick Federer anyway because you just can’t pick anyone else, he’s a legend.

For a while you were a professional poker player. Many pro chess players are also big poker fans. What do you think the overlap between poker and chess is? What are some of the similarities that draw so many people into both games?

I can’t say I love poker, honestly, but I do love earning money! One of the reasons chess players love poker is that it’s a game, like chess, and when you play chess you feel like you might have an edge on a ‘simpler’ game. At least at the time, it was seen that way. By now poker has become more difficult as people are getting stronger and stronger, like at chess.

But in the past, it was seen as a slightly easier game and you felt you had an edge because you were already good at a game that involved deep calculation. And so it was a good way to make money! I think many chess players love poker for that reason; they can play a game, and they can feel like they may be better than others... which is often an illusion by the way since a lot of chess players are losing money at poker!

Also, poker is the kind of game where everybody thinks they are winning for some reason; I think all those things together are why chess players often love to play poker.

We often see a majestic dog on your social media. Can you tell us more about them?

My dog is called Misha, she’s a little girl! A little Shiba. Every time I finish my stream we go to take a walk together; she’s like my closest partner after my wife and my kid. She’s definitely part of my family. I’m always very happy when she comes up to see me on the stream. Sometimes she’ll come up and ask me for some pats or a head massage when I’m live on stream if I’m streaming a bit late.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of starting to stream or create chess content?

It’s very simple: just enjoy it, enjoy what you do and the content you make. Make it for fun, for your own pleasure. Be authentic, be yourself, and enjoy the content you’re making.

The internet is full of inspirational people who say to follow your dream and your passion and everything will work out… well, chess is my passion and streaming is my passion, but at some point, you also need to have some luck. Earlier I mentioned that I was inspired by ChessNetwork; this guy is the reason I started, and he helped me out a lot with the tweet he made. People who succeed in stuff are also a bit lucky sometimes, you know?

I always feel that it’s a bit unfair to say that if you follow your dreams and work a lot it just works out; sometimes it doesn’t. Behind success is always some part of destiny, of luck, or whatever you want to call it, so just enjoy what you are doing. At the end of the day, the most important thing is just to be happy. If it works out, great, if it doesn’t work out but you had a lot of fun and enjoyed making the content, then that’s already a success in its own way.


Catch BlitzStream live on his Twitch channel, or follow his content on YouTube, Discord, Instagram, Twitter, and his official website. Want to see your favorite streamer here? Let us know in the comments. A special mention goes to @HasteCeler for nominating BlitzStream in the very first comment someone ever left on this series!


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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.

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