Jedi Master James Canty III Talks Star Wars, Chessboxing, And More

Jedi Master James Canty III Talks Star Wars, Chessboxing, And More

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FM James Canty III is a titled chess player, streamer, coach, and commentator. Known as one of the world's most entertaining chess content creators, he has over 33.5K followers on his Twitch channel. He's also a popular figure on broadcasts, whether he's playing in the IMSCC or providing commentary for the 2022 Global Championship.

Read on to learn more about this multi-talented chess streamer, find out why this FIDE master is also known as the Jedi Master, and discover who would be the world's most dangerous GM to face in a chessboxing match.

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

I’ve been streaming chess since 2018, so basically four years, coming up on five! I started streaming chess after watching others streaming online. I was 5-6 months into watching it myself and was actually doing door-to-door sales. And I got tired of doing that!

Someone who really helped me was a friend of mine that I saw, ChessCoachNET, Frank Johnson. I remember being 12 years old and playing him in Atlanta. He’s been around the chess scene for a very long time... when I lived down there, I hung out with him a lot, and then I saw him streaming, and I was like ‘’Yo, what is this, man?”

I think we had like a two-hour talk one day offline; he told me about streaming, and I said: "Wow, that’s cool; I’ll try to take it up." And then a few months later, I started.

Who are some of your own personal favorite chess streamers, and why? Is there anyone you take inspiration from?

Absolutely! In fact, I was just in Toronto, and one of the biggest things was thinking about was how cool it is to meet some of my favorite streamers. Chessbrah was one of the first streams I loved to hang out in and watch, and then this past weekend, I was at the house of the chessbrahs! I was chilling there, and I remember years ago thinking I wanna hang out with them... now I was actually there having drinks and doing a cameo on their stream. 

It was a really great experience hanging out with them. They’re definitely one of my favorites. ChessCoachNET as well, and Hikaru, who is my absolute favorite and inspires me through chess and streaming the most... he kind of sets the bar.

ChessDojo is another one that's very instructive. I think those are who I watch the most. I like all of the streamers, but my absolute favorites are those. Am I missing anyone…? Oh, Naroditsky too! He’s up there as well.

One of your nicknames is the Jedi Master⁠—what part of Jedi Master resonates with you? What’s the story behind the name? Are you a big Star Wars fan?

Absolutely, I’m a huge Star Wars fan! What I always liked was how they use the force, when they put their hand out there and make a move. It's basically a mind thing: you have to use your mind and find the force in order to use it. It always resonated with me how prestigious the Jedi are; they’re very studious and wise, and you have to apply that to your next move and use the force wisely.

I think the same way in chess, where you have to balance all of these things and think about them, the psychology part and tactics—it’s really like you're being a Jedi and using the force. It’s a huge thing for me; I love the Jedi.

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

I think every time someone gifts like 100+ subs, that’s just absolutely huge. Like, bro, that is ridiculous. That’s at least $500! And sometimes people do more... 200 or 300. That’s over $1000 in a day! It’s epic when people do that, and one of the most exciting moments. 

One of the other exciting moments was me beating Jospem (GM Jose Eduardo Martinez Alcantara) live on stream. He was rated like 3000, and my stream was able to see me beat him!

Also, I think my first raid from Hikaru was one of the most epic times. Now I get raided by him a lot, but the first time it happened, I think I may have gotten 400 followers that day.

You put in a strong performance at this year’s IMSCC tournament and almost won the whole thing. How did you find the experience?

I played lots and lots of chess before the tournament. I train every single day, so I was accustomed to it. I was accustomed to the time controls. I always tell my students that even in basketball or football, there are beasts who just woke up that way one day. I call it the compound interest: the working and working and working, then one day, it all hits at once. 

For me, I’d been working so much. The first time I played Levy in the IMSCC, it went down to the wire before we got to the bullet portion, where he pulled away like 7-3 or something. Bullet was different; I wasn’t playing as much bullet chess, and he was just clearly better there. We were going back and forth, and at one point, I had a lead, so that gave me some experience.

Going into it this time, I was ready. I was going to play my best openings, the ones I know the best, and be very strong. I came in there and even beat IM Polina Shuvalova, who’s rated 2500 over the board, so it was definitely a strong performance. I’m looking forward to doing more of that.

One highlight of the IMSCC was your back-and-forth trash talk with IM Lawrence Trent… Who's the best trash talker in chess?

That’s a good question… there are street chess players that are really, really good. But people don’t know them as much, though they are great at trash talk. In terms of players that people know... Trent is pretty good at it. Trent and probably IM Greg Shahade are very good at that. That is a legendary banter, Greg Shahade and Lawrence Trent— would put them up very, very high. 

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

I’d probably pick Drake. I like Drake’s music, and also it’s just cool to have musicians in chess. He’s just dropped an album, too⁠—or just having some of the rappers that everybody knows on the stream would be cool.

You’ve been a chess content creator longer than most. How have you seen chess content evolve over time?

People are watching it a thousand times more. The numbers have grown in every aspect. I remember when the Streamers Program started, and there were only 30 to 40 people in the program, maybe not even that many. But that was a new thing! Now there’s a streamer community, and you need 1,000 followers as a minimum. That’s nuts!

I remember when none of this stuff was even there. It’s very cool to be where I’m at now.

You’re one of a small number of titled chess players who also bench 300+ lbs and also have a background in rapping. Do you feel like your proficiency in other areas has positively influenced your chess or your commentary?

It makes everything fun, and that’s what you want everything to be, nice and fun. Having the door-to-door sales experience helped a lot because it really opened me up; you have to talk to people and make them laugh, and make them want to buy from you. Learning all those skills, I was able to immediately apply that to streaming and commentary. 

Some people like to learn from guys that talk in one tone, but that’s just not me⁠—it puts me to sleep! I think the best way to learn and for things to be cool is for it to be like a party. 

A topic that’s been generating more and more hype these days: The mystery of chessboxing. Can we expect to see James Canty III in a chessboxing match anytime soon?

Absolutely! Especially if I’m challenged. I do lift a lot of weights, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great at boxing, but it does give you a good chance, especially if you’re trained. I’m not trained, but I can fight. I’m from Detroit, Michigan. We had to learn how to fight when we were growing up. Boxing is not something I ever did... I’ve punched a speedbag before and thrown a couple of punches here and there, nothing ever serious, but if it comes up, I’m definitely jumping in there.

Who do you think would be the best GM in a chessboxing match?

Hmm, let me think about that… Probably one of the taller players. Because when you’re taller, you have that extra range. You know what? GM Sam Sevian, he’s a tough one. He’s a big guy⁠—if he really cut up too… I gave him my diet plan, so he has my diet, and he has my workouts. If he starts hitting them over the next year, we might see Sam absolutely beastly. That’s gonna be the guy who’s scary to fight! He’s at least 6’3, big dude⁠—you don’t want problems with Sam! 

You provided analysis and insights at the Global Championship, interviewed players, and even played chess on a helicopter. What was the CGC like for you?

It was amazing⁠—in fact, it lets me know chess is about to be bigger than we’ve ever seen. If that’s the first one, then the third, the fifth, the tenth time is gonna be even bigger. So I’m glad I was part of the first one.

My favorite part was actually asking the GMs questions, like ‘’What do you think of this opening?’’ Just to get my own sense of how they feel about things. It was good to hear them talk and get their insights. Just hanging out with them, taking pictures, and nonchalantly chilling with super GMs. It’s cool to have relationships with these guys. Some of them also said they especially like my commentary! I was like, "yo, that’s legit!" They actually watch my stuff! So that’s huge to me as well. I’m definitely gonna step on the gas there.

One of the on-stream suggestions during the CGC was that you should do a stream where you do between 1-10 push-ups per subs.

Yikes⁠—I might have to do five. Because then somebody would do 100 subs, knowing the chat. We just had the chessbrah stream, where we did $100 a shot. And then someone gifted like 100 subs, and I was just like, "oh no… we’re not about to do that!"

So if I do something like that, the number has to be small because the chat will run it up to something ridiculous! So it’d have to be five max…

Catch James Canty III live on his Twitch channel, or follow his content on YouTube, Discord, and Twitter.

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