GM Xiong: The Young Chess Grandmaster Taking Twitch By Storm

GM Xiong: The Young Chess Grandmaster Taking Twitch By Storm

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GM Jeffery Xiong is an American chess grandmaster. At 22 years old, his well-rounded playing style has garnered praise from legends of the game like GMs Garry Kasparov and Yasser Seirawan and has seen him play (and win) against some of the biggest names in modern chess.

Jeffery recently joined the exclusive club of GMs who share their love of chess with a live audience on Twitch and has quickly gained over 5,000 followers on the platform due to his entertaining and accessible streaming style, his high-level chess insights, and his authentic personality. Read our interview with him to find out what life is like for a young chess grandmaster on Twitch!

You’re an established name for many chess fans, but you only recently started streaming. What made you decide to start?

It was two main things. First, just from a timing standpoint, it made a lot of sense. I don’t really have any tournaments coming up until next year, so if I was gonna do anything else, this was the perfect moment to start.

Secondly, and I think this is actually more important, I just wanted to put myself out there. I think I've been an introvert my whole life—I still am—but just to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and try to interact with other people… it seemed like a good way to go.

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

Starting out, I watched a lot of Hikaru. Even his early streams back in late 2018—I was one of the first ones that found out that he was streaming! So obviously I've been following him for a long time, and he’s probably up there in terms of my favorites. He's just really good at, well, winning. People really like to cheer for a champion and be with him every step of the way. It’s difficult to win, and it’s difficult to play as well as Hikaru, but it’s inspiring that he can talk on stream so much and still keep his quality sharp.

Also, I would say Daniel Naroditsky. I think he's a super entertaining bullet player, and he’s really good at articulating his thoughts and explaining them to all audiences to make it interesting. The way he says things allows people to get involved; I think he has something called The Sensei Speedrun where he plays rapid games and then lets others play along. I really like how he gets the audience to participate.

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

I’d have to say it was my birthday stream when I got my whole family to come on. It was just so much fun! Just being with either my dad or my sister and perusing through the comments, socializing, getting to talk about things and share personal anecdotes... they also got on me a little bit about my bad habits, like me being notoriously bad at the tech side of streaming! It was just a really fun and interesting experience. 

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

I have a lot of interests, including sports—I’m a huge sports fan, and a big supporter of all my local teams. I like a variety of sports, and I’d probably take someone from the sports world, like a local hero; potentially a Mavericks player like either Dirk Nowitzki or Luka Doncic. They’d be amazing to have as a potential guest.

It makes sense too because they have a chess background. Luka likes to play from time to time, and Dirk himself has a chess-playing son. So there's definitely some connection there!

You recently did a Meet the Mods series. What was your inspiration behind that?

I guess I should preface this with the notion that I really love collabs in general. I try to get somebody new on my stream at least every week and mix in different personalities. The mods are perfect examples because they do everything behind the scenes and nobody really knows who they are, but I think a lot of people on Twitch are curious.

Certain mods have a lot of fans, and people go crazy over a face reveal! That’s sort of the thing I was going with, just giving people the chance to get to know the mods and their backgrounds a little bit.

Do you think providing commentary for chess broadcasts helped you in terms of streaming?

I think for sure it had to have helped a lot to start out with commentary. At first, when you go live in front of so many people, it’s easy to get some sort of stage fright or just get stuck. Having a few of those commentaries under my belt definitely put me in a good starting spot for streaming. I was hardly nervous at all for my first streams, which I was pleasantly surprised by. And then just to be able to talk in front of the camera for a long time, I think it gave me good experience for when I eventually started streaming.

Were you nervous the first time you went on a broadcast to provide commentary?

Yes, I definitely remember that! It was the Junior Speed Chess Championship and I felt a lot of butterflies at the start. The good thing is that after I got started and eased into it, it felt more natural and I could get into a nice flow of things.

Do you play better or worse on stream?

That’s a great question… I think it’s very highly dependent. Because sometimes I definitely play better, but it varies week to week. For example, last week I felt like having a crowd behind me cheering and motivating me helped me play better, but then this week it was a bit overloading like maybe I paid too much attention to the chat and lost focus on the games.

I think I have to find the right balance. It’s very tricky. I definitely try to use the fact that people are watching me and wanting me to do well to my advantage. And once I figure this balance out, I feel like I will be a better player while streaming.

Hikaru has proven that someone can be a top-level streamer as well as a top-level chess player at the same time. How (if at all) does streaming impact your professional chess ambitions for 2023 and onwards?

I will say first and foremost that Hikaru is one of a kind. He’s so special in the way that he can just juggle so many things and still excel. He’s had so much on his plate, playing Candidates and doing YouTube content… and also streaming during his big events; I don’t think anybody can do what he does. I'm definitely not trying to become the next Hikaru or anything.

But I really like the way he combines his over-the-board tournaments and uses them as fuel for content. I think that’s something I can also see myself implementing. Let’s say playing a U.S. Championship and doing recaps. I think that would be a fun and interesting thing, and also provide the audience with a lot of good insights. It’s hard to say because I’ve not attempted to do such a thing yet, but we’ll see. I’ll try my best to combine the two and mesh them as well as I can! 

Catch GM Jeffery Xiong live on his Twitch channel, or follow his content on Discord and Twitter.

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