2020: The Year of Chess

2020: The Year of Chess

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jack_connelly
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2020: The Year of Chess

I think that all of us can agree on this statement: 2020 was a tough year.  It was tough for the whole entire world, as we dealt with a pandemic that took away millions of lives and jobs.  However, for the chess community, 2020 was an incredible, record-shattering year.  To celebrate the new year and Chess.com reaching 50,000,000 members, I figured it would be a good time to make this timeline about the year of 2020 in chess, starting from the beginning:

Pre-COVID

These first few months of 2020 were somewhat ordinary.  Who knew there was going to be a pandemic so wide spreading that whole countries would go on lockdown?  In January, the Tata Steel Chess tournament, held in the Netherlands, was claimed by fellow American Fabiano Caruana to kick off 2020 (and also held a legendary match between Magnus Carlsen and Alireza Firouzja, who you all know I’m a fan of). 

Days later was the conclusion of the Women’s World Championship, where Chinese GM Ju Wenjun claimed victory over Russian challenger Aleksandra Goryachnika in a thrilling tiebreak.  The chess community was going through its “normal” life.  However, the chess world (and the rest of the world) was definitely not prepared for what would happen next…

March 2020

March 13th, 2020: COVID-19 hits America, and the country begins to go into a lockdown.  This pandemic had already spread in other countries and travel was banned to other foreign lands.  However, through all of this chaos, FIDE still held the Candidates’ Tournament.  For all that may be new to chess, the Candidates’ is a tournament held between 8 super-grandmasters to determine who gets to challenge the World Champion (Magnus Carlsen).  Despite an opt-out by GM Teimour Radjabov and concerns over travel and flights, half of the tournament was still played, with MVL and Ian Nepomniatchi seizing the lead.

As a result of the pandemic, pretty much every single over the board chess tournament was cancelled (including every one which I was going to play in☹).  However, chess still was able to thrive during this time thanks to the Internet and sites like Chess.com.

Chess Boom

I’m not going to drown you guys in statistics, but I am going to summarize this chess explosion during the pandemic.  Since everyone was inside their homes, having nothing to do, many decided to pick up chess.  There was no one better to answer this call than GM Hikaru Nakamura, whose entertaining YouTube Videos and Twitch streams drew in millions of viewers who wanted to witness his insane skill, speed, and content, as he won the 2020 Chess.com Content Creator of the year by a landslide.  Hikaru currently has over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube and millions have watched his Twitch streams.  Alexandra and Andrea Botez, a tandem known as BotezLive on YouTube and Twitch, also revolutionized the chess world with their lively personalities and their chess skill.  The group has amassed millions of views and just recently signed with Team Envy, an Esports team.  Many other twitch streamers and YouTubers also made their mark on the people, as everyone I’ve talked to about chess to is a fan of GothamChess, Agadmator, and Anna-Maja Kazarian (I’ll also give a shoutout to my favorite, John Bartholomew).  These streamers and creators have taught millions the basics of chess and was a part of the boom.  And how could I forget PogChamps?  The Chess.com original event brought in hundreds of thousands to watch their favorite streamers and gamers play in a huge chess tournament.

Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour

The super-GM competition also continued online, with grandmasters continuing their superb play.  After being bested by Alireza Firouzja in the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup, Magnus held his own online chess tour, which he won and took home most of the million-dollar prize fund.  This partially earned Magnus’s Chess Player of the Year Award, which he added to by winning the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger in October.

Conclusion

This past year has been one that we will never forget; We will never forget the chess as well.  From online tournaments to twitch streaming, 2020 has been a year for the ages.  Blessings to all in this great year of 2021!

Cheers,

JC