Ever since the pandemic happened and the entire world went into complete lockdown, with the movement of people across the globe fully restricted; sports was one of those sectors which suffered the most.
Almost all the sporting events in the world across came to a forced halt. The only form of sports, fans all around the globe could enjoy during this strict lockdown was E-sports. With the whole world confined to the four walls of their home, the number of people indulging in e-sports and online gaming rose to an all-time high.
The only traditional sport which could survive or rather thrive during such time was the strategy based game, Chess. While other popular sports like football, cricket, badminton, hockey, among others struggled to stay relevant during the lockdown, chess, much like e-sports, rose to a completely new level.
Chess broard at chess.com
A lot of it had to do with the fact that chess was probably the only traditional sport that did not halt its international tournaments due to the pandemic. In fact, the most prestigious tournament in the sport – The Chess Olympiad was successfully conducted online. Besides, various other small and large scale tournaments were also conducted online.
This success for chess over the internet has given a massive boost to the already existing question. Is it time for chess to be included under the bracket of e-sports?
Now to understand the rationale behind this question, let us understand how is e-sports defined?
The most commonly accepted definition for e-sports is, “E-sports is an organised and competitive form of video-gaming competition held between two or more individuals or teams who are connected over the internet.”
Aren’t the online chess tournaments the same? Is it not an organised competition between two players or teams who are connected over the internet?
The other logic people backing the inclusion of chess under the umbrella term of e-sports give is the new-found technology of live streaming. It is something that has become synonymous with e-sports, of late.
Most of the e-sports players live to stream their games through any of the streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube and, etc. The love for live streaming has also taken the world of chess by storm with many of the top Grand Masters like Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Vidit Gujarati and others being regular streamers whilst raking up quite a good amount of views on their channels.
This rise in popularity of chess due to the game being played online excessively has even led to one of the most popular e-sports organisation in the world, TSM, to sign the American GM Hikaru Nakamura – making him the first-ever chess player to be signed by an e-sports team.
This was followed by popular chess streamers on Twitch and Women Fide Master (WFM) Alexandra Botez and her sister Andrea Botez joining the Texas-based e-sports organisation, Team Envy in the latter part of December 2020.
While the question, “Is online chess an e-sport?” is being asked for quite some time now, the recent developments in the field definitely suggests so.
Over the board game certainly has its charm and top Grand Masters from across the world might still choose a physical tournament over an online one any day, but no one can deny the boost online chess has given this age-old sport.
Chess, over the years, has struggled to be recognised as an Olympic sport and with the push for inclusion of e-sports in the quadrennial event at an all-time high – this might just be the right time for chess to be categorised as an e-sport.