Pandemic? Climate crisis? No: PogChamps!
For a small fringe of the elite chess world the biggest threat to society today is the fact that chess has become a Twitch phenomenon and that popular streamers are playing it for an audience… Even though their ELO rating is not even 2000!
PogChamps 3, the amateur tournament at the heart of this crisis, is streaming on Twitch right now and some GMs are not amused. Quoting Super Grandmaster Yan Nepomniachtchi: “PogChamps 3 as popcorn stuff is displacing any real chess content and this is just terrifying.“
Personally it’s this debate that I find popcorn-worthy… Such elitism is totally antithetic with the online gaming culture that is powering this chess renaissance. Young people seem to be treating Chess like any other online video game. Something you can play with friends, for fun, where you can watch pros but where you can also watch streamers who are just trying to make a good show.
I also think the phenomenon is very interesting from an AI perspective. When Deep Blue beat Kasparov in 97 it felt like a crisis in the world of chess. Today nobody cares about the fact that engines have left humans in the dust. In fact engines have turned into excellent and very democratic trainers. A membership on chess.com will buy you a deep analysis of every game you play, highlighting your good moves and showing you where you erred. You’ll get personalized lessons based on the mistakes you most frequently make. You’ll get chess puzzles calibrated for your weaknesses. It’s a clear invitation to continuously improve.
This renaissance of chess has affected my household directly: my son has become enamoured with the game. I tried paying it with him often when he was younger but he could never be bothered to learn what pinning a piece meant and why a discovered check was so dangerous. Now he’s playing the Ponziani and correcting my Sicilian defense. To see him bite into something and having all the tools needed to fuel his passion is putting a huge smile on my face.
The Internet can be pretty darn awesome.