Chess is a popular part of Twitch, with an online community discussing strategy, tournaments, and leaderboards. This part of the internet is currently on fire thanks to a back and forth between two senior players that has included copyright claims, harassment allegations, and even a fist fight.
The pandemic resulted in a huge boom in popularity for chess Thanks to streamers and personalities who picked up the game, as well as more online infrastructure for tournaments. Fans watch countless hours on Twitch every month Individual streamers attract tens of thousands of simultaneous viewers. One of the most visible figures in the chess community is Hikaru Nakamura.
Nakamura is a five-time US chess master. the biggest chess streamer on Twitch; a member of the well-known esports organization TSM;; and the top ranked player in Blitz, a fast-paced version of chess with timers every round. He’s a central figure in this drama, along with a minor streamer, Eric Hansen, a Canadian grandmaster who directs it educational Chessbrah Twitch channel.
Hansen and Nakamura have played against each other before as they have both been long-time members of the competitive chess community. Hansen and Nakamura had a blitz match at the end of March in which The two players did not understand each other. Hansen offered Nakamura a draw, which Nakamura denied. Nakamura offered Hansen a tie shortly afterwards, which Hansen did not see. Nakamura ran the clock on the lightning bolt in protest.
Nakamura accused Hansen of “To markThis is a tactic where one player simply runs down the other player’s clock while avoiding a checkmate. It’s a legitimate strategy, although it is often viewed as cheesy by people in the chess community. Both players streamed the match This allows the viewer to see both perspectives.
Nakamura argued that Hansen should have accepted the draw and that the decision to continue the game and then win by flags was bad etiquette. Other chess commentators noted that Nakamura did Previously won games by marking them.
In response, People who shared videos of the game and the player cameras – including Hansen – Received copyright strikes attributed to Nakamura. Hansen did not respond to a request for comment. Polygon reached out to TSM for comment on Nakamura’s behalf but did not receive a response in time for press.
One of Nakamura’s Twitch moderators claimed that the copyright strikes were carried out by a third party on behalf of Nakamura – specifically Bent Pixels, which has a partnership with TSM.
Hansen discussed the subject at length during one three hour stream on April 7thNakamura had a long history of toxic and violent behavior in the competitive chess community. Hansen also said his channel is being held hostage by copyright strikes, claiming Nakamura will file bans against videos that contain negative depictions of his behavior or image. During the stream, Hansen also discussed a 2018 physical fight that took place at a party in St. Louis after a drunken blitz match. The footage was recently fully published on YouTubeand shows other prominent chess players at the party during the conflict. While the rivalry between Hansen and Nakamura has been public for some time, news of the fight – not to mention footage – has shed new light on the friction between them for fans.
The video begins quite harmlessly, both men play chess while others watch. Then the scene shifts and the two argue on the street. Hansen seems to be suffocating Nakamura while the audience jokes and even makes suggestions to the two of them. The fight seems to end without the arrival of the police or outside interference.
Since Nakamura is a prominent member of the chess community and arguably the face of online competitive chess, this is a high profile conflict. Something Members of the chess community choose not to comment;; large forums like chess.com or the Chess subreddit are forced to moderate the discussion. Other communities like that Anarchy Chess subreddit, get wild with memes over the controversy. The whole matter is a reminder that no matter how innocent or worldly it may seem on the outside, a community is always complex and diverse for those involved.
Update (April 12th): TSM chess player Hikaru Nakamura gave Polygon the following explanation:
That has gone far enough. Not only is this bad for everyone involved, but also bad for chess. Our audience and fans have high expectations of our behavior, and it is through these struggles and negativity that we let them down – me included.
As you know, I’ve been a tough competitor all my life. I play to win. Even so, this desire to win and my extreme competitiveness sometimes spills over into real life. In retrospect, I find that my behavior in dealing with others was sometimes negative. I really apologize and will work on it.
As I mentioned on my stream the other day, I will now take on a much more active role in managing my accounts. I love streaming and I love chess. I let others manage the behind-the-scenes activities because my focus was solely on content creation. I now know that this is ultimately * my * stream. I need to be more aware of the actions of my team and everyone working on my behalf. While this is well-intentioned, I fully acknowledge that those who work with me on my behalf should not have aggressively pursued the copyright strikes. From now on I have more insight into all things related to my account and my business.
I will no longer work with Chessbae. I appreciate what she has done for me and the world of chess, but it’s time to move on with a new team.
Regarding Chessbrah / Eric Hansen, we need to connect privately to try to solve our problems. I will not do this in a public forum or speak publicly about him again. As two of the game’s most famous creators of chess content, we have a responsibility to the community to meet at least as professionals.
For those of you who are disappointed with how we all acted, I really apologize. Of course I love this game and my passion can sometimes bring out the best in me. I hope we can all move on from this and focus on what is most important.