OVER 2.1 million live views and an average of almost 70,000 viewers — watching a game of chess?
That’s the kind of draw the Botez sisters command on Twitch, an online streaming platform. While Twitch is more known for hosting gaming streams (its most popular streamer is Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who usually plays Fortnite and Valorant), it’s also become a haven of sorts for a new generation of tech-savvy, esports-influenced chess players.
“Today we became the chess stream with the most concurrent viewers of ALL TIME,” tweeted Alexandra Botez this week. Both the World FIDE Master (WFM) and her sister Andrea hosted BlockChamps, a six-hour chess-meets-Minecraft stream that had popular streamers Pokimane and LilyPichu as guests.
The chess games were also run concurrently on a Minecraft server, with 1,000 players enthusiastically logging in with their block-like characters to watch the matches.
In their streams, the Botez sisters combine a funny, engaging patter (plus a healthy dose of meme culture) with a seriously beginner-friendly approach to chess. They even got to tutor Game of Thrones actor and World’s Strongest Man Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson.
They bring some legit chess chops to the table, too. According to FIDE, 25-year-old Alexandra is currently ranked #2020 in the world, and #169 among active players in her home federation of Canada. According to a profile by the New York Post’s Kirsten Fleming, her father taught her the sport at the age of six.
At eight years old, she already won a national championship. At 15, she won the US Girls National championship. Alexandra enrolled at Stanford University and became the chess club’s first female president. She attained her WFM rank in 2013.
Her 18-year-old sister Andrea does not yet boast international chess credentials.
Like many in the chess orbit, their viewership numbers got a big bump from The Queen’s Gambit, the immensely popular show on Netflix.
In the beginning of 2020, they only had 61,000 followers on Twitch. They now have more than 581,000. Their YouTube account, BotezLive, has 237,000 subscribers.
“‘Chess exploded on Twitch, and I was one of the top streamers. I remember being so excited, I couldn’t sleep. I was so high on adrenaline,’ Alexandra told the New York Post.
The sisters’ popularity on Twitch is emblematic of a new generation of digital savvy chess players who’ve seized upon the tactics of esports players — streams, memes, and all — to pump some Gen Z energy into the ancient sport.
In fact, the Botez sisters signed on with esports organization Team Envy last December.
“The Botez sisters are the most entertaining creators in chess right now, and they’ve played a major role in popularizing the game on Twitch,” said Andrew Peterman, chief content officer at Envy Gaming, in a statement on Chess.com. “Signing Alexandra and Andrea to launch our new Envy creator network is about much more than chess, however. It’s about giving people access to the personalities that represent the future of entertainment.”
They are, surprisingly, not the most popular FIDE ranked streamer on the platform.
In terms of follower count, they are dwarfed on Twitch by Hikaru "GMHikaru" Nakamura, a FIDE Grandmaster who has more than 857,000 followers.