Chess is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the Internet

Online streamers like Botez earn money primarily through viewer donations, or tips. Those with a substantial following can also play the sponsorship field, generating extra income by partnering with a particular brand or product.
If you would have told me a decade ago that millions of people would elect to watch other people play games rather than participate themselves, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Add in the fact that some people are earning a comfortable living playing games for strangers and the concept gets even more absurd. And then you tell me that traditional board games are part of the mix? Ok, now you’re just making stuff up.

Yet, here we are. Not only is it real, it’s becoming increasingly more common.

Since 2016, time spent watching others compete in two-player strategy board game chess online has increased by more than 500 percent.

One player at the forefront of the craze is Alexandra Botez, a 24-year-old that runs a Twitch channel with her 17-year old sister. Described as a child phenom, Botez played chess competitively for years and was even the first female president of the Stanford University Chess Club. Since September 2019, however, she’s worked as a full-time streamer and has amassed more than 63,000 followers on Twitch.

“It’s crazy to me to have this kind of support and this kind of viewership online for chess,” Botez told NBC News. But should we really be all that surprised? After all, the Internet has changed the lives of billions by opening up opportunities that previously weren’t possible. Why should chess be any different?