The chess grandmaster drama that led to a fistfight, explained


Chess is a well-liked a part of Twitch, with an internet group that discusses methods, tournaments, and rankings. That a part of the web is at present on fireplace thanks to a back-and-forth between two high-level gamers that contains copyright claims, accusations of harassment, and even a fistfight.

The pandemic led to a massive increase in recognition for chess thanks to streamers and personalities selecting up the sport, in addition to extra on-line infrastructure for tournaments. Fans watch numerous hours on Twitch every month, with particular person streamers racking up tens of 1000’s of concurrent viewers. One of essentially the most seen figures throughout the chess group is Hikaru Nakamura.

Nakamura is a five-time U.S. Chess Champion; the most important chess streamer on Twitch; a member of distinguished esports group TSM; and the highest-ranked participant in Blitz, a speedy model of chess with timers on every flip. He is a central determine on this drama, together with a smaller streamer, Eric Hansen, a Canadian grandmaster who runs the academic Chessbrah Twitch channel.

Hansen and Nakamura have competed towards each other earlier than, as they’re each long-standing members of the aggressive chess group. Hansen and Nakamura had a Blitz match close to the tip of March wherein the 2 gamers miscommunicated. Hansen provided Nakamura a draw, which Nakamura denied. Nakamura provided Hansen a draw shortly afterward, which Hansen didn’t see. Nakamura let the clock run out on the Blitz in protest.

Nakamura accused Hansen of making an attempt to win by way of “flagging,” which is a tactic wherein one participant merely runs down the opposite participant’s clock whereas avoiding a checkmate. It is a reliable technique, though it’s typically seen as tacky by individuals throughout the chess group. Both gamers have been streaming the match, making it doable for viewers to see each views.

Nakamura argued that Hansen ought to have accepted the draw, and that selecting to proceed the sport after which successful by way of flagging was poor etiquette. Other chess commentators famous that Nakamura has beforehand received video games by way of flagging.

In response, individuals who shared video of the match and participant cams — together with Hansen — acquired copyright strikes that have been attributed to Nakamura. Hansen didn’t reply to a request for remark. Polygon reached out to TSM for touch upon Nakamura’s behalf, however didn’t obtain a response in time for press.

One of Nakamura’s Twitch moderators claimed that the copyright strikes have been made via a third celebration on behalf of Nakamura — particularly, Bent Pixels, which has a partnership with TSM.

Hansen mentioned the problem in depth throughout a three-hour stream on April 7, saying that Nakamura had a lengthy historical past of poisonous and violent conduct within the aggressive chess group. Hansen additionally mentioned that his channel is being held hostage by copyright strikes, alleging that Nakamura will file takedowns towards any movies containing a destructive depiction of his conduct or picture. During the stream, Hansen additionally mentioned a bodily battle from 2018 that occurred at a celebration in St. Louis after a drunken Blitz match, which is a part of what has the chess group reeling. The footage was just lately launched in full on YouTube, and exhibits different distinguished chess gamers on the celebration throughout the battle. While the rivalry between Hansen and Nakamura has been public for a whereas now, information of the battle — not to point out footage — has solid the friction between them in a new mild for followers.

The video begins innocently sufficient, with each males taking part in chess as others watch. Then, the scene shifts, and each of them are brawling on the road. Hansen seems to choke Nakamura whereas onlookers make jokes and even name out options to the 2 of them. The battle seems to finish with out the arrival of police or exterior intervention.

Since Nakamura is a distinguished member of the chess group, and arguably the face of aggressive chess on-line, that is a high-profile battle. Some members of the chess group are selecting not to remark; giant boards like chess.com or the chess subreddit are compelled to average the dialogue. Other communities, just like the Anarchy Chess subreddit, are going wild with memes in regards to the controversy. The whole affair is a reminder that irrespective of how harmless or mundane a group seems to be from the skin, it’s at all times advanced and multifaceted for these concerned.

We will replace this text ought to Polygon obtain remark from TSM or Hansen.


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