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Old 09-22-2020, 10:59 PM   #11
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Join Date: Feb 2008
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Posts: 27,108
Re: Hikaru Nakamura vs Chess Brahs

I'm torn on this subject. I just got into chess about four years ago after I thought that a game I thought was so beautiful deserved learning. In those four years I've gone from 600-1500 primarily through accessing free stuff online.

In those first few years when I was learning, when Hikaru was still on the edge of the top 10 and taking himself extremely seriously, it was kind of a love/hate. Like, he always came across fairly aloof and humorless if not just an overt dick but he also clearly wanted to win and had a personality, even if it was a personality I didn't care for, so I respected that. I've always had a deep respect for people who just put winning above everything else. This persona that he's adopted in the last 9 months or so, however, just seems so fake to me. I get that he doesn't owe me anything, but I find him unwatchable because the Hikaru I see on his stream is clearly cultivated to garner the largest piece of the Twitch audience he can attract. And fair play to him. Take maney. He's been very successful with it and his success has given more attention to, imo, better streamers like Danya, Levy, and Hess.

But I had issue, though it seemed to be the losing side, with the whole "chess elitism" brouhaha this spring during the initial POGCHAMPS rollout simply because the target was Ben Finegold who has always been like Hikaru's polar opposite as someone who uses the persona to mask his own demons/pain, and he has plenty admittedly, but if you get beyond it even 1% you can tell he's a gifted educator who genuinely loves chess whereas Hikaru is a brilliant chess mind who never seems like he truly enjoys the game or enjoys anyone enjoying it alongside him. But then Hikaru is labeled as the new face of chess and Ben is an "elitist" because he rags on a popular streamer who, surprise surprise, didn't end up taking things seriously. And nobody can stick up for Ben because Hikaru is this white knight bringing money into the audience when clearly people are bootlicking his successes when they all kind of know he's fos but they don't dare piss off the army of 14-20 yo subscriber base.

I contrast that with Chessbrah who, like what they do or not, are imo 100% authentic to who they actually are and do seem welcoming to anybody who's open to learning and enjoying the game. Their persona is also probably SLIGHTLY exaggerated but at least I feel like they 1. love chess and 2. are true to who they really are. So even if I only really watch them in small doses, I 100% respect them for what they do.

tl;dr Hikaru is not interested in "growing the game" anywhere beyond the $$$ it earns him. He's misplaced as the modern pied piper of chess but is perfectly placed to siphon money from teenagers who are really only interested in the twitch drama around chess. Will it last? We will see. Chessbrah is, imo, well positioned to continue their successes, smaller they be, far into the future because their audience is grown around their own authenticity.
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