Team SoloMid has always positioned itself at the cutting edge of esports, but their latest signing may still surprise you. The storied esports organisation yesterday (August 27) announced the addition of the prodigious chess player Hikaru “GM Hikaru” Nakaru to its lineup of talent.
However, this isn’t the start of a TSM chess division. Instead, the acquisition is a move to acquire one of the most popular and recognisable figures in a rapidly expanding field of streamed entertainment. Chess has seen a huge surge in popularity in the past 12 months, especially on YouTube and Twitch.
In June, Chess.com, one of the largest online chess websites hosted the PogChamps tournament on Twitch. Instead of Grandmasters and chess pros though, the tournament featured popular streamers and YouTube personalities. As a result, the level of play was much more accessible and understandable for a wider audience, making the event a huge success.
GM Hikaru featured as one of the commentators for that event, even if some moves by the competitors left him baffled.
What GM Hikaru brings to TSM, besides his chess legacy (a 15 year old prodigy who became the youngest American to earn the Grandmaster title, and a five-time US Champion), is a more modern attitude to the game of Chess. This new wave of popularity is less focused on the highest levels of play, and instead on personality and entertainment.
It aims to make chess more accessible, separating it from the elitism that has traditionally run through its core. GM Hikaru is a perfect match for this new perspective on one of the oldest games in the world.