The PogChamps series once put Chess near the top of the most-watched esports on Twitch. Pokimane, xQc and Ludwig were among the celebrity competitors.
More than 100,000 people watched as Felix “xQc” Lengyel swept through his group — defeating Pokimane, Rubius, and Daniel Negreanu on his way to the top spot in Group B. Previously, xQc competed in the first two PogChamps events and lost every match — a pretty solid turnaround for one of Twitch’s most popular personalities.
Benjy “Benjyfishy” Fish, who gained popularity through his competitive Fortnite career, also sailed through the group stage without dropping a game.
Andreas “Sardoche” Honnet, Rainn Wilson, Charles “MoistCr1tikal” White Jr., Ludwig “Ludwig” Ahgren, Negreanu, and rapper Logic were other celebrities who made the championship bracket.
The Championship bracket started February 23, and xQc lost his first match of the tournament to Sardoche 0-2. Surprisingly 16-year old Benjyfishy took out 46-year old poker professional Daniel Negreanu 2-1 in the second championship bracket match.
Chess Grandmaster calls event “popcorn stuff”
The PogChamps events have led to a massive increase in casual chess fans and the number of people playing on Chess.com. However, the success of this amateur chess tournament has draw some criticism from at least one world-class player, Grandmaster Yan Nepomniachtchi. Nepomniachtchi expressed fear that PogChamps is “popcorn stuff” and that the event is “replacing and displacing any real chess content.”
Alexandra Botez who replied to the world champion is one of the individuals who has directly benefited from more money and sponsors paying attention to Chess. The 25-year old chess player and commentator’s chess stream took off in 2020. What is more Botez and her sister Andrea officially became members of Envy Gaming in December 2020.
Botez: “Pogchamps isn’t to blame for a money/general appeal problem chess has always had”
“That being said, Pogchamps isn’t to blame for a money/general appeal problem chess has always had,” said Botez in a later tweet. “On the contrary, the event helps grow the pool of viewers potentially interested in elite events like Tata Steel.”
Tata Steel is an annual event that has become known as “The Wimbledon of Chess” and has attracted some of the biggest names in Chess history since its inception 83 years ago. The tournament pits 14 of the world’s best chess players against each other. Magnus Carlsen, possibly the most popular and best current chess player has won seven of these tournaments. Jordan Van Foreest won the 2021 tournament in late January.
PogChamps is a collaboration between Chess.com and Twitch and brings content creators together with celebrities for a Chess competition. This is the third version of the tournament. Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani (PogChamps1) and Rumay “itsHafu” Wang (PogChamps2) each won the previous PogChamps events.
PogChamps3 has doubled the previously $50,000 prizepool to $100,000. The staff at Chess.com is concurrently running a charity initiative in which they will match up to $100,000 in donations for the participants preferred charities throughout the event.
Maybe it is just “popcorn” stuff as Nepomniachtchi suggests, but PogChamps3, Twitch, and Chess.com have created one of the most watched events in esports.