As chess has surged in popularity on Twitch, so have some of the timeless game’s more charismatic professional players, such as sisters Alexandra and Andrea Botez, who have now signed as content creators to esports organization Envy.
Chess has existed in some form since the 6th century, with the standardization of its pieces coming in the 15th century and its rules in the 19th century.
However, the ancient game hadn’t fared well competing for views on Twitch until 2020, when growth became substantial — and the Botez sisters have been key to its surge.
Alexandra and Andrea Botez: accolades & personalities
Alexandra and Andrea are funny, engaging, and absolute savages on the chess board. While the chess community has been lambasted as elitist for gate-keeping against casuals, the Botez sisters feel like real people who just want to help the community grow (and maybe roast people, or themselves, along the way).
Alexandra, the older of the two, is just 25 years old but already an established force within the chess community, boasting the Woman FIDE Master title and numerous championships dating back to her time with the National Canadian Team as a 15-year-old.
Andrea, conversely, is barely out of high school and devoid of international chess recognition despite being a talented player herself, with national competitions and some prize money under her belt. Together, they’re talented enough to help tutor celebrities like Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson, but also humble enough to engage with their communities outside of the chess board.
That dynamic exemplifies the meteoric rise of chess on Twitch. The intrinsic qualities of chess, with its high skill-ceiling and steep learning curve, are not foreign to Twitch users. However, the game has lacked the interest of popular streamers and community engagement from skilled players. That changed in May 2020 when Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura decided to take the infamous Felix “xQc” Lengyel under his wing.
How much have the Botez sisters grown on Twitch in 2020?
Often working alongside Nakamura, whether by providing tutelage, competing, or simply commentating in a burgeoning online chess scene, the Botez sisters have carved out a tremendous niche. Their channel has grown from about 73,000 followers in May to nearly 500,000 in December 2020.
“This is how you play chess, buddy” pic.twitter.com/efT5hO9moA
— Alexandra Botez (@alexandravbotez) May 6, 2020
With Twitch popularity dictated by both in-game talent and the ability to foster community, Alexandra and Andrea’s ability to mesh technical superiority with community engagement is unparalleled in chess. While Hikaru can be hilarious himself (especially when he’s dryly poking fun at players), the Botez sisters are entrenched in the platform’s culture and are avid propagators of the memes and conversations that help develop a fanbase with a foundation not solely built on raw chess skill.
Whether it’s dissecting chess matches, trying out games like Griftlands, or simply talking with (or roasting) their peers and fans on Just Chatting, the Botez sisters prove how much stronger your community can become when top players don’t take themselves too seriously.
Dexerto Awards and joining Envy
In the tail end of the year, the Botez sisters saw all their hard work and channel growth paying off, elevating their career in a number of ways.
Early in December, they were a finalist for Breakthrough Streamer of the Year in the Dexerto Awards alongside Ludwig, Sykkuno and Corpse Husband. Though they didn’t win — with Ludwig eventually taking the crown — it was symbolic of how far they’d come in 2020, especially in such a niche market.
Then, on December 21, the sisters officially joined one of esports’ biggest organizations, Envy, as content creators, firmly asserting themselves as major players in the streaming world and ones to keep an eye on.
— DEXERTO.COM (@Dexerto) December 21, 2020
This marks a huge step forward for the sisters, and for chess in general. While the game seemed to die down over time, the popularity of Netflix show ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has given it somewhat of a resurrection, which has only served to bolster the community the Botez sisters serve.
They’re not the first chess player to join a top esports organization — Nakamura takes that claim, joining TSM back in August 2020 — but this move shows how valuable chess streaming could become down the line, and the value these entertainers hold in the livestreaming and gaming world.
While 2020 may have been their breakthrough year, expect big things from the Botez sisters in 2021, because it looks like these two are only just getting started.