Esports organization TSM has signed its first professional chess player, US grandmaster and five-time champion Hikaru Nakamura. The youngest American to ever earn that coveted ranking at age 15, Nakamura is considered among the best players in the world, routinely ranking alongside world champion Magnus Carlsen as one of the greatest living chess grandmasters.
Nakamura, now 32 years old, also maintains a successful social media presence, with more than 170,000 Twitter followers and a Twitch channel where he live streams himself playing chess and explaining various strategies to his viewers. At the time of the announcement, Nakamura’s channel had more than 500,000 followers and he was streaming live to more than 18,000 people. Nakamura has been a leader in helping establish chess on Twitch, coaching well-known pros and helping organize tournaments since one of his primary sponsors, Chess.com, partnered with the platform in 2017.
It makes sense then that TSM — one of the largest esports organizations with dedicated teams spanning Fortnite, League of Legends, and Valorant, among other titles — would want to add someone like Nakamura to its roster.
Chess isn’t something you play with a keyboard and mouse on a screen, but it is one of the oldest competitive games on the planet. It also has a robust global community that plays the game online across every conceivable platform and a professional ranking organization (FIDE) that has helped organize well-established tournaments for decades. Esports and chess seem like a smart match.
Upon announcement of Nakamura joining TSM, fellow esports organization Cloud9 coyly invited Nakamura’s rival Carlsen to consider getting involved in the industry, too.