A 14-year-old boy is the leader of a new generation of online chess | So Good News
ChessBrainiac is a talented young chess player aiming for a NM title in the near future, with a current USCF rating of 2121. He streamed his chess journey on Twitch over a year ago, reaching milestones such as a 2700 blitz rating and winning. has over 6,000 followers in the process. We caught up with James (whose real name isn’t Brainiac, believe it or not) to learn more about his stream, his community, and how he’s making a positive impact on the world through chess streaming.
Chess.com: How long have you been playing chess and what made you decide to start?
ChessBrainiac: I started streaming 15 months ago. I’ve been streaming a lot and generally enjoying being on Twitch. I was also a huge Arena Kings fan and loved watching people play it. After a few seasons I realized there was a new requirement: if you were going to play Arena Kings, you had to stream it. So I thought, OK! I can combine streaming with a tournament I like, so let’s try it.
I had to wait until I was 13… I was thinking of streaming before then, but of course I couldn’t (due to Twitch terms and conditions)!
What’s your favorite thing about streaming?
I definitely love building my own community and slowly enjoy watching more people come in and chat. His social side is amazing; I love how you connect with your audience, have fun and interact with them.
If you’re playing chess on your own, it can get a little boring at times! Streaming stuff really adds another dimension. I think that sometimes you just need to have fun in chess and streaming can definitely provide that. I love sharing my passion for gaming; I started playing when I was six years old and have been playing ever since.
Who are your personal favorite chess players and why?
I was almost watching Levi and Hikaru before I started streaming. They inspired me to start streaming. It was great to see the collaboration between them. Levi wasn’t that big of a streamer, but they worked great and he grew crazy. This inspired me to get started! I thought, “Hey, I can get a raise like that.”
Now I still watch a lot of streamers, but I’ve expanded my list since then. Now, I regularly watch chess players, Hikaru Steele and Daniel “Danya” Naroditsky. These would be my top three favorite streamers.
Each streamer’s sub-community is unique. How would you describe your community?
Great question! We talked about Levi… I sometimes feel like my community has become like him because they like to have fun at my expense every now and then! That’s what Twitch is all about. My community certainly has that aspect, but on the other hand, it can be very rewarding.
I have quite a few younger viewers, as well as some of the older generation, who are very supportive and kind. They definitely pick me up when I’m down. I’m very happy with my community and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about them. I just have a lot of fun dealing with them; they make the streaming aspect very interesting.
You are now 14 years old. That’s a bit younger than most chess players! What do you think is the difference between streaming as a 14-year-old and acting as an older person?
One thing about being 14 is that I attract a lot of younger audiences. I seem to have a lot of friends my age who encouraged me to just start streaming and they’ve been supporting me for a long time. So a lot of people my age or younger are watching.
Most of Levi or Hikaru’s audience may be a bit older; Being part of the younger generation helps me bring people my age into the flow. There are many young, strong chess players in my community, and I like them very much. But I am getting balanced support from different age groups and people!
What is your most memorable or fun moment on stream so far?
When I started streaming, I set a goal: while building my community, I wanted to face Hikaru’s attack. I remember it very well, it was about five months into the stream. I think I just finished an Arena Kings stream and I remember being in an intense blitz game and trying my hardest to win without even looking at the chat.
After finishing the game, I looked up and realized that I had been captured by Hikaru! I remember pinching myself not to dream. It was definitely one of the most exciting moments.
… I was captured by Hikaru! I remember pinching myself not to dream.
What’s the craziest bet or challenge you’ve ever received while broadcasting?
My community will definitely be challenged! I see a lot of Chessbrahs, I’ve gotten a lot of help from them and I’ve had raids from them, so my community and theirs have merged a bit. As you know, the Chessbrah community loves crazy bets!
If you watch GothamChess, nothing beats the bet of a user named Aksinha24. He came to my stream and offered 100 subscriptions every time I completed one of his chess challenges; he says ”Ok win the game without queen and knight” and I try it. This took a long time! At the end of the day, he gave away nearly 300 subscribers! It was quite something. It was a very fun day of streaming and has to be the dumbest bet or challenge I’ve ever received.
Your channel is constantly growing. Can you tell us a little bit about the future of your stream? Do you have any goals or exciting plans/ideas?
With flow, I’ve always believed in not focusing too much on the numbers in the beginning. But now that my flow is a little bigger, I realize that I need to focus on the numbers to motivate me to move forward!
A big milestone for me is definitely 10,000 followers. This is my goal in mind. In terms of streaming in general, I’m basically trying to build my own community. Recently I was ranked and reached 2700 in Blitz. My goal is to improve, create a positive environment and make streaming fun for everyone to watch. Numbers come and go, but if you keep focusing on it, I feel like at some point the numbers will follow.
By the way, congratulations on qualifying for the Chess.com Global Championship! I think you were one of the first streamers to actually qualify. How were your games?
So if I’m not mistaken, I was actually the first streamer to qualify! I qualified in the second qualification; I came very close for the first time. It was a lot of fun… if I came close to qualifying the first time, I had to try again.
I started the second attempt and it was very good: I was on 7/7 points, but in the end I had very stressful games! The crowd and the level of support was crazy, so many people cheering me on and rooting for me. It was a great experience and I was very happy when I qualified. It was fun for me and for the audience! I think the next stage will be a lot more difficult, but it should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.
Imagine being able to do chess-based collaboration on your stream with anyone in the world. Who would it be and why?
That’s a tough question! Something I’ve always loved to watch and wish I could do is chess commentary. I always watch Chess.com streams, no matter what the event is. As a result, I’ve seen a lot of comments over the years.
I would love to comment with Hikaru or as part of a Chess.com broadcast. But I’m too young to work legally! Maybe in a few years that will be an option.
I don’t necessarily want to work with one person, but it could be one of the three streamers I mentioned above (Hikaru, GothamShess, Daniel Naroditsky). I would love to have a chance to comment with them a bit.
We haven’t mentioned one important thing about online chess: memes. What is your favorite chess meme?
So here are some of my favorites in this article! LulaRobs also has some great memes of it Twitter, it’s really good. It takes a lot of creativity to make them!
Your Twitter profile says: ”I’m here to influence the world. In addition, a chess expert, a professional streamer.”What impression do you want to make?
I think the only important thing is to be a good person. If you think about it, streaming, in general, depends not on you, but on the community and the support and love you receive from them.
The current made me realize that I have to do my part as well. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community, the people who support me. I know it’s hard to influence the whole world at 14 years old, but I can do my part. Just being kind, helping others, and generally being positive can go a long way. Sometimes you have to put others first.
Someone in my community was going through a difficult time in his life and he told me recently that he found my flow and was very receptive and recharged by the community and all the positivity around him. A few days ago he started a new job and things are going well for him and I’m so thankful for the community that can make a positive difference for people. I’m glad I can help people in some way.
I know it’s hard to influence the whole world at 14 years old, but I can do my part.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring chess players? What lessons did you take?
1) Don’t think too much. If you want to stream, just start! It takes courage; Not everyone can speak to an audience, but if you have the desire, just go for it. Don’t let yourself be afraid of it; I think I definitely had to overcome that in the beginning.
2) Be very consistent. I think this is one of the most important things. When I started, I streamed every day for about a month. Your viewers will want to watch your streamer! Whether you’re just starting out or are someone like Hikaru, it’s important to have consistency.
3) Focus on a positive environment. In the beginning, I had a lot of trolls, a lot of negative and mean people. You should set the tone and not encourage it. If someone is mean or annoying, ban them and others will do the same. I’ve had a modem or two that figured this out from the start and has helped me maintain a good environment to this day!
Watch ChessBrainiac live on his Twitch channel. Is there someone you’d like to see as streamer of the month next? Tell us in the comments below!
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