Hikaru Nakamura and Qiyu Zhou join esports teams

by Shahid Ahmed
8/29/2020 – A few months ago we reported about Nakamura making a cameo in the award-winning and critically acclaimed series Billions. He did not stop there, he kept growing the game by involving more mainstream stars in chess. He even taught chess to World Strongest Man 2018, Hafþór J. Björnsson a.k.a. ‘The Mountain’ of Game of Thrones. Moreover, a few days before his impressive performance at the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour Finals, Nakamura crossed 500K followers on Twitch. With that rapidly-gaining momentum, the esports teams TSM tweeted about their signing with Nakamura. This is only going to be good for chess in every aspect one can fathom. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Nakamura continues to expand his horizon

A couple of days ago, Messi leaving Barcelona shocked Barça fans all over the world. When Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo or a cricketer switches teams/franchises, a lot of emotions are involved among the fans. Some get happy about the player’s wish and some feel sad that they have to make a difficult decision — either stick with their favourite team or support the new team where his/her favourite player is going. It can be both too. Last night when TSM (Team SoloMid) announced the signing of World no.1 in Blitz Hikaru Nakamura, it definitely generated a lot of positive reactions in both the chess and esports universes.

Official announcement by TSM

Who is TSM?

Team SoloMid (TSM) is a professional esports organization based in the USA. It was founded in September 2009 by Andy “Reginald” Dinh. TSM currently fields players in League of Legends, Apex Legends, Valorant, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros., Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, PUBG Mobile, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Magic: The Gathering Arena and recently included chess. The organization previously had a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team based in Denmark, which later became Astralis and also briefly owned an Overwatch team. TSM’s League of Legends team has won six of the total fifteen splits of North America’s League of Legends Championship Series (LCS).

TSM is sponsored by Lenovo, GEICO, Logitech, GrubHub and Twitch. Previous partners include Nerf and Dr. Pepper.

What does this signing mean?

Now you must be wondering what is the significance of this signing. Will Hikaru start streaming more Fall Guys, Fortnite or something? Well that's not the case. TSM asked the fans what kind of content they wanted to see.

TSM, Hikaru Nakamura

So it is evident that Hikaru will be doing what he does best — something related to chess. However, it is not limited to chess only. Since TSM is a premier esports team, and they have professional teams in a number of famous games, a crossover from chess to any esports or vice-versa is highly likely.

Now you must be wondering if Hikaru is the first signing to a professional esports team. Well it is certainly one of the biggest acquisition among top chess players in the world, however, a few days ago Nakamura himself tweeted about WGM Qiyu Zhou signing with CLG.

I wanted to take a minute to congratulate the multi-hyphenate, wildly talented [Qiyu Zhou] on her signing with [CLG]. For those who don’t know her, she’s a WGM, a brilliant student, a former child World Champion in chess, and a true gamer. Catch her at http://twitch.tv/akanemsko

The author of two instructive ChessBase DVDs for beginners tweeted herself:

With over 2 million followers on Twitter, 2.3 million on YouTube, 3 million on Instagram, TSM is definitely a game changer. We can only hope for more people to start picking up chess, be it as a player, spectator, promoter or as a sponsor.

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Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.


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