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30 August 2020: It was a big day for Indian chess. Team India had qualified to the finals of the Chess Olympiad for the first time ever in history. Around 65,000 people were watching India take on the mighty Russian side in the Chess Olympiad Final. The fans across the country were all pumped up, rooting for the Indian players in their momentous match against Russia. Never ever had anyone imagined that a game like CHESS could attract the mass of so many people.

Nonetheless, the INDIAN team didn’t disappoint their newborn fandom. In an interesting turn of events, India was ultimately declared the joint winners alongside Russia. Now to give you a rough perspective about huge this feat meant, I would like to throw some numbers:

There were 163 counties participating in the Olympiad including the likes of some absolute Chess Giants in the form of Russia, China, USA and many other top teams comprising more than 1,500 players. So it would only be fair to say that at the end of it, India managed to defeat 161 of them to clinch the worthy title.

To be honest, India belongs to the category of Top 5 Chess playing countries of the world. So the victory didn’t really count as an upset or surprise to many. What actually came as a surprise was the overwhelming love and support shown to the Indian Chess team throughout the entire tournament. In the end, it turned out to be a crucial factor as it boosted their confidence level. Not just in the finals, in fact throughout the tournament every game had close to 30k concurrent viewers live on an average, which is something unseen and unheard off in the Indian Chess domain.

Now the question arises: What led to this sudden elevation in support of Chess in India? What caused this Indian Chess revolution?

Well the answers to these long questions are simply of 2 words and that is:


I believe most of you have heard this name at some point or another in this CORONA Lockdown. But if you haven’t, let’s simply put it this way: he’s the man behind this Chess Revolution.

Is Samay a Chess player?


Does he have a FIDE rating?


Does he know all the opening and endgame theories?


Does he know all the top Chess players around the globe?


Is he a good Chess player?

-A big NO!

Then, how did a complete unknown to the chess world make the sport so popular? How did he manage to raise more than Rs. 15 lakh using chess as a tool? How did he get people like Vishy Anand, Anish Giri, Vidit Gujrathi, Yuzvendra Chahal, B. Adhiban, Nihal Sarin, Sagar Shah, Tania Sachdev and several others to join him in his mission? How did he achieve such a massive live following the sport which was hitherto considered impossible?

Samay Raina is a stand-up comedian or as he says used to be a stand-up comedian before someone ate a bat. He was also the winner of the Amazon Prime Special- Comicstaan 2. He began streaming CHESS on his YouTube channel around 5 months ago and now has inspired thousands of people across the globe to take up the sport.

What Samay gave his audience was an entirely new and fresh perspective about the so-called “boring” and “nerdy” game. From a very young age, he used to play Chess and was a big enthusiast even though he wasn’t particularly a trained and rehearsed player of the game. The very fact that he too wasn’t a genius at it like most of us inspired the audience to take up the sport. He showed us that CHESS is not just about making well thought and calculated moves. Neither it is about learning all the different openings and endgame theories that there is to it. It is all about making decent moves with some logic behind and having fun while you’re at it. CHESS and FUN were always considered to be at the opposite end of the spectrum especially considering people who are not very good at it. It was Samay who showed the people that if played in the fun spirit and with the right intention, Chess could be great fun!

The rise in popularity of Chess and Samay go hand in hand with each other. When he first started streaming Chess online on YouTube, he hardly had a watching of 100-200 people.

But not so slowly and not so steadily, the numbers began to rise up. A lot of credit for this rise goes to his fellow Comics namely Biswa Kalyan Rath, Vaibhav Sethia and Abhishek Upmanyu (in the initial days) who decided to join him in his quest of popularizing CHESS. Now, these are some big names in India and much expectedly brought a decent amount of viewership to his channel. As he began to stream Chess on a consistent basis, the numbers began to pile up almost exponentially.

Samay did some study of why chess was not as popular as it should have been. He believes:

There is a stigma around chess that it is meant only for geeks or only for studious people, or intelligent people or socially awkward people. This is not true and I wanted to break this myth. So first I got the most interesting/funny people – the group of stand-up comedians, to play the most boring game (at least that’s what many people thought). And we just had fun playing chess. It was far from a perfect game! There were blunders all around and once someone also placed the queen in front of opponent’s king for free which was simply captured! You don’t see such things in an international arena! But that’s how we played and that’s when people realized that chess can also be fun!”

Much sooner than anyone had imagined the word got widespread that there happens to be a Comic who’s bringing viewership to the game of Chess even after making illogical moves, sometimes even blunders! People from the Chess fraternity took full advantage of the situation. They saw potential in his approach and began to collaborate with him in his mission of spreading the game. From playing chess with Comedians to now playing with the International Masters (IM) and the Grand Masters (GM) of the game, the transition and increase in the standard of his game were mammoth.

Not only has Samay brought the popularity of the sport to a whole new level, the 22-year-old youngster, originally from Jammu and Kashmir, but now living in Mumbai, has used chess as a tool to raise funds for some good causes.

• The first charity stream he held was on 25th of April for Delhi Waste Pickers and raised Rs. 8,33,000.

• The second charity stream was held soon on 14th of May for Cine Dancers Association and 4Dog’Sake and the total amount collected was Rs.7,10,000

Sure his journey from a stand-up comedian to a professional Chess streamer is a remarkable one, to say the least, but it would not have been possible without the selfless support from some special people backing his cause, namely IM Sagar Shah (Guruji), GM Vidit Gujrathi (Greedy VD, India no. 3, World no. 24) , IM Rakesh Kulkarni (Employee- and of course the COMEDIANS!

Thanks to their collective efforts, CHESS in India has become much more recognised and followed Sport. The extraordinary numbers of viewers witnessed during the Olympiad are a true testament to the fact that our country is in amidst of a living and breathing chess revolution!

Now the question arises, what’s next?

What happens when this Lockdown gets over and everything turns back to normal?

Will the numbers actually convert to something substantial in the offline arena as well?

Well, only time can tell.

But one thing is for certain, things will never be the same. The undying love and support for the Indian Team during the Olympiad will never be forgotten. Not by the Indian audience and certainly not by the players.

I would have loved to conclude this Article using a typical Samay Raina quote but unfortunately in this blog:


(If you know, you know)


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