Chess + comedy: a double act in India
Yudhishthir Agrawal is a Culture & Trends Manager for YouTube in India. Prior to joining YouTube, he worked in advertising, where developed brand campaigns and content strategy for companies including Red Bull, Johnnie Walker, and Unilever.
A few fun facts: In his spare time, Yudhi is a screenwriter and released his first web series Home Sweet Office on YouTube last year. He is also a features contributor for Film Companion (a Bollywood film reviews platform) and has written two plays. In addition, he’s a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel, P.G. Wodehouse and enjoys watching live theater.
We asked him about the latest chess and comedy trend in India.
1. What's the trend?
YA: "We are witnessing the phenomenal popularity of chess-related videos in India, spurred not only by the cancelation of tournaments, but also by the unconventional partnership of chess and comedy content. This exciting “double-act” was started by comedian Samay Raina, who is now one of the most subscribed chess streamers in India. The trend’s content seamlessly blends chess live streams with the presence of popular comedians, influencers and the world’s biggest grandmasters. This unique mix of entertainment, learning and competitive gameplay has revitalised the board game, making chess an exciting spectator sport for general viewers, amateurs, and enthusiasts alike."
2. What stats speak to the trend's breakout growth?
YA: "Between March 15 and Dec 31 of 2020, videos related to chess collected over 330 million views in India."*
3. What's fueling the trend, and what lesson(s) can be drawn from the trend?
YA: "Chess by itself has traditionally enjoyed some popularity in India, and the nation’s interest in the game has been driven even higher by sheltering at home during the pandemic. The biggest draw of chess-comedy videos is the novelty of the format itself - an interactive livestream, hosted by a rising comedian playing an online strategy board game, was enough to pique the curiosity of many viewers more accustomed to watching hours of gaming streams.
In addition, these new kinds of chess videos have effortlessly integrated the game into popular culture by featuring popular creators, musicians and comedians as amateur players. Interestingly, despite this focus on entertainment, these videos have also stayed authentic to the game by involving reputed grandmasters, who conduct tutorials and live streams on key events like the Chess Olympiad. This hybrid approach has maintained the community of chess enthusiasts and welcomed a new generation of casual viewers.
Finally, this trend has continued to stay fresh by creating a unique language of prolific insider jokes, songs and memes. It has even supercharged the growth of other channels, such as those of grandmasters Vidit Gujrathi and Anish Giri, who are today emerging YouTube creators with live streams, memes, vlogs, reaction videos and even stand-up comedy. The format once again proves how entertainment can infuse any human activity - no matter how serious or cerebral - and open it up to a new world of fans."