The following is a conversation with Levi Rosman,
also known as Gotham Chess.
He’s a professional chess player and educator.
I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel
called Gotham Chess.
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And now, dear friends, here’s Levy Rosman.
You’re known for being able to guess people’s ELO rating,
so what do you think, just by looking at my face,
deep into my eyes, what’s my ELO rating?
Here, I’ll help you, I’ll do E4 for the listener.
I actually read that Stockfish prefers E4.
Does it really?
I actually didn’t know that.
Because it maximizes the number of tactical options.
So. That makes sense.
The right answer is 3400, which is, I believe, Stockfish.
You guess people’s ELO chest rating, what’s that take?
How hard is it to do that,
and how would you actually do that?
Like, what are telltale signs of red flags
about a person at different ratings?
Is there something you look for?
Yeah, I think you can separate it something like,
the very first, the zero to about 8900.
For simplicity’s sake,
I’m gonna use the Chess.com rating system,
because Lichess is slightly different.
It tends to go two, 300 points higher than Chess.com,
sometimes even four, 500 points higher.
But then it catches up,
they catch up around 22, 2300, I would say.
What’s Chess.com, what’s Lichess?
Can you, like, explain what the difference is
and what they are?
They’re two chess websites.
Good starting point.
Yes, Chess.com is, it has, obviously, the free option,
where you can play games,
you get some sort of puzzles every single day,
you get some sort of lessons every single day.
But then they have tiered memberships,
where you can pay annually or per month,
that you can unlock all the other features.
Like, for training, for puzzles and all that kind of thing?
Yeah, they have unlimited puzzles,
but they also have,
their biggest selling point, for sure,
is, like, a dedicated game review
that’s, like, very flashy and sophisticated,
and the coach will literally tell you what you did wrong
every single moment the computer evaluated a mistake.
But the most important thing that they have
is they offer international masters, grandmasters,
the opportunity to make video lesson libraries,
which, hundreds of hours of anything.
I can even learn some stuff on there, probably.
I have anal beads that are communicating
with stock fish via Bluetooth.
We’ll get to that.
Yes, we will get to that.
It’s actually scary how many people think
that’s a real thing, by the way,
which is the danger of the internet.
But yeah, we will get into that.
I tend to believe that people believing
a thing that’s hilarious at scale
will make that thing a reality.
I’m with Elon on this.
I think people manifest the meme.
The meme becomes real.
So that’s, in all walks of life,
I think there is something about humor
sort of being, why did I,
I was gonna, what I was going to say
is I feel like humor becomes a lubricant
for the trajectory of human civilization,
and I don’t know why the word lubricant went into my head,
which I understand, but it’s very Freudian.
Anyway, so zero to 900,
if you’re a 1300 player, you were saying.
If you’re not good at end games,
you don’t understand how to convert positions
that have seven or eight pieces left on the board.
You don’t know when you’re supposed to activate your king.
You don’t know how a bishop outplays a knight
with just several pawns on the board.
Those are all very important things
because it’s not just about knowing
the theoretical end games.
Some positions in chess are literally solved.
If I showed you a position,
I asked what’s the evaluation and how do you win it,
there’s a technique.
You’re supposed to know that technique.
And the coaches on chess.com can help or no?
Yeah, so these lesson libraries,
it’s not like a live lesson.
It’s pre-recorded training position,
walk you through it.
And then there’s a dynamic factor as well,
where you can practice.
You can practice the theoretical
and you can practice a practical game
where there’s no set format to do something.
It’s just based on your previous experience.
Basically Lichess is their entire thing
is it’s an open source website
that tries to be as free as possible
and operates totally on donations.
They don’t have any advertisements.
Which is weird because normally in big competitive settings,
it’s all capitalistic.
You have one big entity and another big entity
and they’re both for profit.
But in this case, the big argument is,
well, they offer a lot of things for free.
You can analyze your games for free.
You can go into Lichess’s lessons library
and do things for free.
The comparison that I always make is chess.com
is basically like having a good personal trainer
and having someone to help you at the gym.
Lichess says you have to do all the stuff yourself.
So you can combine YouTube with Lichess.
No one’s gonna really point you in the right direction.
You gotta go fully explore on your own.
If you wanna do it, you can.
I also like to say, can I make a controversial joke?
Ardent Lichess supporters are like very angry,
only vegetarian or vegan folks
because they will tear you apart
and try to convert you as much as possible.
Did you just point a large number of haters
onto this very podcast?
Is this what just happened?
Is there like several people
that were very upset at you right now?
And throwing things?
That’s always the joke that I’ve made
because if people have chess.com,
and I love all people,
but I’m just saying chess.com patrons
do not try to actively convert folks on Lichess.
Folks on Lichess are like,
you know, there’s a meme chess.com.
And started at Lichess.
Started somewhere on Reddit, Anarchy Chess,
kind of a-
Oh, so Lichess is a little bit of an anarchist organization.
Would you go as far as to say
that they’re a terrorist extremist organization?
Are we going there?
For legal reasons, that’s a-
I thought Lichess has like really good analysis.
Somebody, does it have an engine for analysis of like games?
Or is that an open source thing that like-
They both do.
They both do Stockfish 15.
And then the rest is the interface around Stockfish
It’s the life.
So chess has a live server
where you and I can play a game against each other.
We just both seek.
And if we have the same rating,
we have the same criteria, we’ll play a game.
But there’s also reviewing your own games.
There’s an opening database.
So you can see what the most popular trends are.
So Lichess is great.
Like I’m sponsored by chess.com
and I will openly say that,
but you can’t have-
You’re deeply biased.
But I’m also complimenting the competitor.
But can you play games on Lichess?
Or is it just for analysis?
Yeah, yeah, you can.
So it’s the same exact thing.
So they’re like legitimately competitors.
Not exactly the same thing,
but they have the,
they’re trying to match for features,
but you’re saying Lichess is more chaotic
and then chess.com is more like professional.
Yeah, I don’t know.
I don’t know if it’s chaotic.
I just know that it’s,
you have to,
no one’s going to hold your hand if you,
if you go to Lichess.
You absolutely can.
You can play games,
you can analyze your games,
but you have to discover it yourself.
The whole point of chess.com
is to make the journey as simple as possible.
But I also firmly believe
you can’t have any sort of growth in chess
without a chess.com or a chess24.
So chess24 was another live server
with some lesson libraries and so on,
but they were,
I think the process was they were bought by PlayMagnus.
That’s Magnus Carlsen’s thing.
Yeah, he doesn’t own it.
He owns some stake in it,
I think nine or 10%.
They owned a bunch of chess companies,
but now it seems like they’re either merging
or basically getting acquired by chess.com.
And PlayMagnus, it’s an app also
where you can play magic at different levels,
but there’s also the educational stuff?
The for-profit chess companies
make the option for grandmasters to make a living
to make chess an e-sport.
Yeah, Lichess is great.
It doesn’t put on any events.
There’s no commentary.
So you can have both in theory
and probably some controversy is good.
Does chess.com like sponsor you?
Like help you out in some way?
Like what’s the connection between your videos
and streams and so on in chess.com?
Like are they supporting people in that way or no?
My content, they don’t necessarily,
I just make whatever I want.
Like I don’t have, I’ve not sensed,
like if they do something stupid,
I will call out their leadership.
It’s not like, but to have the logo up,
like in my YouTube videos or on my,
yeah, it’s just that kind of stuff.
So anyway, back to, I mean, that was really helpful.
I was confused about all that.
The guessing people’s rating.
So the thing you mentioned about the end game,
if you don’t know what the hell
you’re doing with the end game,
what does that mean about your rating?
If you don’t know how to finish
with just a few pieces on the board.
You could be my rating.
End game is tough.
That’s the self-deprecating humor we tuned in for.
End games are hard, man.
Yeah, you can’t have, there’s a reason Magnus is the best.
It’s because seven hours into a game
when everybody’s given up,
he’s still squeezing juice out of the fruit.
So that’s the way I would describe it.
So that’s not a good source of information if you-
No, within the first 15 moves, generally you can tell,
because you can tell how well they played the opening.
So how well they knew what they were supposed to memorize,
what they were supposed to play,
and then how they react to piece interactions.
So if they are faced with a move
that a more advanced player would deal with very swiftly,
because there’s kind of a natural response,
that gives you information.
If they move their king when they’re in check
when they didn’t have to, that’s a massive giveaway.
Some people just think, oh, I’m in check,
so I have to move my king.
So it’s like how direct the response
of your play is to the danger.
So if you’re more moving multiple pieces at a time,
meaning you’re moving,
the pieces are tied together in interesting ways,
and then, okay, okay.
Like what about the opening, can you tell also?
Because a lot of people can memorize openings, right?
Yeah, but it takes two to tango.
So you could memorize a bunch of stuff,
but if you’re 900 and I’m 900,
my rating is fluctuating all over the place
in this podcast, I feel, so 13, 900.
You can memorize things.
I’m gonna play some crap,
and you can’t play the way you memorize them,
because I have to respond to you in certain ways.
So you will either respond the way you think
you’re supposed to respond,
and that will probably be incorrect,
or now you have to figure out
how to deal with the fresh position.
Oh, so the 900 will reflect itself in both cases.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I wonder if actually,
so do you know your current rating or no?
Or your top rating, what was your top?
I know both my current ELO, like over the board,
now is 2320, my peak was 2430.
So can you play like a 900 player?
Can you force yourself?
So you can, given that you’ve guessed a lot of ELO ratings,
can you kind of emulate that?
It’s kind of an interesting question.
Yeah, yeah, of course.
Before I was doing YouTube and Twitch,
I was teaching kids, so I had to.
Not only did I have to play at their rating,
I also had to play and sometimes even behave
and explain things in a way that the kid could understand.
So absolutely, yeah.
I think that’s what contributed
to the growth of the channel, frankly.
I kind of understood how beginners thought about the game.
So yeah, you did, you taught people chess,
you coached people for many years, I guess in New York.
Yeah, New York.
What did you learn about the way people learn from that?
So like, how did people that were successful
at getting good at chess quickly,
what were some of the commonalities,
some of the patterns that you saw?
What does obsession look like?
I would say it’s obsession and also love of the game.
So if you’re bored, you don’t want to watch a show,
you want to boot up chess.com
or LeeChess just for,
just so I don’t get flamed by anyone in the audience.
And you just play-
So you’re saying LeeChess people
are the ones that would attack aggressively?
They’re the kind of people-
It’s probably the Chess24 people.
Oh, that’s another-
So there’s not, I didn’t know,
I thought Chess24 was part of the Chess.com-
Well, now, yes, that’s the joke.
Cult or tribe or whatever terms you want to use.
I’m sure there’s even more places to play live.
There always have been more places to play live,
but Chess.com, LeeChess, Dominate,
and well, Chess24 is rough for live interface.
Of course, they have good courses and everything, but-
Yeah, I get it, I get it.
And some are even good people or whatever that quote goes.
Okay, like obsession,
that means the way they look at the board,
when they’re bored,
how quickly do they return to the chess board,
that kind of stuff.
Just like how many hours a day they want to spend.
They spend and want to spend.
Some kids definitely have a talent.
Of course, there’s this eternal debate,
talent versus hard work.
I don’t necessarily know
if it’s a talent for chess specifically,
but it’s a talent for,
I’m sure there’s some sort of spatial visualization.
In your mind, you start picking up
what squares are controlled by your pieces
and opponent’s pieces faster.
Your memory is much stronger.
So you don’t just learn openings like we discussed,
you learn literal patterns such as,
oh, I remember this from two tournaments ago.
I remember this from a game I played just yesterday.
And you just keep playing and playing and playing.
But I think the one commonality,
I think I’ve seen in all kids,
it’s obsession, you have to play a lot.
And I’ve seen kids who are brilliant kids.
If you give them a page of tactics, puzzles,
they solve faster than anybody.
They can pick things up here super fast.
They’re a pleasure to teach.
They go to a tournament, disaster.
They can’t handle the anxiousness.
They can’t handle that silent face-to-face war
with another six-year-old.
They can’t even handle it.
There’s also trash talk.
One sentence by a kid can throw off your prize student.
And I’ve seen kids just totally disintegrate.
I’ve seen also my students bully other kids.
My student wasn’t that strong.
But their verbal warfare, which is not allowed,
but goes unnoticed.
But it’s not even verbal warfare,
like just going like, hmm.
Like literal, like facial expressions
you would make at the board.
Yeah, I didn’t even think about that.
That’s pretty creepy, the intensity.
Not creepy, that’s not the right word.
But there’s an intensity in that silence over the board.
Like you can probably hear stuff like,
just like, it’s super quiet.
It’s like a library.
And then there’s just a tension that builds.
You can hear the breathing.
Yeah, and at the highest level,
both sides are involved in a battle
that they both foresee 99% of the time.
That’s the scary part,
is that you both see the exact same thing.
It’s very rare you play a move and I didn’t see it.
It’s that I mis-evaluated it.
I saw the move could be played,
but I missed something three or four moves deeper.
And you play that move and suddenly you’re excited
and I’m nervous.
But all of a sudden you make an inaccuracy
and now the tide shifts, right?
We could be on totally different planes throughout the game
or we could be on the same plane throughout the game.
So it’s really fascinating.
Yeah, so your thought is when you see a move
that to you seems suboptimal and you start to think,
what was that?
You start to try to make sense of that.
Did you miscalculate or did they miscalculate?
Isn’t that what Magnus is really good at,
is taking people away from making suboptimal moves,
to take them away from the known openings?
Or is that unfair to say?
Yeah, he gets part of his really dominant reputation,
I think, from not letting people get
into ultra theoretical positions.
He just won this tournament, this online tournament,
and he said he had a young player strategy.
He had an anti, sorry, a anti young player strategy.
What’s that mean?
It means that by move seven or eight,
you go to the database, no games.
Kid is on their own, they have to swim on their own.
And they have to deal with the strategic complexities
of the position, which he just, he gets.
And he might get from just an enormous database
within his brain of historical games
that have similar structures, or just sheer genius.
We won’t know.
It’s a mix of the two, for sure.
The younger you are, you can’t remember a game played
in 1951 in some bar in the Soviet Union, but he does.
Because he read a book once, or a magazine once.
And he just remembers it.
He just remembers, and he remembers the structure,
which it’s just, it’s not fair.
It’s crazy, right?
What do you think makes him, if we can sort of linger on it,
what do you think makes him so good?
I think it’s the memory, and I think it’s,
he just seems to get the game better than anybody else.
That’s the best way I can describe it.
In sports, you have reaction time, you have strength,
you have, but also as he’s now evolving, it’s stamina.
So there have been games that if you put two other
27, 50 rated players, or world top 10 players,
they would have drawn the game.
The game would have ended.
The game, nobody would have won it.
You put Magnus as one of the aggressors in that game,
suddenly the chance of victory doubles from 5% to 10%.
What’s that about?
Because what is it, game six against Netball League?
Isn’t Stockfish say that it’s supposed to be a draw?
So 0.00 does mean a draw sometimes,
but other times it means,
and it’s the joke I always make,
it means that Stockfish is out for a smoke break.
It just, it can’t-
Can you explain the joke, and can you explain 0.00?
Yes, so when, so Stockfish will show an evaluation
which determines whether the position is equal,
slightly better for one side,
slightly better for the other side, or completely winning.
You can, 0.00, 0.2, minus 0.2,
that’s all within a balance.
You can say, okay, black has a little sprinkle of activity,
something, white has that.
But if it’s 0.00, it could be literally a dead draw,
meaning theoretically just impossible to win.
But oftentimes what that means is,
the smoke break joke is, Stockfish doesn’t know.
There is so much complexity within the position,
the combinations of different moves
that are acceptable and okay, it cannot evaluate correctly.
Wow, so even the end games are tough for Stockfish.
Which is why Magnus won that game
because there was practical value remaining.
It wasn’t a dead draw.
He continued to ask questions
over the course of six or seven hours.
He would sacrifice a pawn,
he would sacrifice another pawn to damage the structure.
Valuation stayed the same
because a machine could stop him, but not Jan.
And that was one of my favorite,
that game ruined my whole day, by the way.
It destroyed, because I made so many plans that day,
it completely ruined my day,
but it was a very worthy recap.
You were just all in.
You watched that whole game?
I watched the whole game
and the world championship was a crazy time
because I wanted to be first with the recap video,
but I also wanted to be best with the recap video.
So I spent all the hours of the games
watching all the live broadcasts
and getting all the information, all the variations
and trying to put that into the recap.
It was a lot of fun.
It was a huge adrenaline dump when it was all over.
So just for people who don’t know,
that’s the most recent world championship.
So you had a, I mean, that was a draw after draw
after draw after draw.
And it was kind of boring in that way.
Or maybe, are draws,
is there like non-boring parts within the draw to you
when you were like just studying it carefully?
For me, yes.
For the average viewer, no.
That’s the truth.
Especially when the game itself is not that exciting.
When Magnus plays a strange move on move nine or 10
that hasn’t ever been played,
and then Jan has to try to exploit it and he fails
and no attack builds up
and they shuffle their pieces for three hours.
My favorite thing is when the commentator’s like,
I don’t know why he did that.
I wonder why he did that.
When the commentators are confused,
that’s my, as a person who’s just a spectator,
just like, that’s interesting.
Because then you, the most interesting part
is about listening to the commentators
who I guess themselves might be grandmasters.
Yeah, they are trying to,
I guess just like Nepo, just like Magnus,
try to figure out what’s the idea here?
What are you thinking?
That’s an interesting part of the game.
But other than that, it seemed,
yeah, I was sure this was just gonna keep being a draw,
especially in that situation.
So it’s almost, it seems almost remarkable
that Magnus was able to pull out a win in game six.
And after that, at least Magnus said that that ends it.
Because now Nepo’s gonna have to take more risks
and that opens it up to pure chess.
And then, who was it?
Steve Prefontaine said, whenever there’s a race
is down to pure guts, then that’s when I win it.
There was also a conversation about Jan’s first half,
second half in any tournament.
In the first half, he’s just brilliant on fire.
You could even say he was outplaying Magnus,
but the entire conversation before the match was,
Jan slows down.
And at the first sign of a loss or a setback,
the match might fall apart.
And that was the worst way to lose.
There was literally no worse way.
And it just got worse from there and there.
I mean, it was one move mistakes and,
but he’s back.
Jan has won the candidates again.
He’s gonna play for the world championship, so.
Who you got?
Who you got?
What is this slang terminology?
Can we like somehow edit that into a more sophisticated
with a British accent type of phraseology?
Okay, who do you think will win that match?
I think it’s 55-45, but I don’t know for who.
So it’s close.
It’s very close.
You can make both cases.
You could say Ding,
you could say Jan has been here before.
You can say to the world championship stage,
he knows what it’s like to have a training camp
and so on and so forth.
His playing style is very,
but you can also say Ding Liren
is one of the most stable,
unemotional chess players.
And Ding oftentimes goes from down to up.
So in the candidates,
he lost to Jan in the very first game.
14 round tournament, he got demolished in the first game.
I’m sure he was suffering from jet lag, the flight.
He came to Spain like two days before the games began,
which was crazy to me.
And he got second place by the end.
His chances of finishing in the top two were like 2%.
After that first round game,
people wrote him off completely.
So he doesn’t go from top down.
He goes the opposite way.
And if he loses, he might come back.
But the truth is, I don’t know.
The truth is it’s gonna be an interesting match.
And it’s also disappointing
we’re not gonna get Magnus in it.
Yeah, what do you think about him stepping away
from the world championship?
Are you a romantic about the world championships?
No, I’m not a romantic about anything, I don’t think.
I can’t imagine what-
That went dark quickly.
I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to be a romantic.
I think I taught chess and now I make YouTube videos.
I’m not qualified on the subject of romanticism, but I-
You don’t think it’s a beautiful game?
No, I think it is a beautiful game.
There you go, I got you.
Is that considered being a romantic?
Yeah, I was seeing the beauty in the…
You can be like Bach and seeing the math in the music,
but you can see the beauty, the magic.
I think I see beauty in certain types of chess, for sure.
Not in all chess, so I’ll partially romantic.
Yeah, so what do you feel about Magnus stepping away
from the world championships?
Disappointing, but understandable.
Can you still man his case?
What’s understandable about it to you?
I don’t think it’s as prestigious as it could be.
I don’t think-
The world championships?
Why does Magnus still sign everything as world champion?
That’s a good point, that he did just put out a statement
and he did say-
But he does it everywhere else too.
Does he really?
Yeah, like world champion, right?
Well, I don’t know.
World chess champion.
Maybe it’s just because he won it,
but he thinks that the journey to the top once again
to maintain the status quo has lost its appeal.
Well, you know what the example that I like to make?
I’m a big fan of UFC.
So we’ve never really seen,
with the exception of George St. Pierre walking,
and Khabib, but Khabib was kind of a different story,
walking away from a belt at the absolute zenith
of their career.
But also in the UFC,
champions are extremely well taken care of.
And the champions have some of the best lives.
Of course, you can argue not all champions.
You can say some of the lower weight divisions, yes.
But what I’m saying is a lot of them get all the sponsors.
They get massive, massive paydays.
They’re international celebrities.
I don’t think chess has that.
In fact, the world championship of chess prize fund
has not changed much in like 40 years.
So you could probably make more money on YouTube.
Playing randos, not randos, but other,
having fun and playing challenging,
really challenging games,
playing other super grandmasters,
like an ad hoc events,
or maybe a little bit organized events,
but not the world championship.
And still have a lot of fun, make a lot of money,
get everybody excited, all that kind of stuff.
Yeah, so for Magnus specifically,
and we’re using him because he’s the world champion.
If you tally, if he wins every tournament
that he plays in over the course of a year,
which is really not even that crazy of an estimate,
because that’s really how it seems sometimes.
I don’t know how much money that is.
I haven’t tallied,
but if he dedicated an entire year
to being managed on social media and doing various things
and growing all his brands and getting sponsor deals,
I think he would make five times more
than being the world champion, which is crazy.
Yeah, but money isn’t everything.
I know, that’s totally fair.
People dedicate their whole life to winning the Olympics.
The Olympics is an interesting one too,
because I didn’t even watch the Olympics
as carefully as I usually do.
This year, yeah, me neither.
It’s really strange.
I’m not sure why that is.
And during COVID, I’m not sure.
That was weird.
I don’t know if it’s losing its magic.
Part of it is also the people that own the Olympics
and the way they distribute it,
they make it a little bit more difficult to watch.
In my opinion, it should all be just available on YouTube
and easily accessible.
It’s like the difference between SpaceX
and some other, even NASA.
Just SpaceX is better at streaming their launches
and commentating them.
They’ve made NASA better as well,
but just the ability, it sounds ridiculous,
but making it more frictionless for people to watch,
get excited, to share, all that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I’m not exactly sure where the magic balance is
between the classy, traditional world championships
and the dramatic, exciting streamer world.
And it feels like for the world championships
to be relevant, they have to find that balance.
Yeah, well, this recent one had, I was-
It was pretty good commentating, yeah.
No, I’m not even necessarily talking about myself.
There was a lot of-
No, that was the worst part for me.
No, you did amazing, yeah.
I appreciate that.
It was a lot of, it was a big arms race.
So every major chess platform
tried to get one super grandmaster.
Vishwanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana, you name it.
They were basically involved.
And to go back to that point, yeah,
the big question is money.
And if Magnus is not motivated by money,
if the prize fund for the next world championship
was $10 million, would he play it?
If he says no, then it must be something else.
It must just be a matter of something’s not worth it.
It’s not worth it.
You got to take him at his word.
And his word is like, there’s too much stress
to the low sample play.
Like I want to play many more times.
Yeah, he wants to play more.
He wants to-
Yeah, more shorter games.
Like where you can increase the possibility of pure chess.
Whatever the heck that means.
Yeah, but we can’t go back
to the first Karpov-Kasparov match,
which they had to stop due to health concerns.
I mean, the guy went down five nil
and it was first to six wins and draws didn’t count.
So draws didn’t amass to the total score.
There was no best of system.
So what happened there?
The match went something like seven, eight months.
Kasparov started making a comeback
after being down five nothing.
He was five three and they called it off.
They said both players are in poor health conditions.
Kasparov stormed down, yelled that this is a farce.
But the match was 50 games long, even more maybe.
I made a video and I don’t even remember
how many games it was.
It was so long.
Can you imagine?
Bobby Fischer wanted something almost as extreme.
Draws don’t count.
It’s first one to 10 wins.
And if it’s nine, nine,
the world champion retains his title.
So you have to beat the world champion 10, eight.
That’s the only way.
Do you don’t like that?
It’s just grueling.
I don’t know.
Maybe I like it for the YouTube recaps,
but do I like it for the players?
Do I like it for general public?
It’s three, four hours, right?
Imagine your favorite tennis match was six months long.
What are we doing?
There’s still a magic to the world championship.
I wish they could make it some interesting,
they make it work somehow.
But I think Magnus is really challenging FIDE
and everybody else to step up
and try to figure that out,
which is great ultimately.
Who would you say is the greatest of all time?
Can you make the case?
You mentioned Kasparov.
Can you make the case for Kasparov?
Can you make the case for Magnus Carlsen,
Bobby Fischer, Tall?
In my opinion,
you can make a case for Magnus, Gary, and Bobby Fischer.
I’m not one of the folks that’s like,
I mean, Capablanca was brilliant.
You can argue Steinitz was brilliant,
but I think it’s probably Kasparov
and Magnus has a chance to overtake it.
So the longevity is really important to you
when you were thinking about this.
Yes, I think so.
I think Magnus is very, very close.
I think it’s extremely close.
What would be the magic?
You gotta get that sixth one.
Oh, so the-
No, I’m just kidding.
So the world championships matter.
It’s kind of like basketball, right?
It all comes down to how many rings did this person win?
What about, well, basketball doesn’t have this,
the number of years at number one, right?
Like rating, sorry.
Which is what Magnus really likes.
It’s like there is a nice system of rating
of who is ranked number one.
It has to do not with some championships
or low sample tournaments.
It has to do with general.
Game after game after game helps estimate more accurately
the ELO rating, so.
Yeah, he’s been world number one for, I think, 11 years,
Which is still less than-
Gary was world number one for 20 years.
Yeah, which is quite wild.
But still lower rating, I think, than Magnus now, right?
Yeah, I think rating in general has sort of-
It got inflated?
Is that true?
Is there a truth to that?
I think so.
I don’t, I can’t speak to how exactly it happened,
but it also happens online.
If you go back just three or four years,
I think some of the best Blitz players on,
let’s say, chess.com were 27, 2,800,
and now they’re 3,200.
I think it’s just sort of what happens,
but I don’t exactly know.
I will mention that there was a very strange change,
not exactly sure when the year was, in FIDE,
so over-the-board chess,
where if you were under the age of 16 or 18 years old,
one of those two, and you were below 2,300, okay?
Your rating change factor was three to four times higher.
So just imagine what that means.
Magnus has a rating change factor of, let’s say, one.
I have a rating change factor also of one.
Anybody over the rating 2,400
has the same rating change factor.
What is the rating change factor?
So if you win-
Yeah, there’s a formula,
and basically, let’s say, at the very base level,
five-point change, if your rating change factor is one.
You beat somebody, you gain five points.
Those kids who were under 18 and under 2,300,
their rating change factor was four,
so their ratings were going up four times higher
and four times up and down compared to normal folks,
and there was one teenager in the US in particular
who, in one month, played a bunch of tournaments
with his rating change factor
and became nearly rated 2,640,
which is top 50 in the world.
He was just a random teenager from the United States.
He became a grandmaster ultimately,
but he bled like 90 points down
because his rating was so inflated,
and the K40 exists now.
I mean, you have many kids who, out of nowhere,
2,100, 2,100, 2,400 after one good month.
It’s like, what?
It’s like similar to how TikTok inflates
your virality early on.
I don’t know.
Well, at least the rumor is like
they want you to get engaged,
and I thought there was even artificial likes and so on
that they want you to get that dopamine addiction.
So maybe they want to throw you,
if you’re really passionate about chess,
they want you to throw you to the sharks
by artificially inflating you,
inflating your rating,
and maybe that gets you into the game much more intensely.
I wonder how many backdoor feed-in meetings
there are with cigars.
So that was the factors determined by,
who does the ELO rating?
Who changes this stuff?
What the fuck?
It’s probably those Lee Chess anarchists.
I think they want to stay away from that stuff.
So there’s a guy named Hans Niemann.
And he beat Magnus Carlsen recently.
Has it been already?
What is, was it August?
Oh, it was September?
So he beat him twice, right, recently.
Once is the allegations by the internet
that Hans Niemann cheated,
and then the second time Magnus played a few moves
and forfeited and resigned.
There’s actually, so there’s three.
Okay, sorry, can you?
No, no, no, yeah.
Can we go through the stuff?
Yes, yes, yes.
So they play a live eSports event in Miami,
That’s where I actually interviewed Magnus, yeah.
That’s where that was?
It was a weird circumstance.
I found myself in Miami, unrelated to chess event.
And yeah, it was a very dramatic event for me
for various reasons.
One of which the camera stopped working halfway
through the conversation.
I saw that, yeah.
I saw that.
Also, side note, I really respect how you write comments,
pin them at the top.
You add timestamps.
You’re like very true professional.
I am the complete opposite on YouTube
when I’m off the camera.
So I dig in the mud.
What does that mean, dig in the mud?
From when I started on YouTube in 2020,
in June, like May, June, 2020, I had no subscribers.
So I got to a million in a year.
I had a lot of people analyzing my every move,
all of my small flaws.
And I love getting hate comments.
Yeah, you pin, is it the comment of shame?
That’s what it has been named over the years by folks.
I never called it that, but yeah, it’s pin of shame.
And it’s been tough because now people pretend
to write hate comments just to get attention.
So like anything, the public ruined the good thing.
But it started that way.
It started with people just shredding me to bits,
calling me spin-offs of this and that.
And I think I’m a human more than I am a creator
and influencer and attention seeker.
Like I’m just a person.
So to me, even at the size of 1.6 million subscribers now,
September, 2022, I don’t understand that I’ve gotten big
and that I shouldn’t do this stuff
and that I should be beyond it,
or I shouldn’t be checking my social media as much as I do
and interacting one-on-one.
I’m still very much a human being.
And my guilty pleasure, my way of killing time,
if I’m not laying on the couch
and playing some Chaz Blitz games off stream
is I just interact with people who say nice things
and who say horrible things.
And I really like to get into the head of the people
who say the terrible things.
And sometimes you can, sometimes they are truly trolls,
but sometimes people just, they just really hate you.
What’s a successful interaction
with the person that’s trolling you?
What’s like at the end of that hero journey
that you were partaking in,
what’s the top of the mountain look like?
Is the troll conquered and broken mentally?
Not, no, not mentally.
I don’t wanna defeat.
I honestly, sometimes somebody writes a very long comment.
I’ll just, I’ll respond with a question mark.
Oh, so you see each other as like a brother and sister.
You’re gonna travel together on this journey
of deep meaning, like introspection of what does this mean?
Yeah, I’ve had people write, I can’t quote now,
but something about my persona, my behavior,
this and that, and I just like respond to them.
And I say, hey, it sounds crazy
that a large creator might do something like this,
but this kind of goes back to,
you speak to folks on a very respectful way.
If you make a mistake, you completely own up to it.
So I have this, sometimes these one-on-one interactions
where I say, I think you’re reading too much into this.
I think you’re kind of, you don’t understand
maybe some of my humor or sarcasm as such.
So you form this opinion that I’m this kind of a person,
this and that, and now you’re sort of,
anything I do, you’re trying to attach to that reasoning,
and here you are writing this lengthy essay
of why nobody should watch my content.
And sometimes people go, you know what?
I think you have a point.
Maybe I should relax a little bit.
Yeah, I would love to sort of interview
and understand the lives of the folks
that post that kind of stuff.
I mean, they’re human beings.
They have interesting journeys also.
I think they often don’t realize,
I think they don’t realize their comment will be read
by anybody, especially you.
They think like, and they also don’t realize
you’re a human being, I feel like.
That’s, and it’s so interesting to watch it.
Like some guy, because I posted on Twitter
for like a minute that I’m talking to you
and asking for questions.
I deleted that tweet because 95% of the people
were talk about cheating, talk about the cheating.
All right, I got it, thank you.
This is not gonna be helpful at all.
So I was like, all right.
But in that time, like there’s one comment,
which it’s hilarious to me that you found that one comment.
The one comment says like, this seems like a waste of time
or something, like why talk-
And then used, like responded,
something like with a question mark.
Yeah, yeah, I wrote, why am I a lame guest?
Why am I-
I just made a sad face.
Let’s talk about this.
Yeah, I was like, why am I a lame guest?
And he responded.
He responded even after you deleted the tweet.
Yeah, what did he say?
He said, he doesn’t know what value I would bring
because I just make videos about chess games.
And that’s true.
You’ve had some absolutely brilliant people on.
But I also looked at this gentleman’s profile
and he was one of the folks that put things
about his family and God and his politics
in his Twitter bio.
And I started thinking maybe I said something in some video
and I made a joke about religion or something,
just some offhand five second thing somewhere
that someone turns me into just an absolute outcast
in their household.
They can no longer watch me.
And that has happened.
That has happened.
I’ll record a 30 minute video
and I’ll make a joke about something and some phrasing
and that’s it.
I’ve lost the viewer forever and they will let me know.
They will write me an email
and I just don’t think people should be that serious.
Yeah, there’s some of that
because I’ve seen people say that sometimes about me,
but I see it more with others.
They’ll say, I used to be like Joe Rogan gets this.
I used to be a huge fan of Joe Rogan until he said this.
First, I do wonder if you were ever really a big fan.
That’s one question mark I have.
But the other is like,
I think we should be more lenient with each other
in terms of how much stupid shit we say.
And if you actually,
I wish people were able to sort of introspect
on their own, on the stupid shit they say themselves,
like to have a little bit of empathy.
I wish there was a way to read all the emails
you’ve ever written and just to see,
or maybe do a search engine for all the stupid shit
you’ve said in emails in the past and summarize it
and to reveal it to yourself that you have bad days,
you have good days, you have emotional days,
you have stoic days, you have,
sometimes you have like,
you take very different political views
than you do on other days.
And it’s like, it’s all over the place.
And if you’re a creator,
if you’re putting stuff out all the time,
you’re gonna have those.
And you’re still a full,
like complex bag of emotions and thoughts and ideas
and contradictions and all of that.
Like you shouldn’t judge a person by a single statement.
And even when you do,
you should try to infer the best possible interpretation
of that statement.
I feel like that’s just a healthier way
to interact with the world and with other humans.
It’s like, I wonder what’s the best possible
interpretation of the thing they just tweeted or they said.
Let’s imagine that the person saying those words
is actually a really good human being.
And what did they mean when they said
that thing about anal beads?
It was so good for so long.
Or whatever it is.
Like, you know, they didn’t mean to be offensive
to the sexuality of a certain group.
They’re just talking about,
they’re talking shit about anal beads.
Like they’re not, like sometimes it’s humor.
Sometimes it’s actually genuinely embodying,
like a political viewpoint.
And like walking with it,
thinking through it for a few days.
Like taking it seriously.
Empathizing not just for a brief moment,
but for a time.
Like walking with an idea.
And allowing yourself to express it.
Like playing devil’s advocate.
I do that all the time.
With myself, yeah.
In conversation I do too.
And I find I have to say,
I’m playing devil’s advocate.
Like you have to be very explicit.
But with myself, I’ll just do it.
In my head.
Like I have different voices.
Like, you know, obviously it just in,
I’ve been getting so much information,
so many thoughts in all the complexities
of the war in Ukraine, for example.
And all the different voices within Ukraine.
I just interviewed hundreds of people.
And they have very different perspectives
in nuanced ways about the war.
Some are full of hate.
Some are full of love.
Like hate for the other.
Love for their own country.
Love for family and tradition.
All of it.
It’s a beautiful mix.
And I have to walk,
I have to like carry those ideas in my head
and empathize with them deeply.
And then I have to listen to people that live elsewhere.
That live in India.
They have a very different perspective.
There’s a lot of people in India
that have a very different perspective
than the people in Ukraine.
So, I don’t know.
And some of that will bleed out
into the thoughts I express publicly.
And like when people judge you harshly for it,
first of all, me as a human being
is psychologically difficult.
But also, it makes me less willing to be fragile.
I still try to be strong enough to be fragile
in front of the camera.
Just say, like say things that are on my mind
even if I know it’s going to create people
that are going to be like ruthlessly negative towards me.
So, I try to wear my heart on my sleeve
and still try to be fragile.
But it’s harder.
You’re gonna pay a psychological cost.
Like I’m, you know, in some sense,
I try to be tough, but like I can be a softy
in that in like certain like attacks can get to me.
So, I’m surprised that they don’t get,
I mean, does some negativity get to you?
Or is this the way you deal with it by responding?
Like that guy is saying,
like what value does talking to Levy add to the world?
No, but that was, I mean, that was so good.
I was looking at, I was thinking at various moments.
You went to jump in and I was kind of letting you speak.
One of the things I wanted to mention
was it’s significantly simpler to talk about chess
than it is to talk about some of the things you talk about.
And you have a big responsibility
because you have to absorb information like a sponge.
But you also then need to present it in a way
where you potentially have an opinion
while trying to be fair to everybody.
And you’re talking about things
that will literally never please everybody.
So, you’re gonna talk about some issues
that are going to get out there into the,
people are gonna watch it,
the eyes, right, the ears of millions of people,
and not everybody is going to be satisfied.
And these are issues where people are going
to be much more likely to speak up in all sorts of ways.
Tremendous support or tremendous hatred,
vitriol, and God knows what else.
Yeah, you, it’s one of the reasons I’m blown away
to even be sitting here, frankly,
because up until a few months ago,
you weren’t talking to, you know,
I’m not saying you weren’t talking to,
but you hadn’t spoken to chess players.
You were speaking to people
who were doing much more substantial things in the world.
I appreciate the humility there.
Chess, to me, is an incredible, is a beautiful game.
But I think the reason comments hurt is not,
I mean, they hurt no matter what, to me.
Not to me.
Because I’m in a simpler space.
That’s what you have to understand.
So if it’s chess-based criticism,
it doesn’t hit as hard.
No, if you had a podcast about,
anal bees, no, I’m just,
if you had a podcast-
I am launching this.
If you had a podcast about-
I’m launching a new podcast.
Photography, you gotta realize,
like, it wouldn’t be the same way.
You talk about potentially existential things.
You talk about cyber, you know,
things in cybersecurity or AI
or people who are massive heads of companies
that are just inherently going
to be a bit more controversial.
So that, I can’t imagine being in your shoes
because you have so many complex emotions about situations
where you may not necessarily agree
with everything that someone has said publicly,
but you still invite them for a conversation
because they’re a human being.
It’s totally different, Lex.
I don’t know.
Not the way I experience it.
To me, I think what hurts is,
it’s not even on my,
because I’m super self-critical,
usually way more than the internet can be.
It’s that, like, human beings can be cruel to each other.
So, like, the reason it hurts, for some reason,
it’s almost like there’s disappointment in people.
They don’t give each other a chance.
So, in that sense,
the negativity doesn’t have to be about Ukraine
It could be about the silliest of things.
And, like, to me, it’s like, why be mean to each other?
In a context where the mean doesn’t,
like, it’s out of place.
Because, for example, there is, like, a gaming culture
where they just talk shit to each other nonstop.
I think it’s more acceptable there.
It seems to fit.
It seems to be funnier there.
And, like, when streamers talk shit to each other.
I’ve been listening to several streamers recently,
and it’s like, it somehow works a little better,
even if they’re just, like, cruel to each other.
It makes more sense.
But I think when people are genuinely trying to educate
or to help and so on,
and you still get the shitty comments.
I don’t know.
It makes me sad.
No, it doesn’t.
It doesn’t make me sad.
I think part of that is also the way I was brought up.
So, I was, I skipped kindergarten,
so I was always the smallest kid.
You were picked on?
I was picked on, and then I did picking.
So, I had kind of both in my life.
I kind of know I went home from summer camp crying,
and I also made a kid cry once in fourth grade.
So, I had the balance.
Physical or mental abuse are both.
No, I didn’t beat anybody up.
I was tiny.
I think the kid in the younger grade was bigger than I was.
And you still broke him.
Because I was, ah, I was, yeah.
Yeah, I, so I had to use my-
I had to use my words.
I had to be, and growing up,
my parents split when I was super young,
and I played chess.
So, all things that make you super self-trustworthy.
Like, you believe your first instinct.
You don’t listen to what other people tell you.
And if people give you advice,
say, okay, I’m gonna think about that.
I’m not gonna go and do that.
I wasn’t impressionable.
You couldn’t convince me to do something.
That’s stuck to this day.
My wife has had to deconstruct some of my stubbornness
I didn’t even realize was incredible stubbornness.
It’s just something that you brought up with.
So, to me, that stuff doesn’t bother me.
So, the voices of others don’t shake you quite.
They can’t mentally shake your,
like, psychological stability.
No, they haven’t.
I think when it got,
probably at its worst point,
was in combination with being unable to perform well
in over-the-board play.
But that was also self-driven.
I wasn’t performing poorly because I was getting comments.
But because I was performing poorly,
the comments got to me more.
The cycle was sort of in the opposite direction.
And that was probably the most frustrating.
People have said some vile things to me,
you know, about my whole Indonesia thing.
Ooh, this is good.
This is gonna give the anarchist in Lee Chess some humor.
Let’s go, what’s the Indonesia thing?
The way you said it, okay,
maybe we don’t want to talk about it.
But let’s talk about it.
No, it’s totally fine.
Who did you kill?
I was gonna say I wish,
but I’m not even sure I can make a joke like that.
So, the Indonesia thing was I was streaming chess.
On chess.com, I might add.
And I got booted up a 10-minute game.
Just a random account from Indonesia.
That was the flag.
Now, mind you, on these websites, you can pick your flag.
It can be from wherever.
You don’t, it’s not geo-tracing.
You can change it.
I was like, okay, account from Indonesia.
And as always, I looked at the account
because it was a untitled, high-rated account.
And I looked through the games.
Win rate was suspiciously high.
Average accuracy was suspiciously high.
I was like, okay, I think this is a cheater.
I said it out loud.
It’s not the first time I’ve played cheaters on stream.
And I said, okay, I’m still gonna play.
Let’s see what happens.
The game was not crazy suspicious,
but definitely suspicious.
A few critical moments
where I just clearly thought I had a good position.
And then the person or the bot played some move
that just killed my hopes.
And I lost.
I was like, okay, I lost.
And I wrote to the chess.com fair play team.
Like behind the scenes,
I wasn’t even saying anything publicly on stream.
And the guy got banned.
It was a cheater.
So that night, right before I’m going to sleep,
because Indonesia is 12 hours ahead of New York,
I go on my Twitter.
The hell is going on?
I see hundreds of responses to my recent tweets.
Levi, you gotta check Facebook, man.
You gotta check Facebook.
Like, here’s a link.
So allegedly that account belonged to an older gentleman
and his son made a Facebook post that said,
my dad played a big streamer in chess, Gotham Chess,
and Gotham got mad.
He lost to my dad.
So his community mass reported my dad
and he was banned for cheating.
Oh, it went viral.
Did you know that in Indonesia
has the fourth largest population in the world?
I didn’t know.
I learned it the hard way.
Tens of thousands of DMs every second.
Instagram DMs, because I had my DMs open.
I was never afraid of that stuff.
My YouTube videos went from 99% downvote to 50, 50, 50.
They swarmed my account.
So all negative.
All, play him again.
I mean, I don’t know how much swearing
there is on this podcast,
but I mean, it was just all sorts of.
All the fucking swearing you want.
Just everything, ruthless, the vicious.
They were gonna kill me.
They were going to rape my family.
They were going to,
they were contacting people I followed on Instagram.
They were contacting them and telling them crazy things.
It was, I’m not joking.
It was tens of thousands of people every minute.
It was unbelievable.
And I didn’t know what to do because the guy cheated.
I was in the right.
How certain were you that he cheated?
I don’t know if you can say 100%, but.
So just.com also had a suspicion.
They, what I.
Because they have like good,
they have like good detection algorithms.
Danny Wrench would be able to,
I legitimately know nothing about the behind the scenes
because it’s only kind of tech people.
But one thing I did not realize was that this account,
whether it was the son playing or the father playing,
we will not know.
We don’t know who played.
It could have been the son.
It could have been the dad covering for him, whatever.
But at some point that account won 27 games in a row
at 95% accuracy.
I mean, even Magnus can’t do that.
Even, you know, this took a month.
This story took one month from start to finish.
First, I had to work with like a media company
to geo-block my content in Indonesia on YouTube.
So Indonesians could not see my channel.
Oh, so you didn’t want to like lean into it,
go fool Donald Trump.
Let’s, let’s, cause you’re in the right,
you feel like you’re in the right.
You, as far as you know, you’re in the right.
Yeah, and I hated watching all my work burn to the ground.
Oh, you felt it was being.
Yeah, and I’m, one thing I’m learning about myself
is I’m not a good crisis actor.
I need someone to like slap me
so I don’t do something emotional in the moment
when crisis is ongoing.
What would be the emotional act
that’s not productive there?
Partnering with an MCN that makes you give away
a bunch of your revenue.
And then when you break with them,
I wasn’t monetized for a week.
It was a very big decision to plug in.
I think they’re called MCNs, but.
What are they?
Sorry, I don’t, what are MCNs?
They’re like, we, there’s specialized agencies
that work behind the scenes with YouTube
that if you connect your account,
they say they can give you certain ad benefits.
They can geo-block your content,
which you can’t do normally.
They have certain perks that only YouTube allows
behind the scenes.
You pay them 10% of your monthly ad revenue,
but they claim to do a handful of things for you.
I just needed them to geo-block my content.
I just didn’t, I didn’t care how much money
I was going to give away per month, but.
So why geo-block it?
You just didn’t like the downvoting.
Yeah, I didn’t want.
You wanted positivity, like you’re being educational.
You’re, I mean, they’re like, you do a bit of shit talking,
but it’s more like fun and easygoing.
You didn’t want this kind of viciousness.
Yeah, my comment section was just being completely flooded.
Like they were destroying my channel.
And to be honest, maybe all of the views
and the downvotes would have actually been beneficial.
Maybe my videos would have actually started
getting recommended to more people, but I’m a person.
This all goes back to the same thing.
Oh, so this got to you.
Yeah, this was like, I was just watching it
and I’m like, this is not fair.
This is, I don’t know what to do.
So I’m going to stop this as much as I can.
They still got through, they have VPN.
And they were like, you asshole,
you don’t think we have VPN in Indonesia?
It was this whole, you know, it was this whole thing.
This father and son got invited to every major news network.
I’m not joking.
They got invited to the major podcast.
They like to say the Joe Rogan of Indonesia.
Daddy Corbuzier is this mentalist.
He’s a bald guy, very fun guy.
He had them.
And that’s when the Indonesian Chess Federation stepped in.
The thing is nobody who was harassing me
knows anything about chess.
They just saw the story.
And long story short, they brought in a sponsor.
The guy played a strong,
one of the strongest chess players in the country
who also happens to be a woman, Irene Sukander.
She’s like 2,400 international master.
She crushed him because his actual playing strength
is 1,300, 1,400, something like that.
He still got paid.
Cause there was a winning prize fund, a losing prize fund.
And we never heard from him again.
And that was the whole story.
So that was why I had to shut down all of my social media
to DMs and DM requests and even notifications.
Like I don’t get notifications unless it’s someone I follow.
But see stuff like that doesn’t often get resolved
in this kind of clear way.
No, it doesn’t.
It could have been.
So you got lucky there that there’s a conclusion to this.
Yeah, somebody got views, somebody got money.
I never got many apologies.
What did you learn from that experience about yourself,
about the internet?
I think first and foremost,
I learned that every moment you are live or broadcasting
can be completely blown out of proportion.
You have to be real careful.
And I can’t actively think about that unfortunately,
even when I’m streaming.
I’ve had other instances where things come back to bite.
I’ve even had these moments live on stream.
I feel like I said something too sarcastically to somebody
and I don’t know how their day is going.
It might ruin their whole day.
You know, God knows what,
you have these moments of regret
where you want your personality to shine through
and you want to entertain.
At least you’re thinking at what cost.
If I make a joke to a viewer
that suddenly the whole chat is laughing at them,
what if that puts them in a deep, dark place?
And again, it all comes back to this one-on-one thing for me
because I’m a human.
I would hate to put another person into that situation.
If I would much rather get a drink with somebody
than, but it’s all kind of part of this act
and you want to make jokes.
And I also learned I’m a horrible crisis actor.
So I have no patience, but I think that’s normal in 2022.
Everything is immediate.
We can barely sit, think, let time go by.
It makes me sad because I think
that kind of stuff can destroy good people.
That’s what makes you sad.
Yeah, well, one of the things we discussed
just here before recording,
which I’m also, I’ve talked about this on stream.
I’m very open with this type of stuff is over the,
I think for me, a lot of that comes down
to just a lack of control of the narrative.
That phrase is kind of messy.
It can be used for political stuff,
but I hate when I say things
and they get completely misconstrued
or they are completely misinterpreted.
And I can’t imagine being in your shoes
because again, I do chess.
You cannot really, you can clip me saying something
about a chess game out of context and it’s hilarious.
You know, it’s dumb.
It’s nothing, it’s not an attack on me
or something that I said.
It’s not an attack on, kind of more similarly
to what you were describing.
You don’t say stuff like that,
like ridiculous, you don’t say ridiculous shit
about yourself like that?
Oh, I do, I do, I do.
And you don’t feel like that could be made.
Isn’t this the same guy that said X?
Maybe, maybe I either haven’t said enough
of those things or there’s no moments in,
I don’t have three, four hour open conversations
with other humans.
And I’m pretty sure if I did,
there would be more of that stuff out there.
But that’s probably what it is,
is just a lack of, it’s a lack of being able
to kind of control what is actually reality.
And that is very frustrating.
Yeah, you’re right.
I mean, there is a sense that there’s not enough motivation
for people to attack you.
You’re ultimately adding a lot of positive stuff
to the world.
And when you get into more political topics,
there’s people there who are hurting,
who have a lot of anger in their hearts,
and they want to direct it towards you.
So then they need ammunition.
And ammunition comes in the way of like clips from the past.
So I’m sure that you,
I’m pretty sure you already have clips like that.
It’s just, there’s not people that really have anger
to direct towards you.
Ultimately, you’re adding a lot of good stuff to the world.
And so, yeah.
But it’s, man, the viciousness of human beings
under the veil of anonymity at scale
can be really painful.
So that, I guess that’s the curse,
the challenge of being a creator
on YouTube and so on, on Twitch.
When you talked about retiring,
I think you tweeted about retiring from chess.
I made a video, yeah, I tweeted.
It’s my value to the world.
The tweet or the video?
I’m retiring from all competitive chess events.
My preparation is outmatched.
My calculation skills are too flawed.
And most importantly, my anxiety is beyond repair.
I physically and emotionally cannot do it anymore.
What was the hardest thing?
What was the hardest thing about competing?
Can you elaborate on that?
I think it’s separated into phases of my life.
So after being a creator and coming back
and playing over the board
and making recaps of all my games,
I think the constant feeling that I had at the board
was a kid who hadn’t studied enough for a test,
which is a very unique type of anxiety.
And during the game, it was just self-hatred.
Good moves did not feel as good
as how bad bad moves felt and bad moments.
And underneath that, you’re saying
there was a sense that I did not prepare well enough.
So I’m an international master,
but there’s international masters now who are 11.
I got the title when I was 22, which is late.
I might not sound like it’s late, but it’s really late.
And I quit chess multiple times when I was a teenager.
If I hadn’t, one of my parents was like,
sit down, this is the only thing that you’re good at.
Focus on it.
Maybe I would have been a grandmaster,
but that’s life, right?
And I would come back to chess at various points in my life
when I felt more mature, I felt more ready,
and I felt more motivated.
It was all me.
I had one coach when I was maybe about 10,
I never listened to the guy, great guy.
He emailed me even recently just wanting to catch up,
which I thought was adorable,
because I don’t even know if he knows
that YouTube chess exists.
He’s in his 70s, he’s just like a nice older guy.
And he would come to my house, we would have dinner,
and my grandma would make us food.
And he would tell her that I’m brilliant,
but I never work, and I have so much potential.
If only I ever worked at all, one minute on anything.
I just played speed games online and I-
Did he speak the truth there?
Like, could you have worked more?
I could have worked more, for sure, yeah, absolutely.
When you listen to Magnus who doesn’t,
he seems like he doesn’t work either.
He might work in different ways,
but I think for him it’s also obsession, again, love.
He might read a book, he doesn’t consider it work.
He’s getting information in and he’s learning something.
It might just be easier for him to learn
than for me, for example, or for anybody.
Just everybody learns and absorbs things differently.
So I would come back to chess,
and the best run of my life that I had was in 2016,
where I basically, while teaching a chess program,
scholastic chess program, I told all the parents,
hey, so for these four months,
I’m gonna stop doing private lessons,
and I’m gonna go travel and play tournaments
because I wanna become an international master finally.
I’m 20 years old.
This is in 2016.
Like, can you help me raise some money?
These are all managing directors.
These are lawyers.
These are seven-figure, eight-figure households,
and they contributed, and I kept a blog,
and then I worked just six hours, seven hours every day,
like studying all the opening trends,
all of the new ideas, reading the books,
analyzing my own games, playing my own speed games
and analyzing them, training every day.
And that year, I went from 2240 over the board to 2404,
with two of the three norms, as they call them,
which are basically tournament performances.
Like, you perform at a certain level.
Not too complicated.
So I got almost everything I needed to be an IM.
But I just slipped up at the very end,
and 2017, I didn’t play chess, but in 2018,
I came back once again with a vengeance.
I started playing in the summer once again,
and I went up, up, up to my peak.
But then, something interesting happened.
My life mission was accomplished.
I never wanted or thought I could be a grandmaster.
I wanted to be an international master.
And the adrenaline dump of hitting the IM title,
I just stopped working completely.
I just completely stopped working.
I couldn’t, and the second I started falling,
I couldn’t stop.
And I spent the rest of the summer just tanking,
and I said, oh, fuck this.
I made my IM, I’m gonna fuck off someplace and whatever.
I’ll be IM, it doesn’t matter.
But when I play games online,
I mean, I destroy grandmasters all the time.
Like, dynamically, dynamics in chess
are just complex positions with all sorts of calculation,
attacking, defending, like very forcing lines.
I think it’s my best strength.
I think I’m easily grandmaster level.
So you have the capacity to be a grandmaster?
If the work was put in.
If the work was put in,
and I was not doing my current career,
if I just trained full-time, I think I could do it.
Do you have a desire to be a grandmaster?
Did you have a desire?
You said, I didn’t really want,
like, the main goal was international master.
Which, by the way, is really interesting.
Just, I’ve talked to Olympic athletes,
the crash after the gold medal is fascinating.
I didn’t get gold, but for me, that was my goal.
That was your goal.
I mean, it doesn’t matter.
The goal, it takes a very, very special person
to not be destroyed by the gold and continue the dominance.
It’s to continue growing, to continue.
I mean, it’s hard to, that’s why they talk about,
it’s hard to be a champion and defend your championships.
Or whatever the goal is, to achieve the goal
and stick to, like, yeah.
Yeah, it broke me.
It broke you.
So, you have the capacity to be a grandmaster.
Have you ever thought, by the way,
is this still possible for you,
or are you fully dedicated now to the love of creating
and analyzing this game?
I don’t think I’m going to do what I do right now forever.
Well, you’re gonna die one day.
Just a heads up.
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
I once cried when I realized that.
It was at a funeral.
It was very sad.
That’s another entirely separate rabbit hole to go down.
Which is when?
When did this happen?
Just a couple of years ago.
Yeah, it was rough.
So, you really were able to like,
like that realization really hit you,
like, fuck, this ends.
Yeah, I’m the kind of person who,
I have my active thoughts in my brain
of things I have to get done.
And the more of those, the better,
because I’ll, my brain will walk me off a cliff,
not the physical body,
the brain itself will walk off a cliff,
spinning in circles.
So, I try to keep myself as active as possible
on tasks I have to do.
It’s good, and I’m busy.
It’s good, I’m at the scale I am,
because you can’t really rest a whole lot.
But yes, that was,
I have these moments in my life
where I have realizations of past fuck ups
or things I have, like I really have to do
that I’ve been like really doing poorly,
or things like this.
Massive existential things that just hit me
like a bus.
There’s several things tricky about it.
So, because I meditate on death a lot.
Like, in this conversation,
I imagine this is the last thing both you and I do.
Just, and we’re gonna die after this.
So, you meditate on that.
But then you also have to,
I think what hits people really hard
is the realization that life moves on.
Not only does it just end for you,
but most people will be like,
they’ll, in your case, they’ll tweet.
It’s like, oh, he’s so great.
There’ll be so much outpouring.
There’ll be outpouring of love and so on for a day,
and then it moves on.
And the new trees grow,
new bridges are built,
and then eventually human civilization ends,
or moves over to Mars and so on,
and you’ll be forgotten completely.
But that, for most people, will come right away.
You get a cancer diagnosis or something like that,
and it’s like, doesn’t anyone else know
that I’m going to die?
Does anyone else care?
Like, nobody gives a shit.
I mean, they do.
I mean, there’s love there,
but not in a dramatic way
that you would somehow deep inside hope for,
that the world would stop
because your life is facing this catastrophic event.
But I think, ultimately,
what you could channel that realization
into appreciation of the current moment,
which is the people you love,
and sharing love with them as intensely as possible,
experiencing every moment as intensely as possible,
because eventually, there’ll be a last moment,
and after that, there’ll be no more moments.
That’s sort of what I do.
Yeah, I try to channel all of that into,
sorry, I don’t use these fancy microphones in my own.
You look uncomfortable.
It’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault, Levy.
With this microphone?
No, with this line of conversation.
I’m playing therapist.
I don’t know if I’m uncomfortable.
I just, I don’t know if I have a lot to say.
Sometimes, I just listen.
Like, sometimes, I’m intimidated.
You say a lot of good things,
and I’m like, shit, what am I gonna say,
like, at the end of it?
On this subject especially, I’m like,
that’s sort of what I do.
There’s nothing, what do you think happens after we die?
No, that’s a rhetorical question.
What were we talking about?
So, how hard is it to reach?
What are the requirements for grandmaster, by the way?
Because, yeah, and what are the requirements
for international master?
You mentioned a few requirements and so on.
So, the first one is you have to know
how to use a Shure mic and an arm.
I’m slowly learning.
You were impressed by the Shure microphone, by the way.
For people listening, we’re using this Shure SM7B
that a lot of podcasters use.
I don’t know why, and Michael Jackson on Thriller,
which Grimes told me.
That’s what, I think it looked a little different,
but it’s the same underneath it.
A few musicians used it in studio.
I don’t know where it became popular
as a podcasting microphone,
because I think most broadcasters use condenser mics
that look really fancy.
This looks a little.
No, this one’s great.
It sounds really, really good,
and I told you before that I wanted to use it,
but it requires an external dashboard of some sort,
and I’m way too lazy to learn how to do it.
And my microphone doesn’t sound that bad
for YouTube and for Twitch, but this is a long-term.
I still have to figure out how to stream stuff.
I haven’t figured that out.
You want to go down into the world of Twitch?
No, I don’t.
Just in case.
No, for, no, not Twitch.
Do you know what we have over there?
So, first of all, yes, it’s like,
I feel like the Hobbit going into like a mortar.
Like, yeah, Twitch is a very intense world,
but there is useful cases
when you should have your microphone work
with like the different,
the processing chain work in real time.
So you can do like interviews,
and also I play video,
I try to play a video game once a month.
So I’ve done that like three times already.
So stream that kind of stuff for like an hour,
like play Skyrim.
I like, I love playing Skyrim.
I actually love the idea.
I haven’t done that yet,
but apparently in Skyrim you can turn off the monsters
and you can just walk around.
So I love the idea of just walking around Skyrim
for a couple hours.
And just like, cause it’s beautiful nature.
Have you, do you know anything about those?
I know very, I know, I know a little about Skyrim,
but so it’s, it’s kind of like Chet, no.
Yeah, it’s just beautiful worlds.
So there’s games that are able to create this sense of,
you know, the way you feel when you go hiking,
a sense of nature.
It’s not that they’re ultra realistic,
but they capture some majestic aspect of nature.
I think some of it is also music, something peaceful.
It’s like old timey, medieval type of music.
And just the trees, like the wind, like,
and you could, and then there’s in the distance,
there’s the mountains.
And you can like, you have a sense of history
that the nature gives you.
You have a sense of space, like this,
you’re like this tiny little creature
and there’s this big world all around you.
I don’t know how many, that’s like an art
for a video game to create that.
It’s not just about the monsters in front of you.
It’s about this world and this feeling of a world.
So I can just walk around and enjoy it.
I get asked this question a lot.
Why don’t I stream more video games?
And I didn’t know that such video games,
first of all, existed.
I thought it was mostly just various sci-fi-ish characters
and shooting and objective.
Oh, like Call of Duty.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I’ve played Overwatch on stream.
It’s the only video game I actually played a lot
and got decent at.
And I couldn’t play it on stream anymore
because my teammates would use racial slurs
in the voice chat.
So that is.
I will, one of the,
cause I’ve been thinking of talking to a few streamers
and they do, they’re a little bit,
I don’t know as far as,
that community broadly does use racial slurs
and seem to make them okay.
But for the ones I would talk to are a little bit,
they’re just harsh in general in the intensity of language.
And I don’t know what to do.
Like, I don’t want to be the guy who says like,
kids these days with their mean language on the internet.
Like you want to kind of adapt to the different communities.
But at the same time,
there’s lines that you can cross, right?
Like if you make everything into a joke,
because that’s what they kind of do.
Everything ends in LOL, everything is funny.
And that becomes, once again, a lubricant.
That it’s like a slippery slope that takes you to a place
where you actually make pretty mean ideas,
even evil ideas, okay, because it started as a joke.
And so, I mean, you start getting into the territory of,
I mean, because I’ve been reading a lot on Hitler
and Stalin and so on,
and you’ll see those kinds of topic come up
in that community.
And it’s like, oof,
they have a very different perspective on that stuff.
To them, it’s just a fun joke, fun time.
And I see that the conscious of that would call a duty
where you’re shooting.
And I love shooting and killing things in video games,
but there’s a slippery slope there too,
because then just having visited the front in Ukraine,
you get to see the real killing of people.
And you see how one can lead to another.
but there’s something that happens in video games
where you’re like, well, this is not reality.
The same kind of things happens in war.
Well, the people on the other side aren’t really human.
It does become a kind of video game.
And that same mechanism,
I feel like I want to be cautious about our brain
going down that road.
So yeah, I do worry about that community,
but there are video games
that don’t have such communities around them.
I think Skyrim,
I don’t think Skyrim is an online component.
Minecraft, I think is relatively civil
from what I’ve seen.
I think it’s a lot of, right now it’s booming.
It’s a lot of young creators
who are all seemingly quite close.
And I think the community then extends to social media.
Some of them are intense, but who isn’t?
And I think they foster a more or less
kind of good group of folks.
But no, I completely agree.
I think a lot of that stuff,
and combined with the anonymity stuff
that we mentioned earlier,
totally dehumanizes the way people interact with each other.
And it’s scary.
I don’t know.
Combine that with two years
of some people barely going outside.
Yeah, with COVID, yeah.
It’s not a good mix.
It’s not a good mix at all.
I mean, you’d like to think that folks,
it’s like in their teenage years,
kind of go through those and they mature out of it and stuff.
So they start to realize the weight of their words.
Like, that’s my hope.
But we’re all trying to figure that out,
how the internet has changed youth.
Like easy access to porn,
easy access to some dark communities
where dark ideas breed.
I don’t know.
But then again, I trust in the goodness
and the intelligence of people at the end of the day.
And I think kids will,
now I sound like an old man,
but it’s good for kids to play with different ideas
and then they grow out of it, hopefully.
But then you have to have parents and good school
and good friends that kind of calm out their bullshit.
You need that.
If you’re stuck inside under anonymity,
maybe you don’t have some of those signals.
Kids these days with their internet.
I had to go through this.
It’s kind of what I mentioned.
So I didn’t have two divorced,
my parents were divorced.
I didn’t have two households.
I had three.
So I had-
So I went to school most of my childhood
in a town where my grandmother lived.
And she was kind of like the Switzerland.
So I would be with her
and my mom would come with me there half the week.
Dad would take me to his place
for the other half of the school week.
And my parents would split weekends.
My mom’s weekends were in New York
where my stepdad was and that family.
So three houses.
So grandma, your dad’s-
Mom and dad.
And then mom.
So step siblings there and there.
New people there and there.
Extended family there and there.
And also at grandma’s where I would come
anytime I had a conflict.
And when I was 12 and 13
and being just a total lunatic,
emotional manipulator of all folks in my family.
I was just teenager rebelling
and also having to deal with three different households.
And I mean, I carried a backpack,
the same backpack literally that I,
not the physical one,
but what’s inside of it that I carried.
Like when I came here to record the episode
and have my stuff in the hotel,
a backpack with a laptop,
a bunch of clothes,
a bunch of other things that I need throughout the week.
Deodorant, things like that.
I mean, of course you start getting that stuff
in all the houses,
but that was the way I lived
for some of the most important developmental years
of my life.
And who knows if I had too much of what we’re describing,
one sprinkle of this too much,
one sprinkle of this too much,
if I had someone influence me in a negative way.
Luckily, I managed to steer clear of a lot of it.
Yeah, how did you not get into trouble with the internet?
Meaning like, how did you,
what was your experience with the internet?
So I was having to move a lot,
having to have multiple households,
just psychologically difficult upbringing.
I, yeah, it was extremely tough.
I, it’s hard to speak about it now
because I’m in a completely different mental state.
I don’t even remember some of like those moments,
It’s almost like a different person.
Yeah, that’s exactly how it feels.
But I remember I had a big video game addiction,
just like most teenagers.
I want to say teenagers,
but probably teenage boys,
but I’m not, I don’t know.
I don’t know how addicted teenage girls are to video games.
Yeah, I didn’t get on that.
I definitely look back on things that I did
in certain instances, like,
well, I was a teenager, that was stupid.
Oh, I scammed somebody in some video game.
Oh, that was, you know, that was, oh, that’s hilarious.
Like, and just, I was just an idiot teenager.
Like, I didn’t do anything unforgivable, luckily.
And for the most part, just kind of went about my life.
And I somehow got older
and started getting more independent
and stopped playing video games.
And to be honest with you,
I would love to sit here and say
I have some sort of logical explanation
of why I am the person I am today.
But I think you need elements of the right upbringing
and support system, as you said,
and you also need luck.
You just, I’ve been in some situations as a teenager
where I almost got killed by some gang members.
That’s a very exaggerated story,
but I was in a park in New York City
and I got into it with a kid
whose brother was in a notorious gang of that neighborhood.
And he told me his brother was gonna come and kill me,
basically, over a stolen basketball.
And I was gonna fight this kid,
because I was 14, you know, he stole my basketball.
Of course, I’m gonna fight this kid.
This kid was like 12, he had a pierced tongue.
Like, this wasn’t a joke.
This kid was from a totally different way of life.
And his brother did show up,
but his brother was like, I’m not gonna lose this kid.
Like, I was a little teenager.
Now 14-year-olds are six feet tall.
Maybe something would’ve happened to me.
But I was a little kid.
And his brother was like, bro.
But looking back at that is crazy,
because I definitely had some of these moments
in New York City more than anywhere else,
because it’s such a big place.
But luck, you need some luck.
Yeah, it’s kind of funny
that there’s certain moments in life
on which the entire trajectory of your life can turn.
And then they’re all, like, in that case, nothing happened.
But, you know, I most intensely feel this
when I get almost run over by a car kind of thing.
How many times have you almost get run over?
I don’t know.
Maybe it happened, like, twice in my life.
That kind of stuff.
Like when somebody runs a red light.
That happened to me here in Austin.
You realize, oh shit, that was,
like, your life flashes before your eyes.
And those moments can turn.
And then there’s more meeting certain people
where you meet them for the positive.
They’re like, wow, this moment of inspiration,
like, wow, this is possible.
Wow, this kind of person can exist.
Maybe I can be that kind of person too.
So yeah, those things can change the direction.
But maybe not.
Maybe they just reveal something that was already there
and the momentum is always carrying you forward
into a thing that you are always gonna end up in.
Yeah, I wonder about that.
Speaking of teens doing stupid things,
let’s return to the Magnus Hans saga.
How did it start?
Who is Hans Nieman?
Who is Magnus Carlsen?
How did it start?
There’s three games.
It started in Miami.
Yeah, a good background story is Magnus Carlsen
is the arguable greatest player of all time.
Very close, I would say, to Garry Kasparov.
World number one for now over 10 years.
At the top of his game, you think?
Like close to the top of his game right now?
After the most recent thing, yes.
I think he has the uncanny ability of top athletes
to absorb the bullshit and show, oh yeah, dad’s home now.
I was only trying 70% before that.
And I think that’s what he,
I really think that’s what he showed.
I was in awe.
If Magnus is playing in a tournament,
yes, it’s good for views to put him in my YouTube thumbnails
and make the video title about him
if he does something brilliant.
But I was legitimately just blown away.
It wasn’t even, I wasn’t farming him for content.
This is unbelievable what he’s doing to people.
And he has a point to prove.
Hans is a, I believe he’s 19 years old right now.
He’s an American, I don’t know if prodigy
is necessarily the right word.
Prodigies, you know they’re prodigies
from very, very young.
In chess, you don’t become a prodigy at 18.
But he was always a good junior player.
He was always a very unique character.
I met Hans when he was 11, 12 years old.
He was this little kid just trash talking folks
at the Marshall Chess Club.
And he already had a reputation, literally.
He had a reputation with counselors.
And the truth is I was similar.
I was kicked out of chess camp
by one of the best chess grandmasters of all time,
I was in a chess camp when I was nine years old.
What’d you do?
I was just an asshole.
I was too strong.
So I helped other people with other work.
I was loud.
And you let your ego shine.
I was a kid.
I mean, I wouldn’t.
Not every kid lets their ego shine, but some do.
Hans does, there’s interviews when he’s young.
Where like, he’s kind of talking shit.
But it’s entertaining.
Yes, what I try to stay away from is just,
yes, I let my ego shine,
but I don’t think I even knew what any of that was
when I was younger.
Yeah, so it’s just sort of,
I was just a loud, boisterous kid
from a household where I wasn’t paid attention to
because I had three of them.
So I just was like,
here’s where I’m going to show up and get my attention.
And Artur Yusupov, he’s a great, great man.
I drove that man crazy.
He was like top five in the world at some point
in the 80s and 90s.
He said, it’s either me or this kid.
So you really got to him.
Yes, he said, I’m not going to come back
and teach camps unless it’s me.
And I remember like going through this.
I have very vague, distant memories of this.
My dad calling, apologizing.
Did it make you feel good that you got to a grandmaster?
No, I felt horrible.
I felt guilty.
I feel guilty my whole life about that.
I very rarely feel proud of bad things or I showed them.
Even things, it gets to the point you feel guilty
about things you didn’t do.
That’s when your brain really goes crazy.
Yeah, I’m with you on that.
So, okay, so you can relate to Hans.
Yes, to young Hans.
And he was like in and out of chess.
This is what I remember.
He was around the rating of 2300.
And I remember looking at some of his games
in a tournament in Philadelphia.
And I was like, there was some game that he played
and he didn’t know the opening.
It was like a London, which is a very popular opening,
some theoretical line.
I looked at him like, whoa, he didn’t know that?
Okay, that’s crazy.
And then I just kind of walked by
and I saw him in a tournament a few months later
and he did something very rare where in an open tournament,
not a tournament of 10 players
where everybody plays everybody, open tournament,
randomized pairings, depending on how many points you have,
he played nine grandmasters, which is crazy.
That means he was performing so well, so consistently.
That was where he got his first IM norm.
It’s like, oh, here it is.
Here comes that like boom of a young player
where he gets mature, he gets back into the game
and he gets stronger.
I don’t follow a whole lot.
Pandemic happens and he starts streaming a bit
and he’s boisterous, he’s kind of like loud,
he’s talking trash and he’s gaining rating constantly.
He’s just, but so are a lot of people.
So you don’t think much of it.
And then now you can go play over the board again,
live tournaments, face to face, as opposed to online events.
And he’s like, I’m gonna go to this tournament.
I’m gonna win it.
I’m gonna get my last GM norm.
And he does.
And then he’s like, all right, my goal is this rating
by the end of this year.
He gets it.
And he just demolishes absolutely everybody.
And you’re like, this guy’s for real.
Over the board.
Like this guy’s for real.
There’s a lot of people like that.
If you look at the top juniors of the world, it’s crazy.
Ali Reza Faruja, 2,800.
Vincent Kymer, 2,700.
A bunch of kids from India, 2,700.
Similar age or younger usually?
One or two years younger, maybe a little older by a year.
But it’s just this wave and you’re just hype for the guy.
Like this is fucking awesome.
Like we got a young American guy who shit talks
every time he’s on camera.
And he beats everybody he plays.
But then you start hearing sprinkles here and there,
maybe in some stream.
Oh, I think he doesn’t get to play on Chess.com anymore.
Like Chess.com doesn’t put that badge there on the account.
Sometimes they just tell the player, listen, we know.
And the player’s like, all right, you got me.
And that’s it.
There’s no conversation.
So there’s like these sprinkles, but people cheat online,
especially when they’re young.
It’s very captivating.
It’s a very nice thing to do.
Just to be clear, I mean, just to make explicit
that the accusation, and I think it’s proven,
but they’re still being shady about it
to the degree it’s done, is that he cheated on Chess.com
when he was 12?
12 and 16, that’s what he said.
That’s what he said.
That’s what he admitted to.
But right now, Chess.com put out a statement
and now Magnus put out a statement as well saying,
we think it’s more than that.
Yeah, I’ve talked to Danny
because he wants to come on the podcast,
which I’m actually kind of interested in.
I think he’s a cool person.
And they’re also doing some really interesting
anti-cheating stuff, which to me,
from an algorithmic perspective, is interesting.
But he is also the man.
Like there’s always, in every field,
there’s the institution.
So he represents the institution
because Chess.com is the institution.
It’s like in the Olympic, it’s the IOC.
It’s like, I have to be careful.
Well, and Chess FIDE is the institution.
Yeah, but Chess.com.
They’ve outgrown, way more people actually know Chess.com.
Way more people know me.
Way more people know Hikaru.
It’s one of the reasons that-
It’s interesting where the power lays.
Who has the most power?
Yeah, Chess.com has the most power?
Well, I don’t know, maybe you and Hikaru do.
To steer public opinion, you know?
That’s a very good question.
I have to think with my evil cap now.
What would happen if-
I’d rather you have the evil cap than Hikaru
because I feel like he would really,
you know, the power absolute.
If the two of you ruled the world, it’d be a problem.
You mean side by side or rivals?
Yeah, it would be like, yeah.
As rivals, there would definitely be a war.
It’s one of the reasons I would not Chess box him.
Do you guys, how much do you like each other?
I mean, do you admire each other as fellow-
I can tell you how I feel.
As fellow entertaining-
Well, we should finish Magnus Hans.
Yes, that’s good.
I know, I feel like just inside,
we don’t want to talk about it
because it feels like it’s been talked about so much.
I’m trying to give a very-
No, for you, just remember, for me, it’s much less.
Yeah, and for the listener, it might be zero.
For the listener, zero, yeah, yeah.
Like Rogan asked me, like, so what, what’s this?
I know, I heard him even talking.
What’s this, Chess?
You know, Joe talked about the Indonesia thing.
Oh, he did?
In some super random small thing,
and that was a very funny moment for me.
I told him about this drama a few weeks ago,
and then he’s like, yeah, this is interesting.
Is it anal beads?
Is that possible?
Is that good?
I was like, yeah, I think it’s possible.
I don’t remember how drunk he was,
but so even, you know, he’s curious.
He doesn’t really know, but anyway,
cheating when he was 12, when he was 16,
as he said, he admitted to cheating online
when he was 12 and 16.
Yes, but for timeline’s sake,
let’s just do it this way.
He has a lot of over-the-board success,
but nobody really talks about the online cheating stuff.
It’s sort of kind of kept low key,
couple hundred people, maybe a couple thousand people,
which sounds like a lot,
but it’s not because there’s millions of viewers
know about this.
It’s generally kept kind of low key
because historically, if you cheated online as a teenager,
you’re not cheating over the board.
It’s not possible.
You will get caught.
Nobody has ever attempted it.
We’ve had over-the-board cheaters,
but not at the ultra elite level.
And so what happens is they play this tournament in Miami,
and the first day Hans loses three nothing.
This is important because on the very next day,
it’s not like Hans was destroying every day.
The second day of the tournament,
he sits down game one versus Magnus
in their best of four and destroys him.
Like he destroyed him,
made it look like I was playing in Magnus’ shoes.
You know, the level difference,
it went even like he wasn’t close.
Of course we can argue it might be because of the,
maybe Magnus knew something ahead of time.
There’s obviously the psychological element,
They say, interviewer says,
Hans yesterday, by the way,
horribly phrased interview question.
He goes, Hans, yesterday was a terrible for you.
And today you start with a masterpiece.
What do you have to say?
Chess speaks for itself, walks away.
Argue, you can argue.
It’s cringe, you can argue.
I thought it was cool.
And then the guy then keeps asking a question
with his arm extended because he’s so shocked.
He doesn’t know what to do.
Like he didn’t even occur to him
how ridiculous it looked to be asking.
And then not only does Hans come back
and loses the best of four,
he loses like two more games or maybe three.
He had to think he lost the next three games.
He then proceeds to lose every single best of four match
for the rest of the tournament.
He ends with zero points and a prize money of $0.
They put up the graphic and he put Nieman zero.
I think he got some minimum, right?
So it’s like, wow, this is like insane.
This guy comes out with this crazy interview.
And in my recap videos, I was like,
the next time Hans has success,
he has to stay away from the cameras.
Don’t let him talk.
Just don’t let him talk.
It’s gonna be bad luck.
I’m joking around.
Like next time he plays, it’s crazy.
So that was their kind of first interaction there.
They also, there was some photos.
They were having fun playing on the beach.
I don’t know why they had a chess board on the beach.
Chess players are such-
Magnus and Hans?
So they were still getting along.
I guess so, yeah.
It’s interesting because I talked to him at that time.
Would he have mentioned something?
I wonder what he would have said
if I asked him about Hans.
Because I was clueless.
Did anyone care about Hans?
Nobody, no, no, no.
Hans is not a super known entity, right?
He became much more known.
He became probably a top five
all-time popular chess player in the last three weeks.
Yeah, so it’s not,
it wouldn’t even be a worthy question.
No, you don’t know.
Maybe Magnus already kind of knew.
A lot of the top players, it seems,
are coming out now and saying,
we already were suspicious.
Yeah, it seems like Magnus might have known,
but maybe not enough to address it.
He still might not be willing to address it.
But anyway, so yeah,
so totally horrible tournament performance after.
After Hans beat Magnus.
Then the annual tradition
of the St. Louis tournaments happens,
which is a strong field of players
first for a fast tournament, rapid and blitz,
and a classical tournament.
And the classical tournament is the Sinkfield Cup.
It’s named after Rex Sinkfield,
billionaire chess philanthropist.
And it’s like St. Louis Chess Club.
It’s like a prestigious place.
It’s this whole, yeah.
And the host of a prestigious tournament.
Hall of Fame is there for chess.
I don’t know if it’s U.S. Hall of Fame
or Worldwide Hall of Fame,
but yeah, it’s the tournament.
Other countries play chess?
Oh, they didn’t.
They do, but you know, we will,
I don’t know who determines
where the Hall of Fame gets to be.
If we say it’s the Hall of Fame, okay.
One day, some other part of the world’s gonna be like,
actually, it’s over here.
So basically what happens
is we have a field set for the Sinkfield Cup.
Set, it’s the top 10 players in the world.
Some can’t make it.
So, okay, you get number 11 in there or something.
One of them can’t come
because of something related to coronavirus.
It’s not, now we’re gonna get a little asterisk
on Spotify because it was mentioned.
Get more info about COVID-19.
So I don’t know why he couldn’t come,
but he couldn’t come.
Okay, something happens.
He can’t make it.
Hans Niemann is the replacement.
At the time, we didn’t know this,
but now weeks later, we knew Magnus wanted to not play.
This is very important.
Back then, we didn’t know.
Apparently some other top players also didn’t wanna play.
They also were suspicious.
They also wanted increased anti-cheating measures,
which by the way in chess are dog shit.
Like you give this little metal wand
and you put it on the little ear’s body
and there’s apparently an argument,
a micro earpiece would not be caught,
something in the armpit vibrating would not be caught,
something in the shoe,
they don’t make the players take their shoes off
because it’s too elitist.
How are you gonna make players take their shoes off?
That’s, oh my God.
But if these things are out there.
Or if anything was inside any other orifice.
I have to bring that up.
I mean, to be honest, yes, that is very truthful.
If nothing else, this podcast is about honesty and truth,
so I have to be complete, thank you.
So what ends up happening in the Singfield Cup
is Magnus ends up still playing,
but the anti-cheat measures are not introduced.
So the first few games,
Hans has a very, very impressive first round game
against Levon Oronian,
one of the best players in the world.
He was pushing, draw.
Second game, demolishes.
Like a top player.
Mamed Yarov crushes him.
Dominant opening, but not like a perfect game.
It was, he made some inaccuracies here and there,
and he ended up winning in a complex game.
This game three happens versus Magnus.
And not only does he beat Magnus with the black pieces,
he dominates him from start to finish.
So in the opening, Magnus played something with white
that he had maybe played once or twice before.
There was some big debate about it.
I’m not gonna get into it.
But basically a very niche, small thing
that just he had never played in maybe a long game before
with some sprinkled in venom that might get Hans off guard.
Hans proceeds to play like the first 15, 20 moves
And then converts the game into a slightly better end game
and squeezes Magnus to death.
Basically beats Magnus with black,
which nobody had done in years.
The same way Magnus would have beaten other players.
Then he goes and gives this interview which,
where he claims that he had looked
at those first 15, 20 moves right before the game basically.
He got lucky.
Didn’t he say he looked at something very similar?
No, no, it was either similar
or literally that exact variation, which is possible.
I’ve done that before.
One of my best wins of my life.
That morning I went, you know, I’m not prepared.
What if my opponent plays this Queen’s Gambit
And I literally learned the first 12 moves.
He didn’t know move 12.
I killed him.
Okay, like it just happens.
Unfortunately, when you combine that
with other small elements of the interview
and now there’s body language experts going all on this,
it was odd.
He gave an interview afterwards explaining his,
explaining various details of the game.
But not really explaining them.
That’s the thing.
The standard chess player interview is you sit down,
you go something about the opening, something about not,
oh yeah, I looked at this right before the game.
And then you explain various symphonies
and compositions of variations,
things that went through your head,
things you were evaluating.
But Hans’s interviews are different.
So everything about him as a chess player
already is different.
And his interviews are extremely strange and also different.
But not when you combine it then with the world champion
withdrawing right after you beat him
and ghosting the entire chess world.
Yeah, so there’s a, for people who haven’t listened to it,
there’s a kind of sloppiness
to the way he analyzes the game.
Like he’s like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Like it’s very-
Because it’s very obvious.
Like what do you mean?
You’re just completely winning here.
Yeah, I’m completely winning here.
And it’s like, yeah, I just played perfect.
I played perfect.
Like there’s a sense of like,
but it also doesn’t, for me, again,
a very outside spectator, it doesn’t raise any red flags.
That’s just his personality.
He seems to really like to talk this way.
And plus this could be crazy,
but do you have a sense that he’s more of an intuitive player
versus like he’s just not the kind of person
that analyzes really well?
Or is that a ridiculous notion?
Well, let’s put it this way.
To succeed legitimately,
because obviously this is a cheating scandal
at the end of the day,
at the 2750, 82800 level, the upper echelon of chess,
you cannot be an intuitive player.
You can be a little bit more intuitive than a calculator
and a concrete evaluator of positions.
Meaning if I give you five seconds to play a move,
you’re gonna choose the best move quickly.
Those people are generally better at fast time controls,
but you have to be good at everything.
And what raised red flags in this interview
was the fact that it was different
than every other interview any human being ever gave
at that level of chess,
particularly after beating Magnus
for the first time as a teenager,
which is a very small group of people.
And so that’s where it got weird.
And the very next day, Magnus withdraws from the event.
Chess world lights completely on fire for multiple weeks.
He also tweets.
Yeah, that was-
That’s the resignation.
The tweet was,
I’m withdrawing from the tournament in St. Louis.
I’ve always enjoyed playing here and I will in the future.
And then it’s a clip of Jose Mourinho.
I cannot speak.
I choose not to speak.
If I speak, I’m in big trouble.
I don’t wanna be in big trouble.
And that’s some people nuts.
People said it’s not even a cheating insinuation,
which was one of the theories.
Another theory was someone in team Magnus
told Hans what Magnus was looking at.
And that’s why Hans learned those first 15 moves,
which is so fucking stupid
because Magnus knows like five people.
Not in his life, but his team is five people.
Yeah, it’s very close-knit group.
Right, but to the outsider,
that sounds like a very legitimate theory.
How else can you explain?
Hans said he knew before the game what was gonna happen.
Magnus senses a mole he’s not, no.
By the way, just so I know,
like if that was, forget the cheating aside,
if you knew, doesn’t matter how,
the opening your opponent is going to do, they prepared,
is that a significant help to you?
If that opening is ultra sharp
and requires basically the game to be on a knife’s edge,
yes, meaning one mistake can be fatal.
Because then you can look up what the engine says.
Yeah, you can know everything.
You can know all the possibilities.
So even if your opponent goes off that engine path,
you will know how to punish it.
In this case, what happened basically
was Magnus played a line
that if completely optimally punished
would have given Hans a slightly better position,
and that’s what happened.
But then he also demolished him
in that later phase of the game.
Yes, and then, okay, so Magnus designs,
goes silent, the chess world goes crazy.
What else is interesting in that period of time?
Hans’s fourth round game of that tournament,
right after beating Magnus was also just absolutely genius,
just an absolutely brilliant game, which he failed to win.
But then after that game,
he also gives once again another interview
where he’s like, this game was absolutely genius.
Like this was, I was just killing him from start to finish.
And like, there was a moment he literally says,
oh yeah, just gave him a piece, like a full piece,
which is a substantial advantage to the other side.
And he starts explaining why the position is winning,
but in words, not in chess moves,
not in specific concrete chess moves,
which is the way you’re supposed to
if you understand the position, right?
So now there’s this new theory that’s being cultivated.
The interviews are gonna be used as the evidence.
And beyond round four,
he just played like a good grandmaster
and he lost two or three games, maybe two games,
and he drew the rest.
So he didn’t win again.
Like he beat in the first two out of his first three games,
he beat Mamid Yarev, he beat Carlsen.
And he also went on the attack himself.
That was when he publicly admitted to cheating
in an interview that he gave to the St. Louis Chess Club.
That’s when he said he has never cheated over the board.
Then he said, Chess.com has banned me
from the global championship,
which is what I was invited to, to play.
Privately, they banned me, didn’t even ban me publicly.
And then he said, and Hikaru is on Twitch every day,
saying things about me, this and that.
And since then, nothing.
Tournament finishes somehow.
I don’t know how we got to the end of the tournament.
I really thought that it was gonna get called off,
but tournament ends.
Hans hasn’t said anything since then.
Has he still said, when was the last time he said something?
That was the last tweet that he sent, September 7th.
He said, Hikaru wants to play the victim,
something like this.
They faced each other again recently.
When was that, what was that about?
They played in the online event
of this Meltwater Champions Chess Tour,
which is a 16-player tournament
where everybody plays everybody first.
And after 15 games, the top eight make a knockout bracket.
And Magnus played the game.
There was obviously a lot of hype prior
for what was gonna happen in this game.
Magnus plays one move and resigns.
Actually, I imagine he didn’t wanna play one move.
I imagine he would have resigned the game
as it was starting, but I think some websites
don’t let you resign before you make one move
because then the game isn’t counted.
So I think he didn’t wanna play at all,
but he played one move and that made it even more epic,
I suppose, and he resigned.
And that was that.
So you lose, that game counts, right?
Oh, game counts.
You lose the rating.
These online events, unfortunately,
don’t count for any sort of rating.
But on the tournament, yeah, you play one move, yeah.
So he resigns.
And then how does the tournament still work out?
Is the tournament already over?
So he made the eight as Magnus still made the top eight.
It was round five or like round six or something.
So it was halfway through the preliminary stage.
It affected his standings.
But then after resigning that game,
Magnus finished first in the bracket, in the preliminaries,
and then he won the entire event.
There was a chance that they were gonna meet in the final,
but Hans lost in the first round
against the Vietnamese strong player, Le Quang Liem.
And then Magnus gave a short interview
to the live broadcast where he said
he would give a statement at the end of the tournament.
And then he did.
He gave a statement at the end of the tournament.
And now here we are.
The only other thing missing from this
is the very intense scrutinization
of all those over-the-board games that I mentioned earlier
that Hans dominated in.
So people are now going through all of his games
that he played in tournaments.
And they’re analyzing them with engines
and they’re saying he played exceptionally well.
And the debate is, was he cheating
or was he way too good already, but underrated?
Because he could have had incubated knowledge.
So he could have not played for a couple of years,
was 2,700 level, but was playing people who are 24, 2,500.
Well, I see.
So not just over the board with the top level people
like Magnus, but over the board in general.
Yes, before he got a chance to play in the super tournaments
against the best players in the world,
he had to go to Europe.
He was the most active chess player in 2021.
And he was quite dominant.
Yes, I think he played more over-the-board games
than any player in 2021 or 2022.
I think it’s 2021.
And yes, I think his rise was steeper than everybody.
Maybe with the exception of, well,
there was a Faruja who got to 2,800.
See, I’d like to believe,
because he talks about being very,
he just became obsessed with chess.
I like stories like that.
I like stories of the underdog,
especially with the scarlet letter
of having been a cheater in the past.
I like the idea of somebody who is flawed
psychologically and ethically,
and just a full fascinating personality.
And this somehow just becomes obsessed.
I mean, similar to Bobby Fischer,
is also a tortured soul, also flawed,
also just chaotic all over the place.
You could see Bobby Fischer being somebody
that might cheat when he was 12 on online chess, right?
If it existed, yeah.
Actually, I think in some podcasts,
like small chess podcasts, I don’t wanna,
I like Ben Johnson, so I’m apologizing for calling it small,
but compared to like, let’s say, Alex Friedman podcast,
What’s his podcast?
It’s Perpetual Chess, it’s kind of like-
Oh, I love Perpetual Chess.
Are you joking?
How dare you call, yeah, wait, all right.
I’ll show you.
Because it does a lot of, it talks,
it makes me feel special.
Let me see, where is it, Perpetual Chess?
He does like, Improver series.
Yes, yes, yes.
Yeah, he’s great, Ben.
I forgot, I’m so horrible with names.
His name is Ben, Ben Johnson?
Yeah, it is Ben Johnson, that’s right.
Yeah, the Perpetual Chess podcast.
See, Lex, when, even individuals like myself
who might have a large audience,
when I look at you, you’re at a,
you’re just at a different level.
I don’t expect you to be listening
to chess podcasts during,
just imagine you’re, I don’t know,
doing something to change the world,
or talking to some visionary people.
Well, I should say, I’ve been running a lot,
and I listen to podcasts a lot,
because they’re such, I love human beings,
excited about stuff.
That really energizes me,
and I’ve listened to a bunch of chess podcasts.
I’m really energized by your love of chess.
I really like, yeah, sorry,
I did forget his name, but Ben Johnson.
I love it when he talks to grandmasters.
I love it when he talks to the regular folks
for the improvers, to see how they balance life
in chess and all that kind of stuff.
He’s just pretty good at it.
He’s super excited, and they talk about books.
And they get excited about different books.
I mean, it also gives me a sense
of where the chess world is,
from a different perspective,
is like people studying chess,
like what they get excited about,
how difficult it is.
Yeah, it’s nice to get a sense of the community,
the language that’s used,
because I did wanna have a bunch of conversations
with folks about chess,
because I think it’s a beautiful game,
and I think it’s a beautiful community.
So that’s one of the podcasts I listen to.
So yeah, anyway, it’s great.
Anyway, you were saying, why did you bring him up?
Only reason I thought of it,
and I use the word small, no disrespect, Ben,
is because even that episode,
which he did with Hans,
like it was a small episode.
It wasn’t seen by mass audience of chess.
You did an episode with Hans recently?
Some time ago, yeah.
And in that episode, Hans very openly is like,
Bobby Fischer was misunderstood, and he was my idol.
He said a couple of things like that, and-
Strong words, Hans.
Hans is an intense guy.
When I listen to Hans, I get a little anxious.
He brings out some sort of disturbance in my ecosystem.
Yeah, I can’t really pin him down to what’s going on there
as a person who’s trying to read people.
This is the dark aspect.
He could be both the genius of Bobby Fischer
and a genius cheater.
And you could see there’s something chaotic about him,
which makes him very appealing in that way.
So right now, late September, 2022,
the current environment is such
that Hans hasn’t said anything in weeks,
and people are sort of dissecting every bit
of circumstantial evidence that they can,
and they’re trying to present the case.
I don’t even know to who, ultimately.
I guess it would be the FIDE Cheating,
Anti-Cheating Commission, or whatever.
It might be to you, essentially.
To people with the platform.
It could be.
To present convincing evidence to where the people,
the people are convinced that one way or the other.
Because for people who don’t know,
and they should definitely follow Gotham Chess,
you’ve been on this, you’ve covered it a lot,
and I’m sure if anything comes out, you’ll cover it more.
But you’ve been quite balanced and thoughtful
and kind of objective about the whole thing.
Yeah, so the reason for that is
I understand the power that I wield with anything,
and if I say one sentence the wrong way,
I might be sending 10,000 people or more
to go do something.
And I hate that.
I want to present the evidence,
and I want the video to end, and people go,
okay, I understand.
Not, I’m gonna go fuck someone up.
You know what I mean?
And I also believe that even if Hans,
even if Hans is guilty, this goes all the way back,
he’s a human being.
And you can argue that cheaters gotta be punished,
and you can argue that people who do things wrong,
you shouldn’t feel any sort of compassion,
but I would hate to have the whole world
pointing their fingers at me,
the entire world that I’ve known my entire life,
and even if I messed up, there’s still a world after chess.
There might still even be a world in chess.
I don’t know, but that stuff, it doesn’t make me feel good
to present all of the circumstantial evidence in my videos
and start being like, yeah, it looks so.
But at the same time, you deeply care about chess
and the chess community, and there’s some sense where,
was it you or was it Magnus that said
that cheating poses an existential threat to chess?
Magnus said that.
I mean, there is some aspect of truth to that,
which is like, you know, the chess is in a state
where bots, chess engines are much better than humans,
and we’re living in a world where technology
becomes easier and easier to integrate with human beings,
whether you put it in some office or elsewhere,
and that does pose a threat to our ability to trust
that a world champion is indeed a world champion,
that somebody we think is good is indeed good.
And so there is some aspect to the ecosystem
that should punish cheating and perhaps over-punish cheating.
And the other thing is, in sport, you can take PEDs
and have bigger muscles, better reaction time,
but you still have to perform the action
in a successful way.
There is still a chance you can lose if you take PEDs.
Maybe in some sports,
the gap between non-PED and PED user
is significantly more noticeable,
but in chess, if you cheat, you play God.
You decide when the game is over.
You can fake bad moves.
You can fake everything.
You can even, if you’re cheating quote-unquote
the right way, you’re gonna lose plenty of games
to avoid getting detected.
So you can create bots that are 2,800.
You can also just not listen.
If you know all the best moves,
but choose to play on your own,
and oh, I made a mistake, not a big deal.
You could, yes, bots are all at a different level.
But if you were to cheat, that you play God.
You can decide when you make your move
and when the engine makes its move.
And if you know the top four lines of the engine,
you choose the fourth one.
So in hindsight, people will analyze your game
and they will go, oh, it wasn’t perfect.
Well, no shit.
Only the stupid cheaters play the top engine line
the whole game.
By the way, I’m not saying that this is what’s
happening here, but there’s probably an excitement
to playing God and getting away with it.
I know people, I know adults, grown adults
who are successful in their fields and they cheat.
They cheat in lessons, they cheat in,
like I’ve, I don’t wanna say I’ve taught any.
May or may not have.
For some reason, one of them watches this
and they know they’re guilty.
And it happens, it happens.
Not just teenagers, not just young adults,
but full grown adults will cheat when they play
because they think it helps them learn.
Oh, well, that could be just a justification.
But I just meant like, it might not be just about winning.
It might also just feel good to have that power.
Like, I bet you it’s a drug.
I mean, like with a lot of criminals,
with a lot of criminals, I feel like part of,
like the mass murderers, serial killers,
I feel like a lot of it is they can get away with it.
The fact that they, like everyone else is a sucker
and they figured out how to do this evil thing.
And obviously cheating is nowhere close to that,
but there’s still a feeling of getting away with it.
Yeah, I wonder.
I mean, you’re pretty objective on the whole thing.
Where, if you were a betting man,
what would you say is the probability?
Are you changing day by day in your head?
What’s the probability that Hans cheated?
Over the board against Magnus in St. Louis.
That’s a tough one, man.
Have you even allowed yourself to put a probability on it?
No, not on that specific game
because I think a lot of that game
was affected by Magnus’ own psyche.
That was one of his worst games ever.
So he played poorly too, Magnus played poorly.
Which doesn’t help his case.
Hans might’ve cheated in that game, but we’ll never know.
I think day by day,
the evidence is slowly starting to show more and more
that he’s cheated, like how Magnus said,
more than he said and more recently.
A lot of the statistics are there.
The problem is you can’t prove you’re not cheating
unless you strip naked,
like that site offered him a million bucks to.
Everything about the Hans-
Which site offered him a million bucks?
I saw some headline that said
Hans Niemann was offered a million bucks.
And where I struggle to comprehend
is how on earth he could pull it off.
And I’m a guilty, my brain goes to guilt first
and resentment, remorse, guilt, that trio.
Magnus put out a statement as we speak yesterday
saying, dear Chess World, at the 2022 Sinkfield Cup,
I made the unprecedented professional decision
to withdraw from the tournament
after my round three game against Hans Niemann.
A week later, during the Champions Chess Tour,
I resigned against Hans Niemann
after playing only one move.
I know that my actions have frustrated
many in the chess community.
I want to play chess.
I want to continue to play chess
at the highest level and the best events.
I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal
and an existential threat to the game.
I also believe that chess organizers
and all those who care about the sanctity of the game
we love should seriously consider
increasing security measures
and methods of cheat detection for over-the-board chess.
When Niemann was invited last minute
to the 2022 Sinkfield Cup,
I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event
I ultimately chose to play.
That’s the thing you’re referring to
is that now we know he was torn about the whole thing.
I believe that Niemann has cheated more and more recently
than he has publicly admitted.
His over-the-board progress has been unusual
and throughout our game in Sinkfield Cup,
I had the impression that he wasn’t tense
or even fully concentrating on the game
in critical positions
while outplaying me as black
in a way I think only a handful of players can do.
This game contributed to changing my perspective.
He must do, we must do something about cheating.
And for my part going forward,
I don’t want to play against people
that have cheated repeatedly in the past
because I don’t know what they’re capable
of doing in the future.
There’s more than I would like to say, unfortunately.
At this time, I’m limited in what I can say
without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly.
So far, I have only been able to speak with my actions
and those actions have stated clearly
that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann.
I hope that the truth in this matter comes out,
whatever it may be.
Sincerely, Magnus Carlsen, world chess champion.
How would you sign off your statements?
If I was a world, no, just say whatever.
Lex Fridman, what would be the title?
Yeah, I don’t know.
I think I would not, even if I was a world champion,
I would just say Lex or make up a title.
And I feel like I really fucked up in life
if I have to tweet a statement as an image.
That’s like when you get, you’re a politician
and you got caught cheating on your wife,
like for many years in a row.
Then I tweet an image,
I’m sorry for all the people I have hurt
and the people that believed in me and whatever else.
And then I would sign world chess champion.
You know, the most, like the modern way to give a statement,
what I thought Magnus was gonna do.
Thought he was gonna write on the recent scandal
or my statement on the past few weeks, twit longer.
What do you mean?
So you put a URL.
So that’s for tweets, but it’s unlimited characters.
It’s not 140.
I didn’t know what that is.
Can you explain that to me?
Yeah, so generally when a celebrity
has a giant audience on Twitter,
they will make their statement on social media
and say what it is in a sentence, one line,
and then there’s a link.
Where does the link take you?
To a website called twit longer.
Oh, that’s the actual website.
Twit longer, twit longer, yeah.
And that is where they write their statement.
That is what I was expecting.
Wait, who did this?
I haven’t seen this before.
Oh, this is, I don’t have one off the top of my head,
but it’s this.
Is this like Kanye, Kim Kardashian breaking up,
they would use that?
Streamers, musicians, yeah.
I don’t think politicians use it
because it’s just, they use the image.
Yeah, Myspace and Facebook, right?
Yeah, I would probably go.
I’m not just being biased here just because I have a podcast.
I’m a huge fan of podcasts.
I feel like I would go on a podcast to talk about it
with somebody I trust, so like long form and discuss it.
Thought he was gonna do that too.
In fact, I wanted to write him a message
and be like, I can be that guy for you.
I have a very strange relationship with Magnus because-
I don’t, we’ve never interacted.
I very openly, I don’t wanna say use him for views
because that is a very crude way of saying it,
but if you wanted to insult my YouTube channel,
that is what you would say.
Oh, Magnus is in a lot of videos?
Thumbnails or videos, not clickbaity,
but if he’s playing in a tournament
and he plays a great game,
he’s going on that fucking thumbnail because-
Oh, because, let’s see, he’s the number one chess player,
very likely the greatest chess player of all time,
plus he’s exciting.
And YouTube algorithm loves his name
and people click on it.
Oh, do they?
His videos do the best.
Yeah, but I don’t know what the chicken or the egg is,
but the reason it loves it, the reason people click on it
is because he is an exciting personality.
He’s an exciting chess player.
There’s something compelling about him.
He knows how to, in a subtle, dry, wit, humor way,
talk shit with the silences and all of that.
He knows it, he knows it, he knows the whole game of it.
Specifically to Magnus, my relationship with him,
we’ve never interacted
and throughout the last couple of years,
he generally has interacted with Hikaru as a competitor.
He has done some collabs with the Botezes.
He obviously has talked to Ludwig,
who’s a very, very big streamer.
And part of me regrets the fact that
when I was smaller as a YouTuber and a Twitch streamer,
I’m sure I used to make jokes or some tweets at Magnus.
Like when Magnus would tweet something,
I would try to respond so I could be the top reply
because that was my social media.
I literally think, I once responded to a Magnus tweet
and saying, responding for engagement.
Because it wasn’t some controversial tweet.
It was just something funny.
And I went, ha-ha, responding for engagement
because I was just being a little bit of an idiot
and I knew that if it got enough likes,
it would be at the top and people would see me, my brand,
and just get to know me.
This is the type of-
Please don’t use the word brand, but yes.
But yeah, no, and your worry is
that he wouldn’t take you seriously.
He wouldn’t take me seriously
and if I was one of the best of all time
and I saw some dude on YouTube just kind of being a moron
and I’m all over his thumbnails,
I can imagine he has a very legitimate case.
I appreciate your humility and self-critical nature,
but one of the realities with people like him
is he wouldn’t hold a grudge or not treat you seriously.
I’m pretty sure he’s a fan.
He’s a big supporter.
He doesn’t watch YouTube videos of that kind.
I barely watch YouTube videos.
I think of chess.
He might watch more fun chess adjacent stuff,
but he just doesn’t, it’s not for him.
So I’m pretty sure he knows of you and likes you
and your commenting on stuff has zero effect on his belief,
which is funny that’s something you think about.
Yeah, you’re perfect, but you’re well-respected.
A lot of people mention you as a person who’s like,
okay, this person’s legit, which is an important thing.
It’s not just an entertainer.
It’s not just a shit talker and so on.
This person is a great educator, a great fan
and student of chess, a great player himself.
So all of those components.
And so, yeah, you’re definitely a good person.
And on this particular aspect, have been very objective.
I understand that I’m nowhere near perfect.
I’m not a different person on camera or off camera.
I will say it like it is, maybe on Twitch.
You gotta dig in the mud there a little bit more,
a lot more sarcastic, a lot more brash and whatnot,
but you meet me in a taco place
and I’ll talk with you the same way I might
if it was a video, just that you may not consider me
just a random guy at a taco place.
And that’s why I think about this stuff
with specific to Magnus.
And it’s one of the reasons I don’t reach out
to him directly ever.
I never have, I’ve never DM’d him on Instagram
hoping for a response, never.
I’ve never even reached out to anyone on his team
trying to get a conversation very candid with him,
which I think it would be.
I even barely reached out to guys in the top 10,
like top 15, only recently started pushing myself more
to do that.
And I, even in my intro messages to them,
preemptively say something like,
you might think I’m some idiot,
you might not be totally wrong.
But like, I think this would be a good conversation
and give it a shot.
And I’ve been surprised, I’ve been ignored by a few,
but some said, oh yeah, I’ve seen your stuff.
Generally a fan, like no problem.
I was actually really blown away.
This YouTube channel, Levidov Chess,
it’s a Russian chess channel.
And I think the last name of the guy is,
the name of the channel is named after Ilya Levidov,
who has some sort of managerial role
in the Russian Chess Federation.
And this channel has interviewed
some of the greatest players of all time.
They have interviews with the modern best Russian players
and Kasparov, Karpov, Kramnik,
you name these guys from Russian chess history,
I just thought this was a channel
of just unbelievably well-respected chess players
and legion of fans that were longtime chess fans.
And I mentioned them very briefly in the YouTube video.
And that little clip went into their next community event.
And the founder of the channel
went on this two minute beautiful description
of why he liked me
and how he only watched my channel as a beginner
and how I have a natural voice
and how if I talked about cards,
I would have a million, 100 million subscribers,
just all this really kind stuff that in my mind,
I thought was either undeserved
or I just never fathomed that.
Yeah, I mean, you certainly should not feel as deserved.
You should have humility about that kind of stuff.
But I think that is the thing that works over time.
It’s like reputation spreads,
which is like, if one person likes you
and they tell you to other people,
and it kind of spreads.
And over time, you have one conversation with a top 10,
like a super grandmaster,
and they say nice things about you.
And it just kind of spreads.
I guess I’ve been very surprised in all walks of life.
This really gets me, this makes me happy, honestly.
Because people ask me how I get guests and so on.
And it just seems, honestly, just be a good person,
and like a real person and honest,
and it just kind of spreads the word, word of mouth.
You know, even coming here, I almost didn’t reach out.
What do you mean?
I had seen you, I’d never talked to a chess person,
and I’ve watched a lot of,
I’ve watched some of the things start to finish,
especially if the guest I’m really interested in,
like George St. Pierre, I’ll watch that guy do whatever.
I’ll watch him do basically anything.
Make an omelet or something.
Yeah, I love listening to him.
Some of the other things I’ve listened to as well,
and I noticed that neither,
well, to me, you obviously and Joe
are the two biggest podcasters.
I don’t know if that’s like factual.
I don’t know if some influencer has some podcasts,
but you guys interview folks that I listen to
more often than anybody else.
And when Magnus came on, I was like,
oh, this is, that’s amazing.
I don’t even know how I would reach out
to someone like you.
It just seems like a limp, like climbing a mountain.
And then a couple days later,
and I even in that episode wanted to write,
but I didn’t know how.
I was like, do I make a YouTube comment?
I don’t want that.
I’m a little like I’m clout chasing on the Magnus episode.
But then you talked to Bottegas, and I said,
oh, I shouldn’t overthink it.
So I just said, all right, fuck it.
I’ll just write a comment.
And you’re like, yeah, I’d love to have you on.
I was shocked.
You responded just within a couple hours or something.
Yeah, I loved it, man.
I mean, it was an honor.
It’s a good way to connect.
I also like on live streams, I’ll watch,
I try to resist commenting,
but I’ll watch some even smaller channels.
Like I’ll get super excited by them
and connect in that way.
There’s an intimacy to that.
Man, YouTube is beautiful.
I don’t know anything about Twitch.
Maybe it’s similar.
You don’t need to know anything about Twitch.
But YouTube has-
It’ll ruin you.
There is an intimacy.
Like, especially if it’s live.
I don’t know what that is.
But if it’s live, they’re like right there.
You can just like reach out and say hello.
Yeah, it’s cool.
It’s like really, I don’t know.
I was just happy to live in this time
when you could connect with people in that way.
There is an intimacy.
That’s why I love podcasts too.
I listen to people and I feel like they’re my friend.
It’s a cool feeling.
It makes you feel less lonely in this world.
Like you have a lifelong companion,
especially like people that do a podcast
for many, many years.
I’m like, we’ve been,
you’ve gone through all the ups and downs of life together
with a creator, with a podcast, or with anything.
I don’t know.
It makes it, it’s surprisingly intimate,
a one-way friendships.
Maybe for an intro, I don’t know.
There’s some negatives that people
The word that gets used a lot is parasocial.
You think you, like the viewer will think
that the streamer or the YouTuber knows them
or owes them something or has some,
they have a bigger connection than they do.
Yeah, you know what?
Actually, sorry to interrupt.
I have to look.
Maybe you can explain to me.
I’ve heard this term parasocial a lot.
I’m meaning to look it up.
Might as well look it up while in live on the podcast.
Parasocial interaction, PSI refers.
Is this a new term?
Because I have just started listening,
hearing it like the last-
Yeah, I think it’s-
Year or so.
Parasocial interaction, PSI,
refers to a kind of psychological relationship
experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters
with performance in the mass media,
particularly on television and on online platforms.
Viewers or listeners come to consider
media personalities as friends,
despite having no or limited interaction with.
Oh shit, that’s a term for a thing I’ve
been referring to.
The term was coined by Donald Horton and Richard Wall
When there was like very limited media, huh?
I guess TV and radio and stuff.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Parasocial interaction and exposure
that gamers’ interest in a persona
become a parasocial relationship
after repeated exposure to the media.
Yeah, okay, what’s the downside, bro?
Oh, well, I can tell you the downside.
The downside is people thinking
they’re in relationships with streamers
and stalking them.
Oh, the stalking part,
but the relationship is like,
I mean, okay, you mean like actual relationship,
like waking up and saying,
how are you doing?
Like in your head to them.
Yeah, no, but that might be an extension.
More like, yeah, getting mad they don’t respond to you
in any time you’re in the stream
or that convincing yourself the other person wants you
and you need to go to them.
So you need to find where they are.
Like this has happened.
Some of the biggest female streamers have reported
that they get stalked and harassed for months.
And that’s born out of this.
This on a very small scale is
you come into a stream every so often
and give an update about your academic career.
That’s not so bad.
I was gonna mention,
I’ve streamed on Twitch for years
and I watched people have kids.
Like people will come in over the course of months
and say, hey man, you know, I just finished,
I just took the bar exam.
Yo man, like I’m having my first kid.
And that’s crazy.
But if they do it in a healthy way, that’s one thing.
There’s always gonna be downsides,
but most of it is beautiful, man.
I have a very,
I have, I guess,
parasocial relationships of people
that take it a little too far.
But it’s all love.
You also have a fundamental belief
and hope in people to be good.
And I’ve been, you know,
I haven’t gotten in trouble with it yet.
That’s a good thing, me too.
I’ve interacted with plenty of people in person
and no one’s been negative, so.
And I’ve even gone to a war zone.
There’s no, there hasn’t been,
people have been very,
I don’t know.
People have only surprised me in the positive direction,
in the depth of the capacity they have for compassion.
Do we, okay.
So now we’re in this weird place with the cheating.
Can I ask you a question about
how it’s possible to cheat?
Like if you and I,
you know, the conversation you’re gonna have with Maggie,
so we’re gonna play chess.
If we’re trying to figure out how can you beat him,
what are the different ways, do you think?
Over-the-board chess, what are the ways to cheat?
That’s where I lose the thread,
because I don’t know.
See, that’s what I immediately went to,
is like the engineering challenge of cheating.
Right, well, that’s because that’s,
that’s because you’re good at that.
I mean, you’re not good at creating cheating
in over-the-board situations.
I’m just saying your brain works differently.
I just choose to not even,
like I can’t entertain that.
I can come up with some bullshit,
but it’s not gonna be anywhere close.
Oh, your mind is not like immediately attracted
to pulling at that thread of like,
how would you fuck with the system?
Yeah, my mind stops at,
ha, that would have to be a really sophisticated thing,
and that’s it.
It doesn’t go any further.
My brain every day thinks about the best way
to compartmentalize chess into a digestible format
and put it out into content.
Chess on the board.
Chess, not cheating.
Yeah, I just think about YouTube.
I just think about that.
That’s currently where my mind is fully focused.
I’m also working on like a book, so.
So that’s what you’re thinking.
See, for me, because I’ve built chess engines
without understanding chess much,
as like, you know, as anyone does who’s interested in AI,
you build all kinds of systems
that do all kinds of stuff,
and chess is just an easy game.
Like it starts with Othello,
goes up to chess and go.
It’s just a great benchmark,
a great place to explore different AI algorithms
from search to machine learning and so on.
But to me, cheating is like,
it’s the similar kind of ideas.
Well, if I make it a board instead of eight by eight
to 10 by 10, like how does it change things?
And with cheating,
it’s almost like expanding the engineering challenge
of chess out into the real world.
To me, okay, so just allow me,
I know cheating is horrible and everything,
but Stockfish, AI engine and human working together
in interesting ways, forget chess,
just machine and human working together
to expand the capability of the human is really fascinating.
And that’s like a beautiful thing to me.
Of course, purely for the chess game, it ruins the game.
But I just like thinking of how AI can interact
with the human in ways that it’s frictionless.
Like neural link brain computer interfaces dream
of directly connecting the human brain to AI system.
The problem in this case is I don’t think the human
and the AI are interacting together.
The AI dominates.
The human is just the mechanism that makes the moves.
I actually played, if I may,
maybe I need your advice on this.
I thought, and I told myself I won’t do it.
And then a friend of mine said,
and a couple of friends,
and both of them are previous guests in this podcast,
told me I definitely need to do it,
which is, you know, connect.
So I already have, for the chess arm that I built,
this computer vision on the chess board is able
to extract from vision,
the way you do optical character recognition,
extract the board.
So I was gonna just build that cheating system
to demonstrate it with,
the reason I thought it was interesting,
so something we didn’t mention is,
I don’t know who started this rumor,
but the rumor started that it might’ve been like anal beads
that, I don’t know who started this,
but I do know that Elon magnified it.
My username was dead center in that thing
that he retweeted, which was hilarious to me.
You’re using, what do you mean?
He retweeted the clip, but also the copy pasta,
like the paragraph that was like describing
the whole anal beads theory,
and dead center in the middle of that paragraph is,
as Gotham chess says.
And the worst part about it was I was literally tagged.
So it was as user slash Gotham chess says.
So every time that paragraph gets posted on Reddit,
I get tagged.
It’s getting posted a lot.
So yes, but yes, he tweeted.
And then there’s also the funny thing,
which I really love.
The weirdest, most entertaining thing.
Was that part of the same thing where,
like a plot twist,
Magnus has been using anal beads this whole time.
That’s how he got.
Oh, I love that so much.
Okay, but anyway, there’s a,
I quickly realized that there is,
I have to admit that I know not much about sex toys.
And then I quickly realized that there’s a lot of sex toys
that have Bluetooth capability that you can interact with.
It’s very easy to connect stock fish to sex toys.
So apparently that’s a popular thing.
Like a lot of sex toys are Bluetooth enabled
so you can communicate with them.
So this is actually pretty trivial to do.
Not trivial, but then,
and then in fact, there is a,
there’s several libraries.
One of them is really active called,
now this is on GitHub, friends.
It’s in Rust, but I think there’s Python wrappers.
It’s called Buttplug.
It’s the name of the library.
That communicates with,
it supports a bunch of different devices,
a bunch of different like vibrators
and all that kind of stuff.
But then I looked at the kind of vibrators it supports
and they’re all like creepy looking.
I mean, like it doesn’t have,
I don’t know, it felt too dirty, you know?
Like there’s a line, I was like,
ah, is this not gonna,
because the reason I like that kind of stuff
is I like the joke of it
that ultimately is somehow educational.
Because to me, I really care about AI
and this is a cool little project to do.
It’s super easy to share.
Yeah, but I was thinking about doing it.
I was thinking about doing it.
At first I said, no, it’s just kind of feels dirty.
But then the aforementioned friend said,
no, you should definitely do it.
I like the huge,
who’s your test subject?
No, we wouldn’t test,
you should, I’m the, well,
I’m sure that people would sign up, right?
I just meant on the table,
like show the vibration,
like you’re basically converting.
Now, it’s not, I’m not obviously a grandmaster,
so you have to say everything.
I feel like-
No, you don’t.
You could say the square.
You don’t have to say the piece.
The human will fill in the gap.
No, a good human chess player.
That’s the point I wanted to make is like,
for me, I would like to know
the actual move I need to make.
So I need the full information.
So I have to convert the Bishop C5,
whatever, to Morse code,
which is a lot of vibration.
But it still works.
It’s hilarious and fun.
So I was thinking about doing it,
but because it’s pretty easy to do.
It would be just like a fun exercise.
I love a mix of technical rigor and humor.
Well, this is the perfect project for that.
Yeah, this was born, I think,
out of a user comment in a Twitch stream.
So I thought it was born on Reddit, this theory,
but I think Eric Hansen was streaming Chessbrah,
and someone in his chat made that joke
and he read it out loud.
That was the first time it was read out loud.
And then somebody clipped it
and it became international news.
Have you followed how big the traction got
on this anal beads thing?
It was covered by every major news network,
late night talk show, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert.
International news in countries like China,
where I would have never thought
that they would report about anal beads.
Did they, what was the tonality of it?
Was it seen as a joke?
Or did they say there’s a cheating scandal?
How do you even mention anal beads?
Literally anal beads.
Just saying, just-
Accused denies cheating with anal beads,
which he never did.
He never denied cheating with anal beads.
It was a joke internet theory.
If I was him, I would lean into it.
Yeah, I can’t imagine, man.
Like that’s, I don’t know what the right thing
for him to do is, but it’s-
You’re not touching this one?
The anal beads?
I’ve talked about it.
I don’t say the words anal beads in my YouTube videos,
but I’ll say beads.
Yeah, you don’t say anal beads.
Yeah, I’ll, the thing is-
Do you think I should do the code thing?
It’s a good tutorial.
I think it would be hilarious.
If you find a way to do it.
Yeah, you can show that it is possible
to theoretically vibrate via Bluetooth chess moves.
And if someone shoves it up their ass,
it was another joke.
Okay, they offered you to play naked.
They’re gonna make you spread your cheeks?
Yeah, I didn’t understand why naked solved the problem.
I think there’s, it doesn’t have to be naked.
I don’t think naked is enough.
Okay, some questions from Reddit.
Ask him, ask Levy if he deep down hates his audience.
I saw that, yeah, I saw that was the one.
I have a love-hate relationship with the chess subreddit.
So that’s why some of those questions
were gonna be tough.
I have a love-hate relationship-
You think that’s a tough question
or does that come from a place of love?
Ah, very tough to say, very tough to say.
Is love and hate, like,
they’re basically next door neighbors on Reddit,
I feel like they oscillate very quickly between each other.
Yes, so Reddit chess specifically I think is
mostly folks who are around before the chess boom.
So the chess-
This is the chess subreddit?
Sorry to interrupt.
So a lot of them have been around for five years,
seven years, 10 years, even more.
And I think the average age on Reddit
is lower than the average age on the chess subreddit.
I think that the chess subreddit is beyond the age of 20,
maybe even 25.
Like a lot of folks there are-
Oh, ancient, ancient people in their mid-20s.
Yeah, I mean, not 15 or 16.
Anarchy Chess is younger.
So Anarchy Chess is basically chess memes.
That’s a subreddit name?
Yes, you got it, yeah.
Anarchy Chess, this is great.
A lot of stupid memes on there.
Do they like you or no?
Or is it love-hate?
They did until my crypto sponsorship.
Which is a separate convo that I’m more than happy to have.
But yeah, so my relationship with the Reddit chess subreddit
is tough because my content on YouTube
stops at a certain point with them.
They can’t learn from me
because I’m tailoring to 95% of my audience,
which is about 1,600, 1,700 and below.
And I have a lot of content
where I jokingly make fun of low-rated players.
And everyone’s in on it, and we all have fun.
And I laugh at myself a ton.
Laugh at, as you can even see in this conversation.
But just like you mentioned with clips
and out-of-context things,
folks have already formed a perception of my personality.
There’s nothing I can do to win them back.
And I think the dominant percentage
of the loudest group of folks on the chess subreddit,
they just, they have a certain perception of me.
It’s not going to change.
And you add something like cryptocurrency sponsorship,
which people on Reddit just in general
are relatively negative on the subject,
is gonna start snowballing more and more.
So if you ever look up a thread of,
should I buy a Gotham course, and it’s on Reddit chess,
it’s gonna say no.
Everyone’s calling it a scam, overpriced.
I heard a lot of really positive stuff.
I don’t know where, on Reddit in general.
You might’ve been looking for it.
You might’ve not been looking for negative things.
And I do-
So I was looking for like best educators online,
like that kind of stuff.
I don’t, it might’ve not been Reddit chess.
I’ll be totally honest with you.
If you ever go there and look for something like
best recaps or best educational content for intermediates,
I’m not mentioned.
I might not be mentioned
because I’m already expected to be on the list.
So they just kind of want to generally shout out
smaller creators, totally fine with that.
And I’m not even going on this whole explanation
because I want to win folks back.
It’s just sort of the reality of the situation.
A lot of my stuff is really clickbaity
and I’m playing the YouTube game.
They don’t want that.
Do you feel like a limit or a tension between
your creativity and the YouTube algorithm?
Like, do you feel like it has negative effects on you?
I want to cover more in-depth stuff in a 30 minute video
that I think is super useful to people.
It’s only going to get 60,000 views.
And you feel, why is that a bad thing?
Is it good to mix it up?
Yes, it’s good to mix it up, but I make a video a day.
I make one bad video.
The other videos suffer.
And then if I make two videos that underperform,
the rest of the videos don’t get pushed out as much.
Your earnings can go down 40% day to day,
which doesn’t happen in other careers.
And if I ever want to supplement,
if I ever want to make a very instructional video,
I try to do it in a very fun way.
So something like eight of Magnus Carlsen’s best end games.
You can still learn a ton,
but the concept of the video is going to be different.
Like I try to still teach things,
but in more interesting and exciting ways.
Like the guy who was scammed for a million dollars,
Alexey Shirov, who was basically promised
the world championship.
If he won his match, he won his match.
He didn’t get a world championship.
So there’s still stuff in there you can learn.
And you can, my goal is just you click on the video,
you learn something and you enjoy yourself.
Get people to click on it by any means necessary.
But once they’re there,
have quality stuff they can learn.
Yeah, man, I wish.
So I have zero of those pressures,
but I also really, really,
like I turn off views and all that kind of stuff.
I don’t pay attention to any of that.
But I wish YouTube would like,
the algorithm would include how good the video is.
Like beneficial for people’s long-term wellbeing
in the calculation.
I actually really hate the fact
that they turned off dislikes.
Yeah, I didn’t get that at all.
Because like now I don’t know the difference between like,
for tutorials specifically,
like I don’t know what’s a good chess video or not,
or what’s a good review or not.
I mean, it emphasizes following certain people more
than like if you trust the creator,
but like, man, I really don’t know
what’s a good video or not, essentially.
And then you have to trust more the title.
Then the click baitiness comes in
and it’s no good.
You have to use your own gut instinct as opposed to data.
Yeah, there’s videos that have almost no views
that are still great.
And some of the best ones,
some people who are just focused on like the quality
and don’t wanna play the game
or don’t even know how to play it
and they don’t really wanna play the game
of the YouTube algorithm.
Yeah, it sucks.
It sucks, especially given how dominant YouTube is
in defining the sort of the creative energy
of our whole civilization of the youth.
Not just chess.
Not just chess.
When are you going to Chessbox against Eric Rosen?
This is a question from Reddit.
Chessbox, you said your hands are all messed up.
Are you training for something or regular like?
So, I also just remembered we never talked about Hikaru,
so I can talk about Rosen and Hikaru
in the same chess boxing.
Oh shit, all right.
Is this your McGregor like shit talk segment?
No, no, no, no.
Eric Rosen is actually a close friend of mine.
I probably have five of those
and he just so happens to be not just a chess streamer,
but we talked about buying homes.
We’ve talked about, he’s stayed at my place.
He took my wedding photos.
I flew him to New York and paid for all his stuff
just so he could hang out with my wife and I
and take some 6 a.m. photos in the sun in the park.
Oh, he looks familiar.
Yeah, so he’s a good friend of mine.
Now, in terms of chess boxing,
chess boxing is this really fascinating sport
where you have boxing, but you also have chess
and you have rounds.
So, you start a chess game with a clock.
That segment itself lasts for a couple of minutes.
They put the board away and pause the clock,
whatever the time situation is,
then you box for a minute and that keeps going on.
I don’t know how it works in terms of the time expiring,
meaning in fighting, there’s judges
that just tell you how the fight was going, right?
Here, I don’t know who wins and how.
Like, do you win by, you can win by knockout,
you can win by checkmate,
or their clock can run out on the chess board,
but is there-
Is there a round limit?
Does this just go on and on and on and on?
You know what I mean?
Yeah, I thought it’s like 12 rounds, right?
Isn’t this a thing in Russia?
It’s a big thing in the UK.
Yeah, UK, I don’t know why.
And there’s a lot of YouTuber events just for boxing.
So, YouTubers just learn to box
and then they just box, no chess.
They just straight up box each other.
Like Jake Paul, for example.
You ever gonna get Jake Paul in here?
Yeah, I’m sure.
I feel like so many different guests have been mentioned.
Yeah, Jake Paul would be a fun guest,
but he’s obviously the biggest scammer.
He’s legitimately boxing people.
He’s not, yeah.
But chess players is never gonna learn to box to that level.
And all of us are starting basically from zero.
And Ludwig talked to me behind the scenes,
say, hey, how would you feel
about being in a chess boxing match?
I said, okay, yeah, maybe.
When is it gonna be?
He said, five months from now.
I’ve always wanted to train combat.
I’ve weight lifted.
I’ve done cardio.
I’ve played basketball.
And you said you’re a UFC fan too?
So, you admire fighting?
Yeah, I would enjoy it.
I just have a really bad lower back
and that makes a lot of different combat difficult.
But I said, you know what, screw this.
I’m going to contact a few local gyms.
And one of them, the guy emailing me back and forth
had actually watched my YouTube videos.
So, he was the first to respond.
And he said, yeah, like come in, do a couple of classes,
like see how you feel.
So, first I did conditioning, which killed me
because fighting conditioning, as you know, it kills you.
It’s a completely different type of conditioning.
But I felt good and I really wanted to come back.
And since July, I’ve been training three, four days a week.
Nice, you feel pretty good?
I love it.
Lower back feels good?
Lower back, everything feels good.
The whole body got stronger.
So, what you’re saying is you’re going to fuck up at Kara.
Is he training?
I’m not fighting.
So, I talked to Eric about it.
And the truth is we’re both concerned about head trauma.
I haven’t actually sparred.
I like sparring, shadow boxing, but I go there,
I do personal training.
I don’t do a group class.
I’m not fighting.
I’m fighting the bag.
I’m doing shadow boxing.
My form is improving, but I haven’t been punched.
I get hit in the stomach.
I get hit in the side with kicks.
Nobody’s punched me in the face yet.
So, I think we both were adequately concerned about that.
And there was not some ridiculous amount
of money on the table.
So, we decided it’s just not worth pursuing.
How does Hikaru come into the picture?
Because he’s a possible competitor.
People ask me all the time, who would you fight?
People are like, Andrea Botez with Kick Your Ass.
That’s a tough one because I can’t,
what am I going to say?
I’m going to fight a woman who I’m larger than
so, I just have to take the L against
anytime a woman is mentioned.
I’m like, oh, and six.
There’s no winning that one.
So, I’ve lost to both Botezes, Anna Rudolph,
They’re all chess creators.
And like, hypothetically?
Yeah, I get that.
In this hypothetical fight?
She’s been training.
I think Andrea has been training.
That’s because an event got announced.
This event that I was hypothetically
going to be the main event against Eric Rosen.
It was announced.
That got announced?
And I thought, like, maybe let’s not do this.
No, I knew once I declined to fight Eric
that I would not be participating.
And I even knew, do you know?
I knew who was going to be the main event.
Because I was kind of offered both of those guys.
So, Amon Hambleton.
Oh, is this still going on?
The chess boxing event will happen
in December in Los Angeles, yeah.
Nice, so who is the main event?
It’s Amon Hambleton, who’s also Chessbrah.
So, they have a couple of guys
that’s part of the Chessbrah channel.
And Lawrence Trent.
Lawrence Trent is a international master from England.
He’s a, I think he’s done some boxing, a little bit.
He’s a commentator.
Controversial guy, yeah.
It’s funny, because they started,
Lawrence put out some videos, and I went,
damn, I should have done this.
Yeah, I think it.
But, I mean, you’re right.
First of all, there’s so many things to say.
One of which is, if you want to take it seriously,
you know, it does pull you in.
If you train a lot, it’s gonna affect
the rest of your life, and then there’s,
it changes you, I think.
Taking combat sports seriously changes you, in good,
and there’s negative costs to it, I think.
Because it’s a whole nother thing, man.
It’s like doing marathon running or something.
It really pulls you in.
And the other thing is the head trauma.
Like, you have to take that kind of stuff seriously,
especially if you’re doing sparring
and all that kind of stuff.
Still, some of the celebrities,
I don’t know why, but it’s pretty exciting, right?
I don’t know why it’d be fun to watch Ikara.
Like, there’s something.
Well, I always said, if Ikara and Magnus
did a boxing event, and I was the co-main event
against, I don’t know who, that would be, that’d be.
Has Magnus said anything about it?
Like, about doing chess boxing?
Well, first of all, he’s gonna commentate
the Ludwig event.
Which he said, and he kind of said,
oh, there’s been people in the past
that are my level in chess, not mine,
his level in chess, and have wanted
to get physical with him.
I think he’s talking about Ikara.
I don’t think anybody else is.
That’d be a good one, man.
That’d be a good one.
I think Magnus-
What do you think?
Who is that one?
I think Magnus is in better physical shape.
He’s also a little bit bigger, I think, than Ikara.
I think Ikara’s a dog, though.
I think he’ll, I don’t think he’s gonna get out of that.
Like, I don’t think he’s gonna quit in the ring.
I would think Ikara would just go nuts in the beginning
and burns himself out.
So if Magnus can survive that,
I feel like Ikara would just go crazy
and then just get exhausted,
would not be able to pace himself correctly.
Chasing that first round knockout.
Just swing like crazy.
Honestly, I’d just love to see that,
which is like the effect of physical exertion on the game.
I think it’s-
I’m sure they’re strong enough to-
Yes, but I think we definitely underestimate
the effect of being punched,
maybe bleeding out of your nose or something like that.
It’s no joke.
I can’t say I’m anticipating the first day
I actually do some sparring and get seriously hit
because I know it’s not gonna feel good.
Even now, I take a hard jab to the stomach or the ribs
and I’m just like, man, this is rough.
I mean, I had to do three minutes on heavy bag
and when I finished,
I had been like slacking on my form
because my arms were tired
and I hit with my fingers instead of my knuckles
and my hands are like, you can see the red skin,
like completely pink, meaty skin under.
I didn’t realize when I was hitting
and only today, the pain is unbearable.
So I can’t imagine.
Head, this must be-
No, I mean, it’s a different thing.
I mean, of course, your skin gets tougher,
everything gets tougher, so you get used to it.
The head is a weird one
because it’s not gonna send you those kinds of signals.
You’re not gonna get the skin type of signals.
The brain is a weird thing because it doesn’t hurt.
It just does the damage
and the damage can materialize itself,
manifest itself only years later.
Yeah. It’s a weird one.
But then we all die.
There’s that brave heart speech.
I gotta ask you about bots
because to me, it’s super interesting
and you’ve played a lot of bots at different levels.
You have a video called
The Advanced Chess Bots Are Terrifying.
So what’s the difference between playing humans and bots?
Like you mentioned this Nelson bot
that brings his queen out, I think rated 1,600?
1,200 or 1,400.
Okay, 1,200, 1,400.
So there’s a style to those.
What’s the difference between the way bots play
and the way humans play?
A lot of people prefer playing bots
because they have anxiety playing other humans.
It’s a very legitimate thing.
A lot of beginners, they don’t like live chess.
They get nervous, you know, anxiety.
You get close to your highest ever rating, you panic.
Happens to me too.
Happens to me even now.
So they play bots.
They’re somehow more reliable or something?
Yeah, they’re, I don’t know.
But that’s, it’s a big thing.
It’s a big thing.
And the popularity of that video shows
that people enjoy watching you play chess bots.
So I’m gonna demystify this.
This might be shocking.
Those bots are all the same bot for the most part.
You could just program a bot
to make mistakes at a certain moment.
You could program a bot to spend less time on certain moves.
And it’s gotten sophisticated enough
that you can basically program it to play
at whatever more or less level that a human plays at.
You say, I’ll play it at 1,800 level.
So it’s programmed to throw in mistakes.
The problem is,
and this is why it’s all beginners to not play bots,
because bots are programmed in the following way.
Beginner bots are like literal toddlers.
They have no understanding whatsoever.
They will literally lose all their pieces,
but they won’t lose all their pieces
and make mistakes the way beginners do.
Beginners actually know how to start a game.
They just struggle the first eight moves, nine moves.
Their mistakes are very different than bot.
Bot plays completely outlandish types of mistakes
that you cannot pick up in terms of a pattern standpoint,
because no actual humans play like that.
They just move their queen to the opposite side of the board.
If for no reason, you can take it.
Yeah, it’s not even a blunder.
It’s almost like randomness.
Yeah, it’s completely random.
And this problem extends further
because advanced bots will play an opening
completely reasonably, and they just hang a rook,
which, okay, maybe happens,
but that’s not exactly how you get to 1,800.
At 1,800, that’s a very strong level of the game.
You know your openings very well.
You start navigating the middle game
based on already things that you remember.
And then basically one side chooses a bad plan,
and the other side chooses a better plan,
and one thing leads to another.
Nobody just recreationally hangs all their pieces,
which is the way bots are kind of programmed to play.
But some of those bots in that video were,
I remember playing them, and they were, yeah, they were nuts.
They were out calculating me
every time I thought I had a trick
in two, three-second moment of thought.
It would just play the best move.
And sometimes that also happens.
It gets into a dead loop
where it just starts bulldozing you, and it can’t stop.
So it made its mistakes already.
It’s programmed to make only a few,
and then it just bulldozes you the rest of the way.
I mean, that’s why I played with Stockfish a bunch.
So I got,
I built for myself
a bunch of different chess experiments recently.
It had to do with the chess-playing bot,
but I also built an infinite chess board
where Stockfish was playing
like an infinite number of chess games.
And one of the parameters that was interesting to play with
is how long it gets to think about a move
and how that affects the rating of the thing.
Oh, I did that a little bit.
So that’s a tricky one.
I’m sure people know how to do that well,
but it’s not trivial to understand what,
there must be a good formula for it.
But it’s also interesting to think about
like a controlled number of blunders.
But it’s probably better,
the controlled number of blunders
is not a good way to build a bot.
Yeah, it’s, yeah.
For training purposes, at least.
The time per move is probably better,
but the craziest thing is I did that.
A couple of my devs were helping me with the build,
I’m scaling my courses
into a better chess learning platform, essentially.
We’ve done a lot of different experiments with Stockfish,
which I’m even happy to get into here.
And Stockfish making moves in 0.1 millisecond
plays better than a human, which is disgusting
and disturbing, frankly, because that’s crazy.
Like you can’t react to a car stopping in front of you
anywhere near that fast.
Yeah, so the reason I was interested in that
is because when you have a very large chess board,
you have tens of thousands,
hundreds of thousands of game going on at the same time.
You have to like think of the minimum amount
of thinking per move that you can allow for.
And it does seem, it’s damn good,
at least to my eye, basically,
at the lowest possible setting you can give it.
So yeah, it’s incredible.
It’s incredible what bots are able to do.
And now it’s, as far as I know,
is primarily machine learning based, Stockfish.
So Stockfish moved to machine learning completely.
It’s not doing search, as far as I know.
Yeah, this is where you lose me a bit,
but the move discovery and evaluation
is what’s been changing in the way Stockfish works.
So it’s discovering of moves
and then the way it looks forward
and then evaluates positions, that has changed.
But Matthew Sadler, who wrote the book Game Changer
about AlphaZero, he explains it significantly better.
But that’s the way I think it works.
What did that make you feel
when you first saw AlphaZero play?
I was excited.
I didn’t have any sort of existential thoughts.
I enjoyed watching it completely destroy openings
that people thought were good.
And that experiment, though, does have some caveat
in the sense that I think AlphaZero was playing
with a full tank of servers and I think Stockfish wasn’t,
which I think is one of the things people point out.
They weren’t playing-
Since then, they were able to demonstrate much less.
But also, AlphaZero stopped developing.
They stopped developing it.
Which sucks, but again, from their perspective,
from DeepMind’s perspective, it’s like,
all right, well, we took on this really tricky game,
did something honestly incredible.
Well, not just won.
I mean, they did it without any human supervision.
So without any training on human expert games.
So only through self-play, which,
I mean, that’s what learning is about.
It’s like, it’s what you think of as a child,
a human child, a toddler, learning from somewhat nothing
and becoming a capable human.
That’s what we think of when we think about intelligence.
So the fact that it’s able to play itself
and become the best player in the world at the game of Go
and all kinds of games, it’s just incredible.
And obviously that inspired the modern Stockfish
to do all the same kind of self-play methods.
Somebody on Reddit asked a pretty interesting question.
I don’t know if you have an interesting answer to it.
What makes a chess move, quote unquote, human?
As you are someone, oh, this is to me,
but it’s mentioning you in third person.
As you are someone working in AI,
this idea of humanness would seem incredibly interesting.
Yes, sir, it is.
Especially since most cheat detection relies on humanness
as a way to detect cheaters.
I think since children being born right now
will have the advantage of engine training their whole life,
they will start to see the game the way an engine does.
Will a person be considered a cheater
if they play like an engine?
There also seemed to be a discrepancy,
especially with Levy, about who can play
what appears to be a non-human move.
He often says things like, quote,
if you were a normal player, normal in quotes,
if you were a normal player,
I would think you were cheating.
But since it’s Magnus, I don’t doubt Magnus is great,
but if humanness is our benchmark,
what is the ELO rating where your moves
can start to look like an engine without critique?
There’s a bunch of questions in there.
They combine two of my quotes into one.
So one thing that I like to say is,
sometimes in a chess game, moves look,
or an opening looks so ridiculous
that if a viewer played it,
I would make fun of them or slap them.
That’s always the drill.
If I was your chess coach, I’d smack you.
But when Magnus plays it, oh, wow,
you know, it’s very different.
So they mix up this quote with another quote,
which is, you know, if I,
if I’ll be explaining something and I’ll say,
oh, and here the engine says you should play like this.
If one of your opponents plays like this,
report them for cheating.
So they fuse two quotes.
They said, oh, human can’t play like that,
but because it’s an engine move,
but because Magnus is playing.
So they mixed kind of two things.
But there’s interesting levels of humor
and insight there on both of those.
Yeah, the difference between human move and engine,
and like what an engine move is,
is I think two things.
Number one, a computer move is outlandish
in its concept and its idea.
So the best example that I can give of that
is if you gave a hundred grandmasters a position
and told them, you know,
what do you think the best move here is for black?
Not in this position right here, we have nothing,
but an overwhelming amount of them
would look at the position,
evaluate everything they know about the game of chess,
which is relatively similar,
but obviously slightly imbalanced
based on their skill level.
And they would come up with a sample size
of two or three moves.
And in comes the computer with a fucking haymaker,
and suddenly everybody goes,
oh, everything we know about chess has gone out the window.
So they all start looking at that move
and they know it’s the best move.
So now they start adding the evidence behind the verdict,
as opposed to getting to the verdict
while first looking at the evidence.
So the concept of it and the idea of it
is so outlandish based on a certain type of position
that you can’t fully grasp it.
You have to continue to beg the engine
to tell you what the variation is.
A move is only good if its extension is good.
That’s the way chess works.
So it’s like a move is good,
it’s because the computer has seen
that the various branches of things going forward
are also good, so you bring all that back.
And no human could have even conceptualized
that initial thing.
But the second thing about computer moves
is they look counterintuitive.
So if you might be in a position
where it looks like the demands of the position are A, B, C,
and then the computer is like, nope, it’s not,
because I’ve seen the future
way more than you possibly could have,
and I don’t have emotions.
So like dumb moves and brilliant moves can look similar.
Yes, and oftentimes do.
And this is actually back to the Hans thing.
A lot of people now dissecting these games they’re playing,
and they’re basically saying,
like even Fabiano Caruana,
one of the best players in the world,
was on his podcast yesterday basically saying,
okay, this is beyond my level.
Saying it’s out of my league.
What’s out of your league?
You played for the world championship.
We can read between the lines, right?
Is it possible that Hans is that level of genius?
Is there like different kinds of genius
like where one, you could be out of each other’s league
kind of thing?
In the case of Magnus, it’s understanding of end games.
It’s just somehow he understands that last phase of the game
and the complexities and the problems he can pose
better than anybody else.
So you can see Magnus do poor looking moves in the end game.
Like moves that don’t fit what your gut says
would be the optimal.
Yes, but also, so it’s not that you even think they’re right.
You just might not even consider them
because of over-reliance on your own information
or even the computer.
That was what was going on in game six.
Just kept doing things and kept playing
and kept finding play and posing those questions
that humans and computers could not understand.
So he beat the engine basically.
He wouldn’t have beaten the engine
because they would have defended.
Jan lost that game in the 90s move psychologically.
He thought the game was over.
So that contributed.
Computer would have defended.
So by the time this podcast comes out,
which I don’t know, it would be in a week
or something like that.
I feel like more will happen.
Let’s see, you’re predicting.
How does this Hans drama end saga?
Let’s look in three months.
By the time we get to the next world championship,
let’s say, what are the options?
What are the possible, let’s imagine,
let’s not say what the probabilities are.
What are the options?
Chess.com is forced to or agrees to or whatever
to come up with a huge amount of evidence
of cheating in the past.
Or Hans comes out, what can Hans do with this?
So I’m uncomfortable with the general,
Nick, you could maybe update me on this,
but there was a little bit of an attack on him,
a lot of an attack that he’s a cheater, right?
Without evidence, without clear conclusive evidence.
So all of those.
Right, that’s the tricky thing.
Yeah, so like that stuff we’re talking about
is beyond my level.
That starts being kind of intuitive,
There’s the statistical evidence
behind the over-the-board games
that he’s played in 2020, 2021,
where the games match what’s called engine correlation
more than Magnus and many other top grandmasters combined.
But that can be argued is because he was very strong
in playing weaker opposition.
So there’s always kind of this argument
against statistics, right?
There’s the fact that the guy who Magnus named dropped,
Blugi is a chess grandmaster,
and he’s even been, I think,
president of the US Chess Federation.
I’ve played him in some Blitz games.
I wasn’t even fully aware of the extent of this.
He has been banned from chess.com.
Have they actually,
has him and Hans actually worked together?
Yes, so that was why he named dropped that, right?
That’s also not good.
You see where this is getting,
you still don’t have the physical proof,
but you have smoke.
So I don’t know how this ends.
I don’t know if this,
if he denies it to the death
and he ends up filing some sort of legal action,
some sort of ethics complaint,
or he admits everything.
I don’t know.
Boy, well, no matter what,
I hope, despite chess or not,
that he’s mentally strong enough for whatever is to come.
That’s what I keep saying, because I can’t-
He’s been under fire, right?
Yeah, I can’t imagine, right?
Like, I just, I really can’t imagine.
And maybe, well, we just have too much compassion,
but I don’t think so.
I really just feel like,
at the end of the day, chess is just a game,
but it is a game played by millions of people
and nations have basically fought wars over the chessboard.
So, like, there’s a lot.
It’s like Olympics.
Olympics is just a little,
oh, it’s just a dude running and so on.
The hockey is just a thing with a puck.
But, you know, it’s also much more than that.
It’s also nations
sort of figuring out their conflict
in a way that doesn’t involve violence.
Yeah, it’s a serious thing,
and it’s a thing that inspires millions of people.
And it’s a testing ground for intelligent systems
that eventually take over human civilization.
Yeah, I know.
Yeah, I mean, the bots are really interesting.
I don’t know if there’s other lessons.
Like, you played a clone of yourself.
Nah, it was-
You watched Stockfish vs. Stockfish.
You have a video.
People should check out your channel.
You have a lot of awesome videos.
You have a video titled Stockfish vs. Stockfish.
That was the experiment.
I made them play each other.
So, I made them play-
What did you learn from that experiment?
I enjoyed, first of all, they will always make a draw.
So, engines don’t get to play each other
from a beginning position,
because they will always draw,
especially if they’re the same engine.
So, Stockfish 15, Stockfish 15,
I don’t think one side will ever beat the other, basically.
But if you program them to play a certain opening position,
according to chess theory,
you get to see interesting ways into how they evaluate.
One of the things,
one of the ways that it played
against the London opening was absurd.
Like, it just, it was completely ridiculous.
Black sacrificed two pawns as early as move six,
which is a borderline, completely lost position.
And then both sides foresaw that the only way
White was gonna be able to use that material advantage
was to give it back and stabilize their own position.
And Black just got a crazy attack.
Jesus Christ, this is crazy.
But they drew them and they ended up drawing.
So, I’m also gonna make them play against each other
in either bad openings
or like some of the most popular gambits,
looking at something like that.
And the way I’m gonna do this is basically say,
which chess gambits are the best?
And the way I’m gonna do that is,
theoretically, the engine should be able to beat a gambit.
Because a gambit is very rarely blessed by the computer.
So, if the computer cannot beat that gambit,
that means it’s good.
That means it’s not losing.
If it’s a completely lost gambit, it will beat it.
But if it draws, despite getting that early disadvantage,
then that means the gambit is very reliable
and you can play it.
So, that’s a good way to evaluate opening games.
What’s the best?
What’s your favorite opening?
Or what openings do you like?
There was an opening that got me back into chess
when I was 15.
I had quit for like three years
and I went to my friend’s house
and he had a book by Lars Skendorf,
a Danish grandmaster called The Karakhan Defense,
which is C6.
Do you want white or do you want black?
Do you wanna show them the opening?
This is the opening.
The Karakhan Defense.
So, you play E4, I play C6.
I have to play black.
And we develop from here.
I put my defense.
What counts as an opening?
Okay, but the development, does the development matter?
Yeah, so from here, the development goes
into the variations of the Karakhan.
So, this is the Karakhan.
Like, you can be in a city,
but then you can be in neighborhoods.
That’s a very non-dramatic, okay.
Two pawns in the center.
So, that’s called the Breyer variation.
So, what’s a good thing for me?
Two squares, yeah.
You can put two pawns in the center.
Yeah, you should.
So, that’s a good thing.
Yes, and then I will go here.
And now you have to decide what you’re gonna do
with your center pawn.
You can push, take, or defend it.
And push, take, or defend, right.
What would you suggest?
Take is the worst?
Take is just stable, so we just trade.
But pushing is considered the best.
Advancing and taking my space away from me.
So, I think alpha zero or stockfish
would probably always push.
And now there’s something called the main line
or the sideline.
Main line is what’s the most popular played at all levels,
which is moving the bishop here.
I’ve played this a lot.
But for beginners and intermediate players,
this is why I love this opening so much.
On move three, black already has a plus score,
which is crazy.
It’s not supposed to happen.
And there’s this very tricky second most popular move,
which is undermining your center.
Trying to get you to take my free pawn,
but destabilize and leave both of them kind of hanging.
Is that why the plus score?
Is because you’re susceptible to the destabilization?
Yes, because people at 99% of the rating ladder
do not understand how to deal with what’s coming, basically.
They don’t know how to deal with a structural attack.
So, would stockfish try to defend the pawn here
and keep the structure?
No, it would take the pawn and tell you to go fuck yourself.
I knew that, because I am 3,400.
It would take the pawn and be like, all right, win it back.
And even if you did, you would suffer.
It would make you win it back in the most annoying way.
It would make you tie your shoes together and block it.
So, as stockfish, I would take-
Yes, that’s the best move.
That’s the best move.
But not at 99% of the rating ladder, which is funny.
But you like to play this.
I play this against GMs.
I play both.
I move my bishop.
I push the-
And what are the different ways it evolves?
Like, then the rest doesn’t matter.
So, this is just like a pawn structure thing.
Yeah, and I mean, again-
How deep are most openings?
So, it’s anywhere from like two moves
to like 10 moves kind of thing?
Yeah, you can be out of theory very, very quickly.
Move two, move three.
Like, basically on your own, you have a general idea,
but you don’t remember games.
I mean, I know Caro-Kann games from start to finish,
because I’ve played it since 2011.
So, you know all the different branches
that goes with that down.
Yeah, I think I know every opening in chess, basically.
I think most title players know every opening,
but we don’t know, we can’t play it competitively,
because we’d be, but-
What are some of the weirder openings
that, like, slightly suboptimal, but might be explored?
Like, Magnus might play them,
just to fuck with the opponent.
He played something recently, actually,
against this German prodigy, Vincent Keimer,
which was a specific move order in a very popular opening.
So, it was basically a position
that had been reached thousands of times.
But the move order Magnus chose with white
was played maybe 0.05% of the time,
which is crazy, it’s thousands of games.
And it’s supposed to be not good,
meaning it allows black to equalize,
because that’s what black is going for.
Not winning the game, but equalizing,
because you go second.
Magnus says, I don’t care about equalizing.
I just want a position.
I don’t want my opponent to know the answers to the test.
That’s so interesting,
because it also fucks you psychologically,
it throws you off, and just always keep you on your toes.
He’s in a weird position,
but he also has the advantage of being able to intimidate.
I wonder how many people,
how much is that a role of it?
Being scared of the other person.
It’s a huge role, I think.
I think some of the top guys would deny it,
but you know when you’re in the seventh hour,
and you’re playing Magnus,
it’s a very different feeling than some of the other.
When Magnus is messing around in the opening,
it’s very different than another person
messing around in the opening.
You just kind of expect for something to be there.
We’ll see if it translates to poker for him,
but I think he gets a little bit,
maybe less respect in the poker world.
In the chess world, he’s sort of alpha.
He gets a lot of respect.
I just talked to Daniel Negreanu.
The only person that doesn’t respect Magnus Carlsen,
honestly, either in chess or poker, is Magnus Carlsen.
I was gonna say Hans Niemann.
But Magnus is hilarious.
I mean, when he talks about his rating,
he’s like, yeah, it’s pretty good.
When he talks about how good he is at poker,
I suck, but I think that self-critical view,
I think he honestly believes, to a degree,
is probably part of the engine that fuels him
to get better and better and better and better.
Yeah, but what I’m saying is,
if you’re face-to-face with Magnus at a chess board,
it’s not the same as being
in a nine-handed poker table with him.
You kind of keep an eye on him, maybe,
and then he’s a mysterious guy,
but chess is different,
because you’re like, this is the man.
Yeah, there’s very few people.
Yeah, so in poker, they talk about Phil Ivey that way.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
As like this super intimidating.
I think that’s, it’s probably harder
to intimidate in poker.
Actually, I don’t know.
I don’t know.
There’s something intimidating about excellence
in a deterministic game that’s just terrifying.
Like, you’re, I mean, it’s like playing stockfish.
Like, you’re fucked.
This thing will suffocate you,
and especially when it makes moves
that you don’t understand.
To me, the most beautiful thing, honestly,
is the sacrifices that the engines do.
Just the, it’s such a fuck you.
Like, I could sacrifice pieces,
and I’ll get them back, and I’ll get them back more,
and I could look.
It doesn’t even, I don’t even have to get them back.
Your position is so bad, I gave you full material,
and there’s nothing you can do about it, yeah.
That’s like, and that transfers to AI systems in general,
like a system that plays weak, just to fool you.
For people who are trying to get better at chess,
beginners or at any stage of their development,
what advice would you give about getting better?
Except watch your channel.
Yeah, of course, watch my videos.
Check out Chessly.com.
That’s where I’m gonna scale the courses to.
But no, on a serious note,
you have to be prepared to lose way more than win.
My mom gave me advice when I was maybe 13 or 14,
and I just discovered that I liked girls.
She said, you’re gonna get a lot more no’s in life
That even happened with my wife, actually.
Our whole journey is quite fascinating.
It’s paved with rejection.
Paved with, yes, various ghostings over the course of years,
but we got married and we love each other very much,
so it’s a wonderful tale.
But it’s the same in chess.
You’re gonna lose a lot and you have to be,
for adults, I noticed,
kids and adults learn chess very differently.
Kids yell out in class and they’re very excited
and they don’t realize how many times
they get something wrong.
Adults never wanna talk during lessons
because they’re afraid of being wrong.
Adults will preface correct answers with,
this is probably wrong, but shut up,
you’re paying for a private lesson.
This is the place to be wrong.
So adults especially think that being dominant
in a career where they’ve dedicated
a lot of their brain power,
a lot of their work ethic,
and a lot of their study time,
it’s gonna translate to chess.
They do it to their own kids.
They helicopter their own kids
because they try to apply a lot of the same stuff.
Studying chess is different than studying anything else.
Same could be argued for martial arts, I guess, but.
You have to have a beginner’s mind
and what that actually means is
sucking in every aspect of the game
and studying all the interesting ways in which you suck.
And you will realize you get better
without actually trying to get better.
I show up to the boxing gym one day,
I move my hips better.
And I would do shadow boxing.
Sensei goes, you’re moving your feet better today.
You got better.
I’m like, I don’t practice footwork.
Your brain just starts putting it all together randomly.
You might study a shitload and still lose 100 points.
If you’re gonna study chess, oh, and for fuck’s sake,
this is the only activity where people go in going,
how much do I have to work to be a grandmaster?
Nowhere else in my life have I ever seen someone
try to pick up a hobby and wanna be the top ranking level.
Only in chess.
You’re right, but for example, when I,
like grappling sports, I’ll see people come to a gym
and basically ask how long before I can get into the UFC.
But UFC champion is different.
I mean, no, grandmaster is equivalent
to getting into the UFC.
I guess, yeah.
But people quickly realize when like the 110 pound girl
taps them out over and over and they’re a 230 pound
like ripped dude, they realize like, okay,
this is an art, this is a journey.
And I think if you resist the lessons
that failure teaches you, that’s when you don’t grow.
So like, just relax.
And one of the things you have to learn,
probably applies to chess too,
is to know how to relax your body, your mind.
And just like, there’s something about,
just like you said, like, if you don’t resist,
if you relax, then your body, your mind
will learn the way of this game.
And probably add to that is just put a lot of hours in
of having fun.
But then I, on that Perpetual Chess Podcast,
I listened to somebody that say like,
it doesn’t, like puzzles, none of that.
What matters is the number of hours you spend
kind of suffering, meaning like thinking deeply,
like straining, like thinking with your mind,
like really working hard.
So, and then you have the Magnus who says,
no, what matters is the number of hours
you spend having fun.
Yeah, it’s a mix.
It’s a mix.
I don’t quite agree with suffering,
but I think people do a lot of fake learning.
They play speed games.
They just go through tactics.
So, okay, I have to do 20 tactics.
Okay, boop, wrong, next one.
I used to tell my students, you need to do 10 puzzles
and you need to get 100% correct.
I don’t care how long it takes.
So I suppose that kind of is like the suffering theory.
But if you do 30 puzzles and you get eight correct,
what even is that?
That’s laughable in the correct amount of,
you know, it was 29%.
I don’t know, but 26%, it’s, you can’t do that.
You have to get things right.
And that’s the only way you’re actually-
And that requires like thinking deeply
and like really struggling,
especially if you’re doing the puzzles at the level
that that’s your level.
I’ve done a puzzle for an hour before
because I was so stubborn.
I didn’t want to just put in a wrong answer.
Yeah, the guy I was listening to said like, that’s good.
You should do that.
Maybe for me, and the same with blindfold chess,
I have to say.
Like my blindfold skills, I never practice.
I just, I can visualize the board quite well.
I’ve played, at most I’ve played four games blindfolded
at the same time.
That just feels horrible in the brain afterward.
But like I can play four simultaneous games.
What’s that take to do that?
I don’t know.
I get asked that all the time.
How do I practice?
Why the fuck?
Why would you do that to yourself?
There’s no need.
It’s a good party trick.
It is, yes, it is.
The video of Magnus doing it in Columbus Circle
on YouTube has like, I don’t know how many views.
I did it live with an announcer.
I can’t imagine how chaotic that was,
but he, yeah, it’s a great party trick.
Oh, there is a Reddit thing.
I forgot to ask Magnus that they asked me to ask him
because they moved the wrong piece.
And then somehow he remembered.
I don’t know how that happened, I have to tell you.
I kind of presume that he figured out
from the way the other person was moving
that they moved the wrong piece.
Yeah, I forgot to ask him that.
Why did I forget that?
I mean, my memory sucks.
You said, you know, ups and downs in your childhood.
A little rough sometimes.
Also, you get attacked by the beautiful,
wonderful people on the internet.
It’s always difficult.
What’s been the lowest point
that you’ve ever gone to in your mind?
In my career or in my life?
In your life, in your career and everything, your mind.
So have you ever been depressed?
For sure, yes.
How did you, like, if you can remember moments,
how did you overcome that?
Well, I will share two anecdotes.
One, when I was May, 2012,
so I was 16 and a half,
and I was living in a household situation
where I thought nobody knew what was going on, basically,
without sharing, obviously, extremely personal details,
like, what was going on except me.
And I confided in my grandmother.
I was, imagine living in a house
where you basically feel like a prisoner.
You don’t want to interact with anybody in the house.
You don’t know how you’re supposed to bring these things up.
Of course, this sounds extremely vague,
and I just don’t, I don’t feel like exposing
all of my entire family drama to the audience,
but I lived this way for probably something like
eight months, I don’t, something ridiculous.
It was the junior year of high school.
So I was supposed to take my SATs.
That was the year I was supposed to finish up
my portfolio for college,
because you only get really a few months of senior year
to start applying.
It was a fuck, it was a nightmare, complete nightmare.
And I don’t know how I got through it.
Time went by, I listened to sad music
and tried to spend as little time at home as possible.
I would pretend to fall asleep at my friend’s houses
so that my mom was like, you coming for dinner?
And I would just pretend to be asleep.
It was just a grind.
Yeah, yeah, it was a grind.
I don’t remember a whole lot from that period,
just sort of finding what made me happy
and trying to focus on it.
And I was a teenager in the house.
I wasn’t going to run away.
I still had a roof over my head.
So I’m not saying I had it better or worse than others.
I just had it different.
And actually recently, this is much more on my memory.
I more or less tore up a very happy life
my wife and I had.
And I’ve talked about this in bursts on stream,
but essentially what happened was
we had just been living in,
it’s actually funny that the way we got
into this apartment was also very bad,
but we were living in just a very nice little apartment,
like high-rise apartment, safe.
And the reason we moved into a high-rise
was because we had lived in a house for two weeks
that got broken into.
Not because of who I am,
but because we suspect we had people moving in mattresses
and they went, oh shit, these two people live here?
And basically there was three apartments.
My upstairs neighbor let in somebody
that they didn’t expect.
And the guy cracked our door open with a crowbar.
Thank God that was the first day in two years
my wife went to work.
Did they know?
Did they not know?
I don’t know.
Everything happens for a reason.
Nobody got hurt.
Nobody got hurt.
Yeah, they stole some couple of important things,
but nobody was hurt.
And the cops did nothing.
So you moved into a high-rise in New York?
Yeah, in New York.
For safety and we’re away from things
and we have our own nice little nook.
And somewhere some months into it,
I started hearing noises from above our neighbors.
And it started in the morning, 7 a.m.
It started in the afternoon and that picked up on it.
And I expected it every day for weeks.
Then it was driving me crazy.
And I was like, okay, we’re gonna go have
a civil conversation with whosoever up there.
Sounds like kids.
So we go knock.
Lady gas lit the shit out of us.
I’ve never been gas lit that hard in my life.
She went, noise?
It’s probably our other neighbor who’s a boxer.
Lady, you have kids.
We can hear you through the vents.
You’re talking to your kids.
Went to the front desk of the building.
They did nothing.
Went to the leasing office.
They did nothing.
And basically over time, it just was driving me nuts.
It was, back to the stubbornness thing,
I decided we were leaving.
We were going to live somewhere there was no noise.
Because we can’t beat these people.
There’s nothing we can do, right?
And my wife, I dragged her around
to a bunch of different viewings.
I was dead set.
I decided I was completely miserable.
And we found a house to rent, like a nice house.
Family had just moved away.
House, standalone house.
Not gonna have neighbors.
But wife decided that, not wife decided,
we decided that it’s too big.
It’s too big for, so we’re gonna get a dog.
We always wanted an animal, so we’re gonna get a dog.
So we get an absolute lunatic puppy
who just doesn’t let us sleep at all.
This is on top of everything else,
the mental health crisis that’s going on.
And the day we are moving to this house,
I realized I fuck up.
Like I realized that this whole thing was in my head
and I don’t wanna leave.
I don’t wanna leave.
This could have all been avoided.
And the guilt and resentment, I didn’t wanna exist.
Like it’s not that I, it wasn’t suicide.
But you know, the feeling of just,
you want to just observe yourself from a distance.
And I couldn’t sleep.
I thought my wife was gonna leave me.
Like this is the way.
And that’s what anxiety does.
It also takes everything you feel to an absolute dread.
And that I experienced for a good chunk of two weeks.
And then we kind of settled down
and decided like, we’re gonna live.
Did you tell her about it?
Like, were you able to talk through it?
Yeah, yeah, I, yeah.
Does she know the levels of madness
that could be inside your mind?
I don’t know if she’ll ever know,
but I tried to tell her that, and.
I’m not sure you’ll ever know.
I kind of get the point.
Yeah, I try to, that’s why I try to keep busy.
But that was the darkest it got.
And yet, through all of that, I went on stream every day.
I made YouTube videos every day.
Like, I understood that I had a job to do.
And I did it, and I talked about it here and there.
But that was the worst it ever got,
because I’m learning that the emotions I experience
are guilt, remorse,
and your brain just goes in circles, basically.
About things that you’ve done or haven’t done.
It’s funny, because noise can do that also.
So the noise was real, but it was building in your head.
So I try to, I actually,
it’s kind of funny, because I like to focus deeply.
And I’ll have sources of noise.
I’ve tried to teach myself over time.
I’ll go to coffee shops and stuff to like,
I almost try to put myself next to annoying situations,
so I get trained.
Really, maybe I should do that.
But at a certain point, at the same time,
I’ve gotten to hang out with certain people,
especially in L.A.,
they’re like in the middle of nowhere,
like in Malibu or something,
and it’s like that quiet.
Can you hear your ears ringing, it’s so quiet?
And it’s like, holy shit, this is a good way,
if you wanna write something or create something.
This is like, super quiet.
So my mom does, my mom’s a science,
journalist, science author.
She just published her first book, actually,
on poop, of all things.
Yeah, fecal, the waste management.
It’s actually a very fascinating concept
and look through history.
And she would do that, she goes to complete solitude.
And she writes, yeah.
I mean, New York is the opposite of that,
so you know, you’ve brought it on yourself.
I’ve lived there for 20 years.
Has it been tough going on stream
to put on a face of happiness through that?
But I find my ways to have moments
where I can talk about it.
If it’s on a stream, I don’t get 10,000 live viewers,
so it’s very different.
If I stream late night, I get 1,500, 2,000 viewers.
I used to care a lot more about viewers on stream,
but I’ve basically invested fully in YouTube,
so that’s kind of the way I.
And I think, I don’t know, maybe you can correct me,
but I think people appreciate the human being
behind the chess streamer.
I think so.
I think so.
I think a lot of people, not in the chess world,
but just a lot of people, they put on a persona,
and just in general, social media
is the highlights of your life.
Or the lowlights, just as long as they’re dramatic.
But I try to be very open and honest.
When I’m tired, I’m tired.
It’s what makes my recaps of my tournaments,
I think, so real.
Yeah, man, you’re an incredible person.
I’ve been a fan for a long time.
It’s kind of funny that we connected,
and we got into chess to talk.
Please, please keep creating, keep teaching people.
For now, I’m not going anywhere.
Well, it could end at any moment, as we talked about.
So yeah, thank you so much for talking today, man.
Thank you for everything you do.
It was an honor.
It was great.
Thanks for having me on.
Thanks for listening to this conversation
with Levi Rosman.
To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now, let me leave you with some words
from Irving Cherneff.
Every chess master was once a beginner.
Thank you for listening, and hope to see you next time.