Michael Brancato, formerly of streaming platform Twitch, has joined Chess.com as its Vice President of Esports.
Prior to joining the online chess platform, Brancato spent over five years at Twitch where he held roles such as Senior Esports Product Manager and League Operations Lead. Under the alias Nintendude, Brancato was also a former competitive Super Smash Bros player.
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Chess has been adopted by many esports organisations — as seen by TSM signing Hikaru Nakamura — following its growing popularity over the last few years. According to Esports Charts, the FIDE World Championship 2021 reached a peak viewership of 613,439 across various streaming platforms.
Via LinkedIn, Brancato discussed his appointment: “This may be surprising to some of you, but this is actually the continuation of a journey I embarked on at Twitch in 2017 to grow the game as a competitive pastime, streaming commodity, and modern spectator sport.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see how much the game has grown in just a few years, and I’m so thrilled to be in a position to help carry the torch forward with such a passionate, smart, and hard-working team.”
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Last year, Chess’ popularity within the esports scene reached such heights that discussions were created to ask whether the game could even be classed as an esport. Last year’s ESI Digital Spring featured a panel on the question and featured the likes of TSM, Envy Gaming, Play Magnus group, as well as Chess.com.
Esports Insider says: Michael Brancato’s appointment continues to highlight how entities, such as Chess.com, see the value in pushing a traditional game to newer audiences. Online chess has seemingly reinvigorated the games ecosystem, whilst also staying true to its older fanbases. It’ll be interesting to see what online (or offline) events occur at Chess.com now that Brancato is at the helm.