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Botez Sisters: Chess, Streaming, and Fame | Lex Fridman Podcast #319 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Botez Sisters: Chess, Streaming, and Fame | Lex Fridman Podcast #319".
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I mean, I've definitely experienced moments where I didn't want to do anything but chess. - I also say that's pretty universal. I think if you wanna be the best at anything you do or any sport, you have to be that level of obsessed. - The following is a conversation with Alexandra and Andrea Botez. They're sisters, professional chess players, commentators, educators, entertainers, and streamers. Their channel is called Botez Live on Twitch and YouTube. I highly recommend you check it out. A small side note about the currently ongoing controversy in the chess world where the 19 year old grandmaster Hans Neiman beat Magnus Carlson at the Sinkfield Cup. After this, Magnus, for the first time ever, withdrew from the tournament, implying with a tweet that there may have been cheating or at least something shady going on. Folks like the grandmaster, Hikara Nakamura, fan the flames of cheating accusations, and the internet made a bunch of proposals on how the cheating could have been done and arranged from the ridiculous to the hilarious, often both. Hans himself came out and said that he has cheated before when he was 12 and 16 on random online games to jack up his rating. But he said that he has never cheated in person over the board. Danny Ranch from chess.com, who I've spoken with, may make a statement in response to Hans's claims soon. Folks like grandmaster, Jakabuga, spoke to his experience training Hans Neiman and has said that his memory and intuition were quite brilliant. So as you see, there's a lot of perspectives on this. Jess Bass has a good summary of the saga that I'll link in the description. Also note that this is so quickly moving that new stuff might come out between me recording this and publishing the episode. But I thought I'd mention this anyway since the episode with the bold test sisters is a conversation about chess and was recorded shortly before the controversy. So we didn't talk about it. I'm considering having Hans on this podcast and also Magnus back on the podcast. Maybe others like Hikaru or folks from chess.com's anti-cheat staff to discuss their really interesting cheating detection algorithms. But I may also just stay out of it. I find chess to be a beautiful game. And the chess community, full of fascinating, brilliant people. And so I'll keep having conversations like these about chess. It's fun. My goal with this podcast and in general, as a human being, is to increase the amount of love in the world. Sometimes that involves celebrating brilliance and beauty in science, in art, in chess. Sometimes it involves empathetic conversations with controversial figures that seek to understand, not to ride. Sometimes it involves standing against the internet lynch mob as the chess-based article calls it to hear the story of a human being who is under attack. Even if it means I get attacked in the process as well. This is the Lex Friedman podcast. To support it, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now dear friends, here's Alexandra and Andrea Botez.
Chess Experiences And Strategies
Trip to Italy (03:18)
You just got back from Italy. What's the most memorable thing? I was just there recently as well. It was very chaotic because we went out on a whim and we only had our first hotel book. And then we rented a car and drove around all of the cities and went to like five different cities and about a week and a bit. So I think it was just the variety of seeing so many different places when we're used to being at home all the time. And Andrea, is yours your luggage? Yeah, it was the most stressful vacation we've been in in our life. And it was a valuable learning lesson because now I know how to be prepared for trips. But we lost our bags and I never got them back. And like Alex said, we didn't know where we'd be sleeping every night and we're just driving through a new city with a giant van in the most narrowest streets with and getting in many, many fights with Italian men. So it wasn't really vacation. I saw this motion so many times. Wasn't liberating to lose your baggage? Is it like still the lining? Actually, it was liberating. My entire life, I've always had the issue of overpacking. And I told her before the trip, Andrea, you're going to pack a light, right? Yeah, Alex, yeah. And then I see her stuffing her over. But you did the same. We both had giant big extra baggage that we didn't need. And I'm actually very glad we lost it because for Venice, calling that around on all the boats and through the tiny streets and there's no movers. And now it's the first time where I can travel without checking in a bag, which I've never done before. So now I've learned what it means to pack light 'cause I saw that I could survive off of just my, this sounds very dramatic, but it was really a big learning lesson for me. The driving must've been crazy 'cause driving in Italy is rough. The driving was crazy. I did most of it and it would be really interesting driving through places like Florence or even through the beach areas that were super windy because there are two way streets that should really only be one way. So you'd be driving this huge van and then another car comes on a cliff and you're just waiting for it to slowly pass. So it took all of my focus and concentration to drive well in Italy, but it was actually really relaxing because the hardest thing about making a lot of videos online is you're always thinking about it, what's coming next. And when we were in Italy, it was so chaotic that I did not think about work for a good week and a bit. - Oh, 'cause you just-- - We were stressed. - I was just trying to keep us alive. - We were stressed. - It seemed like a priority. - And that was kind of fun. - It was kind of fun. - No planning, nothing. - I wouldn't recommend it or ever do that again, but. - Sounds pretty awesome. - And we even randomly ran into two friends of ours who were in the same city and we just traveled with them for about half of the trip. - Yeah, so you just took on the chaos. - Exactly, it was an adventure. - Okay, and I see like, 'cause you were using your hands a lot, you got in. You picked up some of the Italian hand gestures. - I did, we did get yelled at by a lot of Italians. The old Italian grandmas would come to us after breakfast 'cause we'd leave something on the plate and she'd be like, "You could feed an entire village with that. "Tell your friends and we'd feel so ashamed." - Yeah, we got cursed out a lot, but it really reminded me of where we grew up and helped. - That's true. - Yeah, bring back to the mechanisms. - We were Romanian, but it was like an immigrant neighborhood. - In Canada. - So, you know, same if you don't finish your plate and that's disrespectful to the people who made the food. - How was the food in Italy? I feel like the carbs thing is too intense. - Yeah, I think very overrated, in my opinion. - So, I'm actually not supposed to eat gluten 'cause I have an allergy, but I was in Italy and it's, you know, gluten galore. So, I was actually eating a lot of it and it was very interesting 'cause I didn't get sick while I was in Italy, but I do while I'm in the US. So, somehow, the food was actually maybe more okay for me to digest, which I appreciated, but I didn't like it as much as I thought. Did you like the food there? - Yeah, no, I did, I did, I love carbs, but it feels like Vegas when I go there for the food, it's like, if I stay here too long, I'm gonna do things I regret. That's what it feels like with the food. 'Cause I don't know how to moderate and everybody is pushing very large portions and wild kind of eating things on you. I'm gonna pause the pizza and it's so bread, so delicious. So, yeah, I love it, but I regret everything. So, it's like, I don't wanna go to a place where I'm going to regret everything I do. - That's reasonable. - For too long of a time. - Yeah, surprisingly, the people there, though, are still very fit and everyone stays in good shape, but that's probably 'cause you're walking around all day and you're much more active than in it. - And they also just know how to moderate food. - I think I got used to the US way of eating. - The US portions. - What is that? - Just a lot, always a lot and more. - And I feel in the US food advertisements are also much more in your face than you're more often reminded of junk food than we were in Italy. So, even though we were eating less healthy things, I think we were getting cravings and being pushed towards junk food less often. - All right, I gotta ask you a hard question. So, the romance languages. So, I think French is up there as like number one. - Number one in terms of-- - I don't know, this is-- - Who's ranking them? - Are you guys speak Italian or no? - Not Italian, but we studied French and Spanish in school and Romanian. - I feel like every country calls their language a romance language. - No, but it's Romanian, French, Spanish, Portuguese. And I think there was one more that was like this dialect, but those are considered the romance languages. - Okay, so where would you put Italian? - I think we got yelled at so much from Italian that it's not gonna be a lot of-- - Okay, so it wasn't working. - It's on the bottom of the list 'cause people did not use it nicely to it. - But I always really liked how French sounds. I think something about it where maybe Spanish actually sounds nicer to the ears, but French has more character and it feels more sultry, so I like French. - What about you? - That was my answer too. - No. - Sultry, okay. - Yeah. - Hmm. I feel like French, well, in France, I feel like I'm always being judged. Like they're better than me. That's what French-- - They are better than us. - That's so true. - That's true. - That's so true. Which is why, you know, yeah, I long to belong to that. I like what the British accent. - The British accent. - Really? - Yeah. - Actually, one thing we did on our Italian trip is we just picked up British accents for the entire trip for fun. And we forgot we were doing them to the point where we talked to British people and it's asked us, why are you talking like that? - That is good stuff. - I did feel much more elegant and mature. - That's true. - People, like, you know, I don't know if they felt the same way about us, but it was more of, you know, the confidence. - You do feel like you're more poised for sure. - Yeah.
Chess tournaments (10:20)
- So how'd you guys get into chess? When did you first, let's say when did you first fall in love with chess? - So we both started playing when we were pretty young around six years old. That's when our dad taught us. And I enjoyed playing chess because I had good results early on, but a lot of it was being pushed from my dad to play chess and I only really started loving it when we moved from Canada and we started moving a lot and chess was the one stable thing that I had and it was also where all of my friends were. So it was kind of that foundational thing for me. And that's when I started studying chess very intensely and when I started putting in the hours out of my own will and not because I was being pushed by my dad, that's when I started really loving it and I even wanted to take time off college to just focus on chess. - So training and competing? - Training and competing, yeah. It was when I was doing it for myself that I started getting my best results. - And actually enjoying the thing. - And really enjoying it, yeah. I would spend summer vacation studying for tournaments and my mom would come and say, "You need to make friends. "Go leave the house." And I'd be like, "No, I need to play chess." And I remember those moments. - That you rebelled by playing chess. - Yeah, exactly. - How did you get into it? - Yeah, my experience with loving in high school is very opposite from Alex's, but right, my sister was playing and my dad taught me when I was so sick. - And really it was cool in high school, unlike me. - You are. - I wouldn't say cool, I'd say more balanced and I was interested in other hobbies. In my childhood, if I ever really did love chess, there's certainly moments about traveling and being together with my family and spending those moments together, but those are more the social and the experiences. But funny enough, I think my happiest moment where I really played the game for my own enjoyment was probably my most recent tournament because this was after, obviously, we've been streaming and I'm no longer in high school, but when I was in school, I was always playing for college and for the results, trying to build a resume. So I was too stressed out about the pressure to really enjoy the game, whereas when I just played my first tournament, so it was after like a two year break because of the pandemic and it was also Olive on Twitch, so there was some pressure, but it was the first time that I was really eager to study for the game, sitting and focusing since we've been streaming and not getting distracted by something else in years, like I said, and the tournament experience I hit my highest rating and it was my best tournament ever. And I think most of that is because it came from my own enjoyment. - So you didn't enjoy the domination 'cause I think you like did really well, right? This is like a couple months ago. - Oh yeah, yeah, the tournament, well, of course, I think the results came from enjoying the tournament 'cause I would be in high school like studying triple the amount of time, like six hours every day compared to this tournament I didn't even prepare for it. And for three years, I wouldn't be able to pass one rating, whereas in this one tournament, I passed it by like 70 points without even any preparation. So it was, I think as soon as you stop worrying about the competitions when the games get much better. - Well, what does it mean to pass a rating? - So I was stuck at 1900. - 1900 is a hundred points off of expert. - Yeah. - Usually when you reach 2000, you're considered an expert which is the rating and I was going for. - Okay, expert, that's a technical term or that's like a talking trick. - It's more of a colloquial term where if somebody's around a 2000 and you're playing them in a tournament, they won't have the actual title next to their name, but you say I'm playing an expert. - What do I'm like, the more official things like master? Does that have to do with the rating or something else? - Yeah, so national master in the US is when you're 2200. - Okay, and what's international master? - International master is based off of a different system, the Fede system, which is international. To be an international master, it's 2400 and you have to have three international master norms. - Yeah, I think Magnus said he's a 28, six something. - That was, yeah. - And then he said that's pretty decent. - Well, he always talks about that. - But the thing is, I think what he meant is that's a decent rating because it accurately captures his actual level. So it's not over-inflated or under-inflated and so on. And so the discussion there was how do you get to, kind of human being, get to 2900. And then he says because my current rating is pretty decent, representing my skill level, it's gonna be a long road to actually get there. - Yeah, so you have to beat people your same level, that's how the number increases. - Exactly, yeah. - And you beat a bunch of people in the tournament, right? That are higher than your level. - I got very lucky. Oh, I was playing, I was really nervous 'cause my category was like 200 points above my rating. And of course, I was very rusty and I didn't plan to turn them in a while, but it went pretty well. - Do you feel the pressure when you're actually recording it, like the streaming?
- It was definitely, so before every round I was vlogging and I was saying meeting greets and doing other things for the-- - Yeah, that's how you do a meeting greet. You didn't know what the hell you were doing, it's great. - Yeah. - Like, what am I, how do I do this? - Yeah, I see, what do I do? - It was actually really wholesome, the beginning was very silly 'cause I was just not expecting that it was gonna be more of a seminar, I thought it was like, oh, you pose and take pictures, but they actually actually nice meaningful questions, but unfortunately it's bad for YouTube retention and we cut them all out, so. - Yeah, yeah. - The good, long form conversation. So it was like questions Q&A type of thing. - Exactly, you have to have very fast paced for YouTube and that seminar was not fast paced. - Okay, well not everything in life needs to be on YouTube, right? - That's true. - There's like two parallel things, stuff that's fun for YouTube. - Yes. - One day we'll post that Q&A on that. - Yeah, when you guys like, when you become like ultra famous, you're currently just regular famous. - And then it was first Q&A. - And then it was first Q&A. - The most slow content, yes. - And that the YouTube aspect, the creation aspect, does that add to the fun, ultimately? How's the chest of like your love of chest? - Oh, for the love of chest in general or just for competing in that one turn? - No love of chest in general. I think you said that for competing for that turn when it was adding pressure. - Yeah, but actually I would say like a good pressure, but yeah, this is where I differed to Alex because when I was just competitive and I was younger, I don't think I love chest as much as when I started doing it for content because unlike her, a lot of her friends and social circle, other chest players, I never really traveled and built really solid friendships through chess until I started streaming and meeting other chest streamers and actually playing and talking to people for fun rather than just always being alone in the game and never really meeting other people my age or people with similar interests. So I would say Twitch was the thing that really changed how I approached the game. - I think with some YouTubers, there's a pressure to be almost somebody else. You create a persona and you're stuck in that persona. I think I'm too much of a boomer to know what the hell Twitch is anyway, but it feels like when you're actually live streaming, you can't help but be who you really are. - I think it's, oh, well, I think when you're live streaming and I've talked to a lot of other streamers about this, you kind of just over-exaggerate one side of your personality and of course, it's kind of like being like on all the time, like you're trying to be more entertaining and sometimes you're being sillier at moments or more, you take what character traits like people know you for and for me, one is being like ADHD and the younger sibling who's very energetic and causes trouble even though sometimes it goes-- - Yeah, I'm sure you cause trouble just for the camera. - Yeah, right. - I think, yeah, I think, and of course, what you're live streaming for like four or five hours, there's gonna be moments in the stream where it's more chill, but especially when you're editing that content or you're doing bigger streams that are shorter, you are kind of playing up a side of yourself because of course, there's a lot of parts of me that I don't show to the camera 'cause they're not as entertaining to watch. Like the more serious part. - And also, there's things that you are really interested in about what you do, like I love competitive chess where I could sit and really think about it, but I know that that is not gonna be as entertaining for a stream. I know that's not gonna be as entertaining for YouTube. So you kind of have to take what you like, but then really adapt it for whatever the format is. And sometimes that feels inauthentic, but other times it just feels like repackaging what you love for people in a more general audience to enjoy. - Do you feel like it's a trap a little bit as you evolve? Like, your trap-- - Oh, I think social media, oh sorry, go ahead. - Social media in general is a trap of that kind. - Well, so we've been trying to switch to learn how to make YouTube videos recently and so much of learning YouTube school is kind of the beastification of content where you try to get to the point of the video within like the first 10 seconds to not lose people. You try to-- - You're certificate. You mean like Mr. Beast? - Yeah. - Okay. - Yeah, where it's so fast-paced. There's a reason to wait, there's high stakes. And everything is created to keep people watching the video and keep people on the platform. And in some ways, it is a trap because it's harder to do the kind of content you like because you really have to squeeze it to be like, okay, well, do we have a good thumbnail for this? Do we have a good title for this? And that's something that we're trying to figure out how to keep true to what we wanna do. - Yeah, see, the way I think about it is, yeah, there's a lot of stuff you can create and yeah, the mystification process. But also, I think about what are the videos, conversations or things I will create in this life that will be the best thing I do. And I try not to do things in my life that will prevent me from getting there. I feel like if you're always focusing on doing kind of the optimizing the thumbnail in the 10 seconds and so on, you'll never do the thing that's truly you're known for and remembered for. So finding that balance is tricky. - I get that, but at the same time, this might be my own copium, which I know is a word you know now. - Yeah, I'm slowly learning the full complexity of the term, yes. - But the other way I think about it is, it is a skill to learn how to communicate with large audiences. And first, I started streaming chess, which is something I just did and really loved, but now I have to learn how to translate that format. And if that's a skill set we could build, then we could use it to do really important things. And I've seen a lot of YouTubers who have done interviews about how, you know, they didn't love the kind of content they did at first, but what they're doing right now is really meaningful. So I like to think of it maybe like skill development 'cause not everybody hits off podcasts where they can talk to super interesting people right off the bat. - Yeah, you could be slow and boring in a podcast. You don't have to worry about the first 10 seconds. I mean, people like you pushing me for, 'cause the first 10 seconds of the videos I do is, well, I know it's most important for YouTube, but I don't give a damn. I wrote a Chrome extension that hides all the views and likes. I don't look at the click through-- - I don't look at Twitch views and Drea does. So we also can relate. - I love numbers too, but that's why I don't look at it 'cause it become like, oh, you'll start to think that a conversation or I think you did sucks because it doesn't get views, but that's just not the case. YouTube algorithm is this monster that figures stuff out. And if you let it control your mind, I feel like it's gonna destroy you creatively. So you have to find a nice balance. - I have to say, I was laughing a little bit when I was listening to the Magnus episode in the first 10 minutes. You guys are talking about soccer football. - Two robots seem human in the conversation. - Yeah, exactly. - Yeah. - I was like, let's have some fun, make conversation about non-chest related topics. - Yeah, talk about sports. - Yeah, it was kind of hilarious. I was surprised that even at his level, I wasn't sure, but I was surprised the much he loves chess. It sounds cliche to say, but the way he looked at a chess board, you know those memes, like, I wish somebody looked at me the way he's still like the way he glanced down and he reached for the pieces of excitement to show me something. There wasn't like, okay, I'll show you. It was like, there was still that fire. - That's something that always shocks me about some of like super grandmasters, like one of my coaches was a person who also, his name's Jim Hammer of Norway. He also coached Magnus, he was his second, and he was helping me train for my tournament. And I was kind of putting off doing the homework. He's like, if you're putting it off, that means you're studying the wrong thing. Like you should be enjoying, even when you're practicing, which when I grew up, I thought to get to the top level, like practicing has to be hard and unpleasant. And when I was listening to Magnus episode, he was like, I didn't read books very much. Or it was one thing that you said that's like very normal for studying classical chess that he didn't do just 'cause it didn't interest him. - He says, I suck a puzzles. I don't like puzzles. - Yeah, yeah. And he doesn't do what he doesn't enjoy. And that's because it's like purely driven out of passion. - I think the internet was like, I suck a puzzle too. - Yeah, they like that one related. - Yeah, grab a big. - I don't have to study at all. It's just, it's fun. But I think the lesson there that's really powerful is he spends most of the day thinking about chess because he wants to. So do whatever, if you're into getting better chess, do whatever it takes. - Exactly. - To actually just the number of hours you spend a day thinking about chess, maximize that. If you're like super serious about it. - I actually get very addicted whenever I start studying chess, which is why I don't do it as seriously when I'm focused on content. 'Cause I go through these rabbit holes where if I'm focusing on chess, I wanna be as good as I possibly can at the game. Otherwise it's hard for me to enjoy it 'cause it's such a competitive thing. And I remember training for tournaments. And when you're training for tournaments, you even start dreaming about chess and you can stop thinking about it. And it's as if you're flipped into this completely different world, which is also what I like best about the game that it's a completely different living experience. - And then you take some drugs and now you start to see things on the ceiling. Is there some factual hallucination like to the Queen's Gambit, like those scenes? - I think it's-- - Is that based on your life story? - From, well, I can't say that on camera. No, just kidding. Actually, chess players are very careful to not take drugs. They drink a lot. - Yeah. - They drink so much. It's actually crazy for how good they're able to play chess when they do. But when it comes to things like psychedelics or other things, they usually stay away from those 'cause they don't wanna mess anything up in their brain. - So this is actually an intervention. I saw that you mentioned somewhere, I think it was the lie detector test where you have a drinking problem. - Is that an actual-- - I think that's actually a meme that we like to joke about on stream because occasionally we'd have a white claw on stream or something like that. And then people meme about it. It goes back Tendreus point of amplifying a part of your personality to make yourself a little bit more entertaining. - I'm gonna use that as an excuse from now on. I just, this podcast is just amplifying a part of that person. I'm not really like this. - But have you played drunk, like, Magnus has played drunk? He says it helps someone with the creativity. Is there any truth to that? - Well, Andrea is under 21, so she's obviously-- - Would never do that. - Would never do that. But I have played while drinking, actually. I enjoy playing chess and drinking more than pre-gaming or going out to a club and drinking, which sounds really silly. And I'll usually play against opponents who are also, you know, having some beer. And it does make you feel like you're seeing the game from a fresher perspective where it can sometimes make you feel more confident, liquid confidence. And it does help with creativity. You just feel like you could pull things off. But there's also a limit. It's more like you've had one drink or two drink, but then it goes beyond that. And then you just start missing tactics and it's not worth it. - Yeah, I think it only helps players in very short time controls. One time I was challenging this grandmaster on stream and we were playing Bullet Chess, which is one minute chess. And I was giving him handicaps and I said, "Okay, you have to take four shots before the next game." And he just got like 10 times stronger and transformed into like the Hulk and destroyed me more than the last game. So, but of course, if you're playing like a three hour game, it's gonna get old. But I think in short time controls, it's amazing. - Yeah, definitely has to be blitz. It has to be where it's more intuition rather than sitting and calculating. - 'Cause it's probably like negatively affecting your ability to calculate. - Absolutely. - How much show, when you guys play, when you look at the chess board, how much of it is calculation, how much of it is?
Chess strategies (27:11)
Intuition, how much of it is memorized, openings. - It really depends between short form chess. So five minutes, three minutes, one minute and classical chess. - What's your favorite to put? - I love playing blitz now because that's most of what I do. And that's actually how I got into chess streaming 'cause I couldn't spend entire weekends or weeks playing tournaments. So I would just, while I was in college, log on and play these long blitz or bullet sessions. And it's very fast, so you don't have time to go calculate as deeply. You basically have to calculate short lines pretty quickly. And a lot of it is pattern recognition and intuition. - That's three minutes, you said? - Three minutes, yeah. - Okay, cool. And so for that, it's just, it's basically intuition. - A lot of it is intuition, yeah. - See, I saw on streams, you actually keep talking while playing chess. It seems really difficult. - Yeah, that helps my result. That doesn't help my results. - It doesn't hurt the content of the game. - Yeah, exactly. - But you can still do it. - It feels like how can you possibly concentrate while talking? - It's because so much of it is intuition. You're not, while you're talking, you're thinking about that topic, but then you just come to the board and you just understand what you should be doing here. And then sometimes you get in trouble 'cause you're talking and you have now lost half of your time, you have a minute and a half, your opponent has three, and you're kind of at a disadvantage. But that kind of goes to show that that's how blitz chess usually works, whereas classical is very different. - Which of you is better chess? - I mean, let's do it this way. Can you, Andrea, can you say what, in which way is Alex stronger than you, which way is she weaker than you? Not physically in terms of chess. - Well, yes, of course she is high rated, but when we do play, I think her strengths against me where she really gets me is the end game. She has stronger end game. So she can, and I actually have a stronger opening, but as soon as she's a simple player-- - I'm supposed to say what is good about you, not you. - You know how I'm getting there? Well, see, that's the same, 'cause it's related, okay? 'Cause if I can get an advantage in the beginning of the game, but as soon as she starts trading pieces down, like my confidence drops, because I know that the end game is the hardest part of the game and the longest, and that's where she ends up beating me. So her end game is her, I think, really what makes a difference. And she has to be a little bit-- - It sounds like her psychological warfare is better too. 'Cause if you're getting nervous-- - That is-- - And she's harder to play against higher rated players, same how, you know, Magnus and former world champions have that psychological edge. So I think it's always gonna be different, Andrea, 'cause she knows statistically she should be winning something like one in four games, but she usually does better than that, 'cause she's very distracting and talks a lot. - That does help. - What does it feel like to play a higher rated player? What's the experience of that? Like playing somebody like Magnus? So it depends on how much higher rated than you they are. If it's someone who's like between me and Andrea, let's say it's a 200 point difference, you know they should win, but at least you still feel like you have a chance. I was playing in title Tuesday, which is this tournament chess.com has every Tuesday. And I got really lucky, beat a GM, drew an international master, and then I got paired against Hikaru Nakamura. And my brain just went blank, 'cause I just know that I'm so unlikely to win that I couldn't even play the game properly when it's that much of a difference where they should be winning 99% of the time. - But that's like psychological. So you're saying that's the biggest experience. It's like actually knowing the numbers and statistically thinking there's no way I can win. But I meant like is there a suffocating feeling like positionally you feel like you're constantly under attack? - You just feel like you're slowly getting outsmarted. And the worst is when you don't even know what you're doing wrong, you come out of that and you're like, I thought I was doing great and I got slowly squeezed. I didn't understand what was going on and you're just kind of baffled. It's kind of like watching Alpha Zero beat up stockfish. And you don't really understand why it's making certain moves or how it thought of the plan. You just see it slowly getting the position better. And that's what it feels like. - I would add it's kind of different for me if there's someone who's significantly higher rated. So let's say more than like 300 points or you're playing Magnus. What I notice is I just feel lost straight as soon as I don't know my preparation because they know so many opening lines that they're gonna know the best line to beat you that you haven't studied. So then on move 10 you're like, he already has a maybe plus point five advantage which is really small but for someone with such a significant skill level, you know you already lost at that point. And it's like a third of the game. - What are the strengths and weaknesses of Andrea? - Andrea is very good at opening preparations. - As she said. - As she said, she likes bringing that up. I mean she's very meticulous about it where she'll really go in and learn her lines. And having that initial starting confidence isn't just helpful for the opening but it helps develop your plans for the middle game. So I think she's very good at that. I think she's actually pretty good at tactical combinations. - What is tactics? - Tactics is like solving puzzles or basically finding lines that are forced where if you find them you're going to win. - So that's like puzzles within a position. - Within a game. - Yeah exactly. Whereas strategic chess is making slow moves and over the process of like 20 moves you get a slightly better position based on understanding of the overall strategy. - So in my extensive research of you on Wikipedia it says your most played opening is the King's Indian defense in which quote black allows white to advance their pawns to the center of the board in the first two moves. Is there any truth to this? - So the King's Indian-- - And what is it? - Probably is my most played opening. And it's one where even when my coach who was a Grandmaster taught me, he's like so you know I've been playing the King's Indian for 10 years and I still don't understand it. And it's one of those openings that computers really don't like because you do or at least Stockfish doesn't like it. Maybe Alpha Zero would change their mind. I forgot to look at what-- - Can you show me by the way what it is? - Yeah. - Is it white's opening or black's opening? - Black responds to the D4 Queen's pawn push and you take your night out to F6 I'll just put in the stereotypical classical King's Indian more so to say. - We actually have a very famous King's Indian game in the notes that we prepared. - Okay, so for the-- - Yes, for the record I asked you guys for some games that you find pretty cool and maybe to get a chance to talk about something. - Yeah, so this is the King's Indian. As you can see, white has much more control over the center, white has three pawns in the center while black has none past the fifth rank. And you just have this pawn on D6. And one of the ideas in chess is if you're not taking the center then your plan revolves around trying to continually challenge it. But what is really fun about the King's Indian is that black sometimes gets these crazy King side attacks while white gets Queen side attacks. And even though it's a little bit suspicious for black and the computer could usually break it it's hard to defend as a human when you're being attacked. But if you don't pull off the attack as black then you're just gonna end up being lost in the end game. - So it's like a very asymmetrical position. - It's very asymmetrical, although a lot of people now stop playing into the classical King's Indian even though computers give it a big advantage. And they play these slower lines in the King's Indian which are less fun to play. - What's slower mean? They take a longer time to do something interesting with. - They basically don't let you get as much of a King side attack because they try opening up the center and then you have no weaknesses but you're just slowly improving the position of your pieces instead of being able to go for that King side attack. - So for people just listening there is a white pawns are all on the fourth row in a row together that feels like a bad position. - For black? - For white. - Oh you don't like taking the center? - No I like taking the center. I'm talking trash already. - Oh sorry. - They're just like they're like feel vulnerable they're in a row together. Like it's like a, like a, you know 'cause they're like who's gonna defend them? I guess the nice defend when the Queen defends it. - You're actually talking about a theme that you do see sometimes which is called hanging pawns and when you have two pawns right next to each other with no other pawns to defend them. - Yeah. - So it is a valid point and actually as black you're trying to break apart these pawns or get them to push and create some holes into the position but it's a trade off and that's a lot of what chess openings are about. You get more space but you'll also end up having to protect your pawns potentially or move them forward to the point where they're overextended. - And plus pawns being vulnerable is kind of fun. This is like there's more stuff in danger. They're not, 'cause if it's like this everything is like trapped, like you can't do anything. - Everything's blocked yeah. - And blocked off yeah. - But-- - You can't have fun. - Yeah. One of the most, one of the opening principles for white is get your pawns in the center. So I'd say like this is actually preferable for white. - Let's go over some opening principles. - There we go. - 'Cause this is a very good learning lesson. - Okay. - And then you can crash course. - And then you can crash beginners in the audience. Okay, so first thing you wanna do is control the center. There you go, E4, the more aggressive one. - Isn't that like the basic vanilla move? I didn't, somebody told me that's the most popular opening move in chess. - It is? - Why is that considered aggressive? - So it's E4 and D4 and the Kingspawn is known as being for more tactical players whereas D4 is known for more positional players. So that's why it's considered more aggressive. - Tactical. - More gambits with E4 I think. - So tactical means I'm gonna try to attack you. - Or you're gonna try to go for puzzles and rely more on your combination abilities. Whereas if it's something positional, you usually have like three to four moves that are all good in the position whereas tactics, you need to see this one line. So it's more precise. - So this one is cool 'cause he can like, you know, the Queen can come out, the Bishop can come out. - Yeah, and that's one of the most popular checkmates and usually what you teach new students to try to cheese their friends 'cause then they feel really excited that they know this new trap where you ring the Bishop and the Queen out and you try to checkmate on F7. - Yeah. - So the trap that Queen's gambit, Beth Harmon falls in their first game versus the janitor. She gets all mad 'cause she gets checkmated very, really. - Well that's the one she gets checkmated with. - Yeah. - Okay, I love how you guys were actually paying attention to the games carefully. Which is pretty cool that they did a good job of evolving her game throughout the show to actually represent an actual growth of a chess player. - Yeah, they really took every detail into consideration which was cool. - Okay, so what else? I brought stuff into the center. - I know we'll do the same, okay. So then you wanna develop your pieces. So in the beginning of the game, you wanna take out the bishops and knights first because you don't wanna start with the most valuable piece like the Queen. 'Cause then it'll become a vulnerability and it'll get attacked very early on. And the reason you're taking out these two pieces first is 'cause you wanna castle your king. So you can move a knight move or bishop move and that's considered developing. - Yeah. - So at this stage, not like even before getting a few pawns out. - You usually wanna start with getting a pawn because you wanna get space in the center but also when you push pawns, it helps free up some of your pieces. So usually start with one pawn first and then you could start taking out your minor pieces which is the bishop and the knight. - I have anxiety about a pawn just floating out there. A defenseless. - But it's not attacked yet. See those are what you call ghost threats. So you're scared of something that hasn't happened yet. So if I were to attack it. - I feel like there's a deeper thing going on here. - Yeah, actually let's say-- - Yeah, so you're attacking the pawn in the center here and it is vulnerable but as soon as you do that, I can develop my own knight and defend it as well. - Okay, and now for people just listening, there's two pawns that just came out to meet each other and a couple of knights. - You love the chest card too. - That's great. - Pawns met after the knight. - Yeah, yeah. We're gonna romanticize the game a bit. - Yes, exactly. - Okay, cool. If you bring out the bishops of the knights, you're matching that with the other. The black is going to match it. Whatever you're attacking with. - Yeah, P is developing. - It's gonna defend it. - I could develop your bishop or your knight whenever you'd like. - Oh no, now you give him options. - All right, yeah, there you go. - Now I am attacking the pawn in the center, which is what you were afraid about before but let's see how you defend it here. - By doing this symmetrical thing, bringing out the knight on the other side. - And actually your other move was good as well defending with a pawn because then you're freeing up space for your bishop. So you're basically trying to develop your pieces as quickly as possible. Put your pawns in the center and then get your king to safety and that's usually the basic opening tips that you get. - It is kind of counterintuitive that safety is in the corner of the board for a king. - True. - That was always confusing to me. But you know. - Three pawns in front though you typically don't push those. Maybe like one, maybe it'll go one square but these are will be like the wall of defense I keep them safe. - But another way to also think about it is your pieces usually wanna point towards the center. If you have a knight closer to the center then closer to the side, it actually has more squares it can go to. So a huge part of it is just wanting to have flexibility for where your pieces go. So more pieces are going to be able to make threats in the center or even open up the position. So since that's where it's most likely to open you want your king somewhere where the position will stay close so that you have the pawns to defend. - You know there's like rules like this but I always wonder because I built chess engines but then you start to wonder like why is it that positionally these things are good. Like you've built up an intuition about it but I wish and that's the thing that would be amazing if engines could explain why is this kind of thing better than this kind of thing. You start to build up an intuition but if I'm just like know nothing about chess it feels confusing that cornering your king like getting him like trapped here. Like it feels like you could get checkmated easier there. If I was just using like dumb intuition but it seems like that's not the case. - I imagine maybe because alpha zero learned by playing games against itself, right? And I imagine if you have a lot of games then you do build an intuition because if you were to keep your king in the center you'd just see that in those games you're dealing with threats a lot more often. But yeah, there's shortcut rules and this doesn't even mean it's the best way to play chess as we've seen with alpha zero kind of changing the rules of the game a little bit but as a human to learn it from scratch is a lot more difficult than to start with principles so that's why beginners usually learn chess this way. - Yeah but because you're playing other humans and the other humans have also operate down to different principles and that's why people that come up now that are training with engines are just going to be much better at than the people of the past because they're gonna try out weirder ideas that go against the principles of old. And they're gonna do like weird stuff including sacrifices and stuff like that. - Yeah and I also think that's why alpha zero was so shocking because stockfish was using an opening database so it was already based off of knowledge that humans have from playing chess for years that we just thought is how you're supposed to play whereas alpha zero just learned from playing the game so many times then came up with very novel opening ideas. - Were you impressed by alpha zero? Have you seen some of the games? - I have seen some of the games I think impressed bewildered and motivated were the three things I experienced. - Like I think Magnus said he was also impressed that it could easily be mistaken for creativity. That's his trash talk towards the AI. - That was a beautiful sentence. I was listening to the podcast. - I mean as a human I agree with him 'cause you don't wanna give the machine the power of creativity but if it looks creative give it a compliment. - That's fair. I know that you're being nice to the machines in case they are ever looking back through this. - What else is there? What other principles are there for the opening? - You can go a little bit more forward let's say. - I mean we can finish full development. - It's positions like this. I just say you developed all of your pieces. - So that's like a really nice, like nobody took any pieces and we're just in a nice positional thing. - Yeah, so it's not actually a very accurate one. - So I'm actually-- - I could put a different one on the board but usually after you've developed all of your pieces you wanna get your queen out a little bit to connect your rooks and you also start thinking about certain pawn pushes and getting more space but another good tip is just can you improve the position of your pieces? Think about timing so if you've already moved a piece once and there's a piece that hasn't moved at all then you wanna focus on the piece that hasn't moved at all to be able to have it more likely to jump into the game. - Right, so don't move pieces multiple times. - Exactly. - Like try to move it to the most optimal position. - Yeah. - Yeah, that makes sense. - So what's the Indian, I think we kind of went over it but why did you ever say why you like it so much? 'Cause it's weird 'cause it's king solid. - I liked it because it's a very fun, aggressive defense where you're just throwing your pieces towards white and there's so many sacrificing opportunities and for some reason tactical games always feel like the most beautiful, the most satisfying and that's what I liked about the king's Indian but I also suffered a lot from this love because I would play things that are not necessarily correct then my attack wouldn't pan out and I would just struggle the rest of the game having no play and just trying to defend. - So if you're always, Wikipedia also says that that you're known for your attacking play. - It's also known for losses according to Stanford. - Okay, let's not bring it. - See what Wikipedia doesn't talk trash. - Yeah, what Wikipedia is a lot nicer. I actually played a lot of positional chess in classic 'cause I really like the slow squeeze but when I transitioned to playing a lot of online chess it's almost as if I was looking for more instant gratification 'cause it feels so much better to beat someone with an attack and even if sometimes it doesn't pan out I was okay with it 'cause you get so many games in. So I think my style in online chess really changed from my classical chess. - What about you Andre? Do you have a style? Are you attacking? Are you more like conservative defensive player? - Are you chaotic? - Opening wise I like to play more positionally like I like to push D4 and just slowly improve my pieces and slowly get an attack but like Alex said if you're playing bullet chess or blitz against viewers you often like wanna play riskier moves that may not be as good and then that's kind of when I would play more aggressive but I do enjoy tournaments for that reason 'cause then like once her 15 moves in which as soon as you're out of your prep I like sitting and thinking in more positional. Yeah positional middle games.
King's Indian Defense (47:37)
- One of the games you found to be pretty cool is the Hakara Nakamura versus Galfan in 2009 and that one I think includes the Kings Indian defense. - Yes. - What's why is that an interesting one to you? - I also play the Kings Indian as black and I love this model game but as Alex was saying like all these advantages for the Kings Indian but now there's this one line that like every higher rated player just destroys my Kings Indian and you see these beautiful games and you're like, "Ah yes I wanna play for these ideas but now no one plays into it anymore and you just get demolished so this is why I don't play the Kings Indian anymore." But not through in the fun. - It's a love hate relationship. - Just the reality. - But that's like the higher level players do or does everybody. - Yeah if you're studying openings and you know this line as white you just automatically get the upper edge. - And that's kind of how openings develop. You start having players trying new lines and then you see ones and then everybody adopts it if they think it's the best one. But yeah so Hikaru is really known for his aggressive style of play. - It's Hikaru Black. - Yeah Hikaru is black here so he's playing the Kings Indian and as you can see in this position white already has a huge center advantage but what Hikaru is gonna start doing even with the next move is bringing all of his pieces towards the white king side because his plan is to start pushing his pawns towards the white king and ignore the attack that goes on the queen side. - This is like very example of the dream attack with the Kings Indian. - So there's a complete asymmetry towards the king side on the left side of the board is a ton of pieces. - Yeah exactly. - Wow he moved the night like three times in a row. - Yep and that's what you need to do 'cause you have to move the night in order to make space for your pawn. So again this is why it's so counterintuitive and stockfish doesn't like it. You're putting almost most of your pieces on the back rank and you're pushing your king side pawns and you're blocking your own dark squared bishop. So none of it makes sense. - You're mimicking it, that's awesome. - Okay so yeah here you see white going for queen side attack, black going for the king side attack and you can keep going a little bit and I'll wait to where he starts with the pretty sacrifices. - It's more fun to analyze games in person that on the computer I think. - Yeah. - Okay let's just. - There you go. - Okay so here Hikaru is preparing the attack and what I really like about this game is that he finds these tactics that are not necessarily what a computer would go for but it's very hard to face as a human and that's why a lot of people play the king's Indian 'cause in practice it's hard to defend again. So we can keep moving a little bit forward. Okay. Yep so white is just continuing the king side plan. - No is that like the first piece I think that's taken again? - Yep that's the first trade so. - He begins. - Exactly Hikaru had to pause his attack for a little bit to just make sure that white didn't have two dire threats on the queen side. - So cool to see the asymmetry of this thing. - Exactly that's what's beautiful about the king. - And just one thing to highlight 'cause his rook move here is very bizarre and typically like a computer probably didn't like this but the idea is very interesting 'cause this is a major weakness for black that they're coming to attack and he's also making room for his bishop to come backwards and challenge. So this is like a human like when you were like computers going like. - I think computers would like this though 'cause you'd have to move it regardless 'cause he takes the pawn here and his rook would be under attack. - Yeah well have you looked at it? When I actually studied this as a line and this right away isn't the best move cutting computers. - So actually that's just a good question. Did you guys when you study games use your mind but you also use computers to build up your intuition of like looking at a position like this and what would a computer do and then try to understand why it wants to do that? - When I was studying seriously I would try to use my own mind because you're never gonna get the exact same position so you really need to notice trends and often computers will give you moves that are only specific to that position because of a certain tactic. But I do use computers to check what I did and make sure I didn't make any obvious blunder that I might have missed. - What does a computer tell you? Just like what is the best move? Or does it give you any kind of explanation of why? - It doesn't tell you why but it gives you the different valuations of the position like black is down a half pawn here or something like that. But it hints you towards what the right move is and then it's on you to figure out why. And you could usually figure out why if not right away then just by going through a few moves and being like oh okay that makes sense. - I feel like a computer will take you down with some weird lines potentially. - Some kind. - Like why the hell am I sacrificing this? - Well we'll get to the pretty sacrifice soon. So we could just keep playing for-- - The odds are being pushed forward. - Yeah. - And Hikaru is kind of ignoring the queen side attack here. They basically both only reply to each other's plan when they have to. - This is where you convert all the podcast viewers to YouTube. - Yeah. - They have no idea what we're talking about right now. - There is a Zen like experience of just like listening and imagining. - Just imagine the pieces on the ceiling. - Yeah you should, we should be calling them out and then people will be freaking out even more. Am I supposed to keep track with the positions? - How hard is blindfold chest? Have you tried? Are you able to keep the blindfold chest before? - I've played blindfold chest before. For me it's pretty hard. It's not a muscle that I've trained as much and I'm very visual when it comes to chest. But it is one as a top player that starts becoming very second nature for you. - Actually this is what I talked to Magnus about this. Maybe I was getting influenced by Queen's Gamma. What do you actually visualize when it's in your head? So for Magnus it was a boring 2D board. - Right. - Do you have some kind of-- - That's every chest player now. - You don't have like, 'cause you know some chest like computer games, you can do all kinds of skins and like fancy stuff. You don't have any defense. - Sadly I don't have like a cool 3D warrior mode on. It's just the basic-- - All chest base board in my head. 'Cause you don't, yeah you can't use your brain power for adding colors to it 'cause you already have to keep track of the pieces. - As one board at a time? - Yes. - Okay. - The current position. - Yeah, every chest. I wonder if there's any who-- - There's certain players who are really good and they can even play blindfold chest and play multiple games at the same time. So I would be curious how they do it. But usually when you're thinking of one game that's the only one in your mind. - Yeah but you have to do this operation where you move one piece. You're doing like the branch analysis. Like-- - Yeah. - And so you still have to somehow visualize the branching process and not forget stuff. Maybe that's like constant memory recall or something. You're always looking at one board at a time but-- - And you're also, 'cause you're also looking in the future. - Yeah. - 'Cause then you have to backtrack-- - Calculating up your position-- - I guess you're keeping the position in your memory so you're remembering where all the pieces are and then you're playing it out on one board and then you can come back to the initial one that you started with that you kind of just keep in your brain and it's also easier to come back to it once you've played a position from it. - I feel like it's that memory recall that gets you to blunder. So I'll like see that I'm being attacked by certain things. But then because I get so exhausted thinking about a different thing, I actually forget about an entire branch of things that I was supposed to be worried about. - It happens very often. Yeah, if you spend a bunch of time calculating in a position, let's say, like when you're really in trouble and you're spending 15, 20 minutes calculating, you'll forget about something that you spotted, like, oh, if I do these two, three moves, I'll walk into a trap 'cause you've looked at so many lines and then you play it and then you see it and you're like, oh, I looked at it and I saw it but I forgot about it. - It's often called tunneling where you're just looking so deeply on one thing you forget about the rest of the board. - And it's the worst when, at least in a beginner level, there's like a, I don't know, Bishop just sitting there, obviously attacking your, like, queen or something. And then you just forget that Bishop exists. 'Cause if they just sit there for a few moves and don't move, you just forget their existence and then it's just, yeah, that's definitely very embarrassing. - Well, it happens to everyone, so. - Yes. Okay, cool. Okay, so we see a few trades happening on the queen side where he had to go for those, otherwise he's in trouble. And this is where the game, oh, sorry. - This is where it gets exciting. - Yeah, so, so night H4 is really when the sacrifice starts and here the two important pawns are the ones in front of the king 'cause they're helping with the entire defense and Hikaru is actually preparing to sacrifice his night for a pawn just so that he can continue his attack and open up the position. Because if you don't do that here as black and don't get some kind of attack, you are completely lost on the queen side. And also, you've pushed all of your own king side pawns, so you're gonna be in danger. So it's one of those do or die moments. - Oh, okay, so that's what makes it all in 'cause the king is wide open. - Yeah, yeah. The king is wide open and all of white's pieces are pointed towards the queen side too where you're also cramped. - So it's the attack primarily by black done by the two pawns and the knight. - And the light squared bishop is always extremely important. So you don't wanna trade this in the king's Indian because it's very helpful for a lot of attacks. - Even though it's on the other side of the board, I guess it can go all the way across in, like I'm not sure what it's doing here but probably threatening some of that. - Like for example, if it was another move black could have played would be something like Bishop H3 where if you take the bishop, you actually get made it on G2. - With what? - So let's say you take here and then you could push the pawn and then it would be checkmate. So you're kinda using your bishop to sacrifice against white's king side pawns. - Yeah, I'll be freaking out if the bishop did that. What are they up to? - Right, and that's the thing. This position looks very scary as white because all of black's pawns are starting to come towards you. And it's one of those things where humans do start to worry in these positions, whereas computers obviously can just calculate the best line and maybe the attack doesn't go through. - So you're saying the computer might say that the white is actually a slight favorite here. - Yeah, essentially. - Okay, so then white makes a little bit of room by moving the rook and the attack begins. - I like the commentary here. - I like the commentary. - The knight is hugging the king. - And actually white can't even take the king here because then H4 and H3 is coming in. - I can't take the knight. - Yeah, oh, did I say king? Yes, thank you the knight. Why can't take the knight because why? - So if white takes the knight here, then black starts pushing his pawn to H4 with H3 incoming. And the idea of trying to defend against this is, it looks very difficult, so white just chooses. - It'd be cool to watch chess game, to experience watching it without understanding it just for a day. I feel like I could use that to make better content. - True. Okay, yeah. - I mean, that's what getting drunk does it. He just starts being-- - Originally for chess players, it never leaves you. - Yeah, it still doesn't matter how-- - But this is actually a very cute move because black's queen is under attack, but the king is so cramped that he can't actually take it or he's gonna get checkmated by a pawn, which is a sad way to go freely. - Yeah, those pawns are doing a lot of work here. - That is the king's Indian. - This is the king's Indian player's dream. - The attack of the king side pawns. - Yeah, these pawns are like, right, so they're the ones that are doing a lot of the threatening. - Right, and they're also opening up the position to bring more of the pieces in, but the pawns kind of help break open the king side, but they can't checkmate by themselves. So after the pawns come in, that's when you need to start bringing in pieces as well, which you will see he carved you here. Okay. - There you go. He puts-- - One more sacrifice. - Yes, so this was actually another beautiful sacrifice in the game. - But then puts the king in check with a pawn. - Right, and the pawn is going to be given here for free, but the idea is you're giving your own piece because you want to have more space and open up the king, which is what you're always trying to do when you have a king's side. You're trying to remove as many of the king's defenders as you can without giving up too much of-- - And then you have a ton of pieces on the king's side for black just waiting to-- - Exactly. - To do harm. And then-- - And notice how every single move white is getting attacked. Like they're just never getting a break, black just keeps throwing all their pieces. It's funny that black's queen has been hanging for like three moves now and white still can't do anything about it. - Yeah, so Rook puts the king in check. - Yep. - The king runs. - And then again, we leave the queen hanging and you develop a piece, the slight squared bishop that's so important and you're once again threatening checkmate on G2. - And then bishops coming to the game. - Yeah, once again, the queen hanging. - And I mean the game is just so beautiful. - The amount of calculation Hikaru put into this position. - Just feels like so much is in danger. - Right. - It's so interesting. And Knight takes what? Our pawns. - So now his queen is attacked twice and he doesn't care. He takes the bishop and he's still threatening the checkmate on G2. - And then the queen takes the bishop. - Yep. So now he's defending against G2 and Black just goes and grabs the material back here. - So here Black is already is winning. - Well, he ends up winning a Knight here because Black had to be so much on the defensive. - He's just taking pieces. - Yeah, I mean at this point you're up two whole pieces so you knew what to do. - Yeah, exactly. - But. - And queen. - Queen. And then you take, and then the rook takes and there's not as much of an attack on the king anymore but Hikaru is up a Knight here which is GG. - Yeah, what's the correct way of saying that? 'Cause I played Demis Asabas, I played him in chess and then I quickly realized like from his facial expressions that I should have like stopped playing. - Oh. - It was like, it's already set. - Yeah, and it's. And then he's like, this is the good time to give up. - Right. - You're not gonna get to checkmate where, he could see like the checkmate is like five or seven moves away or something. And what's the play? - Usually you have to resign if you're in a position or you should through chess etiquette, resign when you're in a position where your opponent is definitely gonna win out of respect. Like if you're a piece down and obviously all top grandmasters do that, the only people who don't do that is kids 'cause they're coaches. - They love to play till the checkmate. - Their coaches always tell them never resign and they'll be in hopelessly lost positions playing against like two rooks, a king and they only have their soul king but they're still playing on. So that's a position where it's obvious they can't win. - 'Cause the kids might make errors. - Yeah. - And so it might might as well. That was an interesting thing about, I think game six of the previous world championship with Magnus. - Was it the one where he beat Neb? - Yeah, the first time he beat him where it was like, he said that, I don't know how often you come across this kind of situation. He said the engines predict a draw but that doesn't mean that it's going to be a draw. So you play on hoping that you take a person into, I mean, this is, I guess an end game thing. You take them to deep water and they make a positional mistake or something. I don't know when, like he from his gut knows that this is supposed to be a draw but he still plays on. - Yeah, I mean, that is one where it could theoretically be a draw but it could be very hard to defend 'cause it's a hard technique to know as a human. And especially in that game, I know that Nepo was also in time pressure which makes it even harder. So in situations like that, you should always continue. It's more where an engine would give you something like plus 10 or something where it's not just clearly a win but anybody would know how to win and that's where you're usually supposed to resign. - So what do you find beautiful about this game? Is it the attacking chess and just the asymmetry of it? - It's the asymmetry and it's the fact that this is the dream for the King's Indian where you're able to get a beautiful attack and there was also those two really nice sacrifices where Black just continuously kept putting pressure on White's King to the point where he was able to win material and the best part of it is that if the attack didn't work out, Black would have been completely lost. - How often does that happen by the way? As an attacking player, you like how often do you put yourself in the position of like I'm screwed unless this works out? - In online chess, more than I should and it's usually when I sacrifice, I know it's either gonna work or I'm lost. And those are the most fun positions to play usually. - What in tournaments if you're doing a sacrifice, you're playing it with 100% confidence 'cause you're taking the time to calculate it. But yeah, when you have three minutes, you don't have time so you take a win and you follow your intuition. - Or you find out later. - Or you're very confident it'll work and you haven't calculated all the way until the end but you've calculated to the point where you have enough in exchange for the stack and you think you could play that position. - How do you train chess these days?
Chess training (01:05:37)
What's a do practice, do do deliberate practice? I mean, you're in this tough position because you're also a creator, an educator, an entertainer. So do you try to put in time of like daily practice? - I don't train chess anymore when I'm focusing on creating. I do if I'm preparing for a tournament but back in the day, I would train very tournament very seriously for tournaments and the way it would work is I do opening preparation for a specific tournament because that's when you really need to have those lines memorized and you could also prepare for specific opponents and I would do tactics to make sure I stay sharp. So those are the two things I would do every single day for a tournament and then mix up the rest with like maybe some end games, maybe some positional chess. - So what does tactics preparation looks like? Do you do like a puzzle, like a random puzzle thing? - Yeah, I would just train puzzles for at least like 30 to 60 minutes or books. And sometimes you were, and there's different kinds of puzzles. One, you could train for pattern recognition where you're supposed to go through them very quickly. And that's just so that when you're playing the game, if your mind is tired, it's still keeping track of things a little bit more easily. And then there's where you're practicing your combination and those sometimes take like 20 minutes to find 'cause you have to just calculate a lot and it's more like making sure that you trained with that muscle. But Andrea's actually very good at finding ways to balance and still study while also doing content. - Yeah, so what, you're able to do both? - That's the hard thing. I was getting very irritated with content because I'm very competitive. I don't like playing chess if I'm losing and if you're talking and entertaining, you're gonna be losing more games than winning. So then I started doing more training streams where I'd bring on my coach. And one of the things that I wanted to add to Alex's training repertoire, so I do, I would do daily puzzles every time I'm streaming, which helped me a lot. Even if it's like, there's this thing on chess.com called Puzzle Rush where you have three minutes and you just do puzzle after puzzle where they get incrementally harder. And it's just a really good way to build your pattern recognition, especially when you're rusty. So I would do that 'til I hit a high score and I wouldn't play any blitz until I hit the score that I want. But that's kind of more like the fun part of chess studying. The very important one is actually analyzing your losses and your tournament games. And first you sit and you look through your mistake yourself and try to see if you can find the better moves. And then that's when you knew you would check over with the computer to see if you're right. So game analysis is also very important, which I try to do. - I remember to give a shout out. I listened to a couple of episodes of the Perpetual Chess Podcast, which is pretty good. But whatever I listened to, I remember the, it's, I think they really focus on like teaching people. - How to train? - Yeah, how to play, how to train, all that kind of stuff. They do like, yeah, I'm looking now, adult improver. So basically, like how do regular newbs get better at chess? - Yeah. - One of the things, one of the person that said, I think he was a grandmaster, but he said, to maximize the amount of time you spend every day of like, basically as you were saying, like suffering. So like, you, it's not about the, like you should be thinking. You should be doing calculating. So it's the opposite of what Magnus said. Like you should be doing a lot of time. It doesn't matter if the puzzle is or whatever the hell you're doing, but you should be like doing that difficult calculation. That's how you get better. - Yeah, it really depends what you're training. Cause I used to think the same, but it depends what you're weaker at. Cause if you're doing the really difficult puzzles, you're training for like visualization and calculating more moves ahead than you typically would, which maybe you wouldn't get into that as often in a regular game, because typically you run into like three to four tactics, which are actually the easier and more fun ones to solve. So really depends. - And on top of that, as a hobbyist, your motivation is very different than when you're playing from a young age and have pretty high competitive ambition. And a lot of people who are new to chess, you could basically work on anything and still improve. So if you're focusing on something you like, you're probably gonna stick to it more and be more consistent, which I think is more helpful long term. - What was the most embarrassing loss of your career?
- I had so many flashbacks, but I'm so glad it's a question for Andrea. - I like that you specified. You know, it's funny. Cause I mean, because you said you're so competitive and like, I could tell just even from the way you said it, that like you hate losing. - Yeah, I mean, that was the reason I hated chess in high school, cause it always be like, but okay, there's many traumatizing losses where it's like your top three, you're running for first and then you throw a game, you shouldn't, but, and this shouldn't hurt my ego as much as it does, but it's always kids. Or when I was a high school girl, it's the younger boys who are really cocky. And when they win, they start rubbing it in your face and they're yawning and looking around when like 90% of the game, you were destroying them and you had this one tiny mistake and now their ego is huge. But I'll never forget, I was playing like for a chess scholarship and I was, it was tiebreaker for first and I think I lost to a 12 year old girl who couldn't even use the scholarship, but she beat me in one first place and she got some other prize. So yeah, I was losing to that little girl who's literally like 2300 now, so, makes sense. - All right, you keep telling yourself that. What do you think, cause, what do you, do you think a spa was feeling that when you was playing a 13 year old Magnus? Like, why? - As much as it's a beauty of the sport, that any age can be brilliant, any demographic, anything, I feel like when you're adults and you're paired against a kid, it's just hard not to let it get to, and it depends, maybe you've got a really sweet kid, but most of the times I play kids, they're just really arrogant and I don't think they do it intentionally cause they're kids. - I mean, there is a certain etiquette thing where like you said, yawning and in general, like it's not-- - That's your kids, there's no etiquette. - Yeah, yeah. - You don't care. - Yeah, the kids traumatized me too, I was playing in Vegas, and it was not even my opponent, it was the board next to me, and the kid was at least 10 years old, made 12 max and he was playing against an adult, and he takes out his hand and he starts doing a fake phone to which the kid sitting across diagonally picks up their banana and starts talking like it's a phone and they're just mouthing words why they're two adult opponents are thinking intensely at the game. And then I see the adult look up, look at the kid just making banana phone and the discerning his eyes as he sighs. - Yeah, and they're not even doing for trash talk. - No, no, no, they're just bored. - They're just bored kids. - Yes, exactly. - Well, what was the, cause you play a bunch of people for your channel, what was the most memorable, what's the most fun, most intense, there's a bunch of fun ones, you play kids before some trash talking kids. - That sounds great. - They trash talk kids. - Yeah. - Nothing like a losing such 12 year old who then starts doing a Fortnite dance. - Yeah, so that actually happened? - That did happen. He is a very young master, I think he became master when he was like nine years old or something and he's very good at chess and doing a lot of training, but he's also incredibly good at trash talking and he beat me one game and he stood up and he started doing the Fortnite dance. So you gotta just swallow your pride in those moments.
Street chess and trash talk (01:13:22)
- What is that culture of street chess players? It seems pretty interesting. Like, I don't know, that seems to be celebrating the beauty of the game. It's the trash talking but also having fun with it but also taking it seriously and you've done a few of those, could you go to New York? - Yeah and Union Square Park, Washington Square. - What was that like? - It's such a unique place. I haven't seen it anywhere else in the US where people are just professional chess hustlers even if they're not necessarily a top player but they play chess every single day and so many of them learn chess by themselves and never had a professional coach. So they are quite good at it. They're also very tight knit. They all know each other and it's a very social thing where you're not just playing chess, it's the experience of getting to know this person who's very much a personality and they talk to you. They could either give you tips or they could be really chatty and talk to you during. So it's a chess experience rather than just playing a game. - Do you tell them what your rating is or do you just let people, like both ways do you discover how good the person actually is? - Initially I loved going and not telling people my rating and just surprising them and winning games but now we've gone so many times that they just know us so we can't get away with it anymore. - One time, actually I don't know if I should share this but one time we dressed up as grandmothers and we had prosthetics on our face and I think they still recognize this. - Yeah, it's probably the other components, like probably the trash talk and all that kind of stuff. - Actually, no, it was funny. We were talking like grandmothers but it was the way I helped. - It was the way I helped. - Grandmother talk like back in my day. - You don't want to do that. - No, good, no, no, no, no. - We're not bringing this back. - We're not bringing this back. Okay, what were your names? What were the code names? - Oh my God. - I think it was Edna. - Edna and I had a really, I can't remember the other one. - But it was embarrassing because we were walking so slowly and Andrea dropped her cane or something at one point then people in the park, they were to help her and we felt so embarrassed. - Like my bonbons. - But yeah, it was funny 'cause they didn't know who was us until he saw the way I reached for my pond and he said the way you held your pond, I knew it was you. It was like such a sneeze thing. That was what blew the grandma cover. - Yeah, do you have a style of how you play physically? Is that okay, Nessa? - I didn't think we did until grandma went to play chess, but yeah, I've never thought about that. I think our style is just trash talking now. It's, if you're talking about style on YouTube and Twitch, we definitely have a distinctive style. - What's that? What's your distinctive? Just talking shit? - Yes, but not going too far. - No, no, definitely. That's definitely going to, if it's us two against each other. - Oh, we trash talk each other so hard. - So brilliant. - And I love looking at Andrea and watching her little nose crunch up that she's annoyed and the satisfaction I get when that happens. - How many times do you play against each other online, publicly? I think I've seen a couple of games. - We played a lot of times. We try not to do it too often 'cause it's repetitive, but every now and then when we haven't done it for a while, we'll go at it again. - What do you mean we're repetitive? - Is that implied trash talk right there? - No, we play similar openings, so we just start seeing the same position too often. - We get into each other every time. - Andrea's really good at opening, so I just start playing bad openings to get her out of her preparation 'cause I don't like opening theory very much. I just like playing the game and getting into middle games and end games. - But yeah, typically the only time we're playing each other is when we're setting up in the park and we don't have opponents yet and we need content, so we just play each other until people show up. - But we always put stakes on the line, which makes it very interesting. 'Cause otherwise it wouldn't be fun to play each other if there's no stakes. - Where's the most fun place you've played in New York? - I think so, and it was actually when we set up in Times Square one night, we just brought a table with us and chess and it's not even where people usually play chess, but it was so lively, there were all of the lights out and so many people just kept stopping by to play chess and it was really one of my favorite streams. Just the opposite of the classical chess world. It's super loud, there's music, there's cars, there's street dancers, even some naked people walking around who we had to be careful not to get banned. But I honestly really like the chaotic environments for chess games 'cause I think it's a good way to break more into the mainstream culture and make it entertaining and appealing to anyone who doesn't know anything about chess. So that's what I-- - And also in an authentic way because it's what we really like about chess when you're just enjoying the game but also the atmosphere and the people who you're playing with and that's one of the things that I think you see less when you're just thinking of chess as a competitive thing. - You've mentioned a few other games, like the Bobby Fischer games, the candidates match, the game of the century, which I feel like is a weird game to call the game of the century and when there's still a few decades left in the century.
Passion and study (01:18:11)
But yeah. - I mean it wasn't an official thing, it was just a chess journalist. - It's just like being on a chess article. - But it's stuck if you look at-- - Yeah, no, it did stick. - Again, it did stick. - This is all I do research-wise. Because there's, so that particular one was a 13 year old Fischer and he did a queen sacrifice. I wonder if there's that movie searching for Bobby Fischer. Was that related? 'Cause didn't have a young somebody who's supposed to be kind of like Bobby Fischer played by Josh Waidskin? - Yeah, I think he ended up being an international master. It wasn't based on Bobby Fischer, it was based on another player, but I liked how they told it through the lens of being inspired by Bobby Fischer. - Do you remember that game of the, why do you think it was dubbed the game of the century? It was just journalists being like-- - I think part of it was the atmosphere where you have the US junior champion who's this 13 year old nobody and it's the first time he's playing in a very competitive landscape against some of the top American players and he goes up against an international master. So somebody who's a lot stronger than he is, who's played in, you know, Olympia ads for the American team. He's having a bad tournament, but then he has this one game where he just shows off his tactical prowess and plays incredibly well. And I don't know if this is true, but in the paper clippings of it, they'd say things like grandmasters were by the board and they would say things like, "Oh, Bobby is lost in this position. What is he doing?" But there's this 13 year old kid who's just playing incredibly well. And then that also happened before Bobby's started really rapidly improving at chess. Not that people knew that, but he kind of seemed like a rising star. So I think the game was beautiful, but I also think the idea of a 13 year old kid coming out from nowhere and beating a top American player was very fascinating. - And there was aggressive chess and it was in the interesting ideas. - Yep. - Yeah, taking big risks. It's cool to see a 13 year old do that. - Yeah. - What about the, you mentioned that his match against Mark Taimano from their 71 candidates match was interesting in some way. Why is it interesting to you? Move 45. I'm looking at some notes. - This is with the Bishop E3. I think I know which one you're talking about. It's, I wouldn't say a lot of these games on these lists, I think are really great combinations that when tactics come into play, which is what we're talking about, but they're very good at exemplifying lessons. This is why you study famous games. So you can apply these lessons to your own games. And I think the main takeaway for this one was they're punishing their opponent from steering away from opening principles, which is something that we learned a little earlier, where he delayed the development of his king and put his queen out a little bit too exposed. So Bobby Fisher immediately punished that and then there was just like a beautiful combination where it was like a 12 in a row perfect moves, which was a tactic, just winning the game. But it only came from punishing those mistakes. - The mistake being bringing the queen out. - Bringing the queen out and yeah, not castling your king right away. And these were just like opening principles that now they're written in books, but for books you would study these principles by studying games. - And also I'm looking at some notes, his dominance during the candidate's turn was unprecedented. He swept two top grandmasters. I mean, that guy's meteoric rise is incredible. Sad that I think at whatever, in his 20s, he then quit chess. One has to wonder where he could have gone. - Yeah, it is sad that we lost such a brilliant mind so early on. And it's also sad, I think, kind of what ended up happening in his life and the slowly going crazier. - Is there some aspect of chess that opens the door to crazy? Like how challenging it is on you, the stress, the anxiety of it, the-- - Isolation and being alone. - Yeah, this is a very lonely sport. - It is, even do you guys, since you both play it, it's still lonely, the experience of it? - It was when I was competing a lot. I think the crazy part of it for me was how obsessed you can get about a board game, where you're optimizing your entire life to beat another person, that pushing wooden pieces across a board and it doesn't necessarily translate to other things. And the fact that so many people spend so much of their life on it, but you can also spend so much of your life because it's so deep and so interesting. And I mean, I've definitely experienced moments where I didn't want to do anything but chess. And I had that before I went to college, where I just wanted to take a gap year and focus on chess, because I still, I went to high school, we moved a lot, there was always other things going on, so I felt like I could never really focus on chess. And the one time I could, by taking a gap year, I ended up not doing, because my parents really wanted me to go to university right away. But I think maybe if I had taken that gap year, I don't know if I would have gone back to school, so maybe it wasn't a bad thing. - I also say that's pretty universal. I think if you wanna be the best at anything you do or any sport, you have to be that level of obsess. So I don't know if that's only chess. - Well, some things, some obsessions are more transferable to a balanced social life, like healthy development. - Yeah, chess is a lot less social than most other sports. - Yeah, there's something deeply isolating about this game. I mean, the great chess players I've met, I mean, it's like, it's really competitive too. And there's something that you're almost nonstop paranoid about blundering at every level. And that develops a person who is really anxious about losing versus someone who deeply enjoys perfection or winning and so on. It's just this kind of some paranoia about losing. Maybe I'm like misinterpreting it, but that creates huge amount of stress over like thousands of games, especially in a young person. And that blundering is such a painful experience because you could be playing a game that you've played for five, six hours and you have one lapse in focus and you blunder and you throw the entire game away. And sometimes not just the entire game but the entire tournament. Now you can't place or do anything anymore. So you just feel those mistakes so strongly. - Yeah, there's no one to blame but yourself. - You guys hard on yourself. Have you been about losing? - And before you became super famous for streaming where you could be like, well fuck this at least. I can know. - So I was really hard on myself and I went to play a tournament in Canada to try to qualify for the Olympiad team. And I was like, well, I'm an adult now. I'm not gonna feel emotional if I lose. And then I got there on the first day. I think I was ranked like fourth in Canada for females. And I-- - How long ago was this? - This was like, or earlier in the year actually. And I go and I lose to somebody lower rated on the first day. And I think it was because I had blundered and I went back to my room and I was like, I am not an adult. I'm not eating. I'm not leaving this room. I feel terrible and I know I shouldn't but it just cuts so deep. And then I actually ended up qualifying for the Olympiad team but I didn't wanna play 'cause I didn't have enough time to train and the losses are so painful that I was like, it's not worth it. - Yeah, it's in high school and growing up. I just remember weekends. And I think being competitive in any sport again, probably people relate to this. Like spending weekends crying and even like Alex said, like punishing yourself 'cause you're disappointed in yourself 'cause you fight so hard and you prepare and you study and you're like, oh, yeah. That's once again on the right side though, when you're studying so hard and after like a four hour game and you actually are on the opposite end and you win, you feel like such a huge rush of dopamine and serotonin and you're like on a high from the win. So there's also plus sides or you can turn this around. But yeah, like Alex said, like losing after preparing for something and fighting on hours and hours is the worst feeling in the world. - Did you ever get anything like that with martial arts? - Yeah, so wrestling, I wrestled all through high school and middle school, definitely said it's an individual sport. I did a lot of individual sport tennis, those kinds of things. But I think even with wrestling and tennis, you're still on a team. You can still like, there's still a camaraderie there. I feel like with chess, especially go on your own with the tournaments, like you really are alone. But I mean, I always personally just had a like a very self-critical mind in general, I would not. This is one of the reasons I decided not to play chess because I think when I was really young, I met somebody who was able to play blindfold chess. They were teaching me, they were laying in there on the couch, trashed, drinking and smoking. - Sounds like a Russian. - Yeah, exactly. There are now a faculty somewhere in the United States, I forget where, but he, making jokes, talking to others and he would move the pieces, like he would yell across the room. And I remember thinking that if a person was able to do that, then that kind of world you can live in inside your mind that becomes a chessboard. To me, that meant like the chessboard is not just out here. It could be in here and you could do these, you can create these beautiful patterns in your mind. I felt like I had such a strong pull towards that or where I had to decide, either I'm gonna dedicate everything to this or not. You can't do half-assed. And that's when I decided to walk away from it because I had so much other beautiful things in my life. I loved mathematics, I loved, just everything was beautiful to me. I thought chess would pull me all in. And there was nothing like it, I think, in my whole life since then. I think it's such a dangerous addiction. It's such a beautiful addiction, but it's a dangerous one, depending on what your mind is like. - It reminds me of something I thought of before I stopped competing as much. And I'd look at people and think, imagine being so intelligent that you could become a grandmaster and yet only spending the rest of your life being a grandmaster. 'Cause it's one of those things where it does require a lot of mental power, but by doing chess, you're not gonna be able to explore other subjects deeply. - Yeah. - And not in a way that is bad necessarily more in admiration and wondering what else could have been because I've just seen people get to these levels of obsession where it's all they wanna do and they're grandmasters, but they're not even top players. So they're never gonna make a living out of it. They'll make like maybe 30, 40k your max. They can't even focus on their competitive chess 'cause they have to supplement it by teaching and doing things they don't like. And it's just because of how strong of an obsession it can be because it truly is very intellectually rewarding. And I think that's what people are addicted to in the self-improvement, but you can get that from a lot of other things as well. - Well, I think for me, what I was inspired by that stuck with me is that a human being could be so good at one thing. But to me, that person on the college drinking so on, I assumed he was the best chess player in the world. Like to be able to play inside your head. It just felt like a feat that's incredible. And so I fell in love with the idea that I hope to be something like that in my life at something. It would be pretty cool to be really good at one thing. And like life in some sense is a search for the things that you could be that good at. I didn't even think about like how much money does it make or any of that is can I fall in love with something and make it a life pursuit where I can be damn good at it. And the being damn good at it is the source of enjoyment. Not to win because you wanna win a tournament or win because you just wanna be better as somebody else, no, it's for the beauty of the game itself or the beauty of the activity itself. And then you realize that that's one of the compelling things about chess, it is a game with rules and you can win. If you wanna be really damn good in some aspect of life like that, it's harder and we're in a way to pursue. - Don't you feel like you kind of did that with computer science or AI related things like getting that level of damn good? - That's one of the cool things about AI and robotics or intellectual pursuits or scientific pursuits is you can spend until you're AD doing it. So I'm in the early days of that. One of the reasons I came to Texas, one of the reasons I didn't wanna pursue an academic career at MIT is I wanna build a company. And so that I'm in the early days of that AI company. And so it's an open world to see if I'm actually going to be good at it. But the thing that's there that I've been cognizant of my whole life is that I have a passion for it. Something within me draws me to that thing and you have to listen to that voice. So with chess, you're fucked unless you like early on are really training really hard. I think life is more forgiving. You can be world class at a thing after making a lot of mistakes. And after spending the first few decades of your life doing something completely different. And chess, it's like an Olympic sport. There's no perfection in the requirement as a necessity. What do you think is that pursuit for you? Like why did you decide to stream? What drew you? I like these questions now really getting deep. Yeah, this is like a therapy session. I mean, what, isn't it terrifying to be in front of a camera? Well, it's terrifying to be in front of five cameras. Correction, six. Six, okay. It's more terrifying for me to try to remember if I actually turn them all. Like I mentioned to you off mic, I'm still suffering from a bit of PTSD after screwing up a recording of Magnus. I had to console me because that was the thing is I felt, okay, you wanna build robots. If you can't get a camera to even run correctly, how are you gonna do anything else in life? Oh no, it got so good. Like how so good you're so good. It was spiraling hard. And I was just laying there and just feeling sorry for myself. But I think that feeling, by the way, and the small tangent is really useful. Like I feel like a lot of growing happens when you feel shitty as long as you can get out of it. Like don't let it spiral indefinitely, but just feeling really, really shitty about everything in my life. Like I was having an existential crisis. Like how will I be able to do anything at all? Like this is your giant failure, all those kinds of negative voices. But I think I made some good decisions in the week after that. Hopefully, okay. You couldn't have made those decisions if you were less hard on yourself. - Me personally, no, I'm too lazy. - Okay, so you really need to be angry at yourself enough to go and do what you're doing. - Yeah, it's not even angry, it's just upset of being self-critical. Like also for me personally, because I don't have perclivities for depression. I have a lot more room to feel extremely shitty about myself. So if you're somebody that can get stuck in that place, like clinically depressed, you have to be really, really careful. You have to notice the triggers, you don't want to get into that place. But for me, just looking empirically, feeling shitty has always been productive. Like it makes me long-term happier. Ultimately, it makes me more grateful to be alive, it helps me grow, all those kinds of things. So I kind of embrace it. Otherwise, I feel like I will never do anything. I have to feel shitty, but that's not a thing I prescribe to others. There's a famous professor at MIT, his name is Marvin Minsky. And when he was giving advice about the students, he said, "The secret to my success was that "I always hated everything I did in the past." So always sort of being self-critical about everything you've accomplished. Never really take a moment of gratitude. And I think for a lot of people that hear that, that's not good. You should take a pause and be grateful, but it really worked for him. So it's a choice you have to make. - It reminds me of the quote, "Be happy, "but never satisfied." Where you can have a positive spin and still want to improve yourself. - But yeah, like when did you decide to take a step in the spotlight, that terrifying spotlight of the internet? - It was actually my senior year of college, and I was really busy with work and school.
Loneliness and depression (01:36:03)
And chess was kind of like this lost love. And the interesting thing is that the longer I don't play chess, the more I kind of miss playing it casually and enjoy it more, 'cause then I start looking at it with fresh eyes. But I didn't have time to play tournaments. So I started streaming online because it was more social than just playing strangers on the internet without knowing anything about who they are. And I started slowly growing a community and got in touch with chess.com pretty quickly too. So then it was this hobby that I would do once a week, every Thursday at 8 p.m. And it was one of the things that brought me a lot of joy. And actually, speaking of depression did struggle for at least 10 years of my life. And it was one of those things where chess and streaming was such a distraction and it brought me such great joy that I just kept doing it 'cause I really, really liked it. And then I was working on something that didn't pan out and decided to go and take a risk and just stream full time, which seemed a little bit weird at the moment. - Was that terrifying, that leap? - It was terrifying, but I had taken so many terrifying leaps in the past and the last two hadn't worked out but I was like, well, I'll get it eventually. So somehow having failed before and going through failure and knowing that'll be okay, made me more likely to just try something that was a very, very weird job. - Bye camera. - I saw it die. - Yeah, the camera that we don't need it. But one of the cameras-- - Luckily, we have another five. - Yeah, I know. - This is where this triggers the spiral. Like, this is gonna go, you know? - It's still somehow awake. Is there advice you can give about the dark places you've gone in your mind, the depression you suffered from how to get out from your own story? - Whenever I go to those really dark places, the scariest thing is that it feels like I will never get rid of this feeling and it is very overwhelming. And I just have to kind of look back over time spans and remember that every single time I have got through it and remind myself that it is just temporary and that has been the most helpful thing for me 'cause I just try to combat the scariest thing about it. - And then believe how faith that it's gonna, like this will go away. - And take action, obviously, to make sure it goes away. And I've also tried to spin it as depression is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with but also one of the biggest motivators because if I just am left with my own brain, I get very depressed, then I really like working or focusing on things. So it actually pushed me to try to focus on school, try to focus on chess, focus on whatever I'm doing. And also if I'm feeling really bad, then there's probably something a little bit off and I use it as a signal and try to think of it as, okay, this is just a sign that there's things that could be improved for long-term. - What about you, Andrea? Have you gone to dark places in your mind? - I'd say my family, like I see Alex going through this, my mom also has very serious depression. Luckily, I got the genes where I don't go through that serious level of depression that they do. I'd say mine is much more temporarily. - So it's more similar to what I was feeling when I was feeling shitty about it. - Exactly, you go to the period, yes, exactly. But I know that it's not something that's clinical and that's just a genetic thing or a mental thing whereas I know it's more serious for my family members. And I did really a lot with you where you're saying where that really pushes you and I felt that a lot through content where you're just kind of feel hopeless and kind of like an existential crisis where I don't like the content I'm doing and that's what pushes me to like, okay, you have no choice but to try something that now you're gonna be passionate about 'cause otherwise you're gonna be stuck in this never ending cycle. So it does, it's short term and then it helps me come up with the things that I enjoy the most content-wise and it also long-term taught me just how to have a more balanced life, like doing small things that make me happy on a daily basis, like working out, to eating healthier, which I noticed when I don't do for weeks, I just get a lot more depressed. - What has playing chess taught you about life? Has it made you better at life in any kind of way? Or has it made you worse? You know, a lot of people kind of romanticize the idea that chess is kind of like life or life is kind of like chess and becoming better at making decisions on the chess board is gonna make you better at making decisions in life. Is there some truth to that? - I always shy away from these comparisons with chess and life 'cause yeah, it has both positives and negatives. So one thing it really helps develop from an early age is having an analytical mind, but then you could also get paralysis of analysis where you've just thought of everything to death and you're moving too slowly when you just have to keep going forward 'cause there's not a great path ahead. So it's more like exercising your brain and staying sharp and then also applying that to other things whereas if instead of playing chess, you're watching TV or something like that, you'd probably end up being less sharp. - Yeah, I used to, in a high school, I'd always preach like, ah, chess transfers to life skills at colleges. - I would teach. - I taught chess for juvenile department for a special education school, I'd cite studies and prisons where like, oh, playing chess helped them with X. And for your kids, it helps with teamwork and thinking over life choices. And now that I'm older, I don't believe in any of that BS. But I do think that the process of working really hard at something which takes really long to see results and you have to be really dedicated. And like I remember in high school and in middle school, well, all my friends, they were having fun on the weekends and I have to be there studying to ours at chess a day and knowing one day I'll pay off, but for like two, three years, nothing paid off. Kind of learning that type of patience with anything. It's like, you know, like getting a real job, I can't say I ever really worked a real job in my life since I went straight into streaming and I got to work for myself. But I'd say it's what people go to college for, like they learn how to live in the real world and I'd say that that's what chess taught me as a kid. - When you're streaming, when you're doing the creative work, do you feel lonely? So a bunch of creators talk about sort of the, it's counterintuitive because you're famous now. - Sort of, not quite, but we're very lucky to have each other. - So there's that the source of the comfort and the, like is there some sense where it's isolating to have these personalities, they have to always be having fun being wild and so on. Or is it actually the opposite? Like is it a source of comfort? Do you know that there's so many cool people out there that are giving you their love and... - It started as a source of comfort because it started with a very small community who would be something, it would be around 200 to 300 viewers and only like 30 to 40 of them would actually chat actively. So you felt like it was a community, not an audience. - So you like knew them personally almost? - Yeah, exactly. And it was people who were interested in chess and I would really enjoy that. And then as we started growing bigger, the audience kind of changed where they're not there for you personally, they're there while you're entertaining. And it changed for me. And I ended up being a lot more self-conscious of things online and started even thinking of myself more like a product than a human being when I'm online because I had to... - Brand. - Yes, exactly. Otherwise you just start taking everything personally that people comment about you and it's based off a very small... - I see, so it was almost a kind of defense mechanism. - Exactly. And it took time to get a nug, 'cause even if you have tough skin, eventually gets to you when you're online every single day, listening to thousands of people's feedback on you. - I think the loneliest part of being creators going through burnout, which everyone is just bound to happen, which is why I think we're very lucky that we have each other because, right, it's a numbers game and you're viral and trendy at one point and then you have to fall. And then there's months where you're just grinding. - And I just kept on the television. I'm like, Andrea, we're relevant to each other. - That's really the worst part of being a creator and figuring out how to get over that hump, but it makes me very grateful that I have my sister because I know that I'm not the only person going through it. And yeah, I know that most of my creator friends feel very lonely in that process, 'cause they don't have someone who's their family and their business partner and they're working by each other side by side. - You kind of tie in your self-worth to your job and your content and maybe even more extremely than other jobs because you also are the entire company and the entire product. So when things are going well or when things are not, you just need to be careful to not reflect it like, "Oh, I am doing bad. "I am better." Other than the trends have now changed, there's outside things, we're gonna keep going and this is just the normal waves, which is how we think about it now and also just about are we enjoying it? This is this what we wanna make? But we were stuck in the camp for a while when we 10xed our viewership after the pandemic because people were home and playing chess. And then of course that dropped by like 70% and then you see that and you're trying your best and you just kind of have to deal with it and be like, "Okay, I'm just gonna keep persevering "and maybe it'll get better." - That's so fascinating. I mean, this is a struggle of sorts in the 21st century of like how to be an artist, how to be a creator, how to be an interesting mind in response to this algorithm. - I'm telling you, turning off views and likes is really good. - I don't look at Twitch views for that reason and I get obsessed with the numbers too and I know Andrea does, but for me, what I try now is to be more focused in the moment but Andrea somehow can do it even with the views. - So you have fun with it? Ooh, number one up. - I'm too much of like a given to the temporary satisfaction, like I like seeing, I like knowing that if something happens right now, viewership's gonna boost by a couple hundred and seeing that I'm right. Of course, like the-- - But when the viewers start dropping. - Exactly, well, and I always, like you just have this intuition now. But I think also the reason that it doesn't affect me so much is when we first started our content journey, we were only Twitch streamers and we are livelihood, we're based on Twitch viewers, but now like I've learned how to recycle that content into like YouTube and shorts and other things where I know like, okay, if this stream does badly, there's so many more things you can do that also just have a much larger output so it doesn't get to me as much as it did. - Do you ever feel that with your podcast or do you feel like it's been authentic since the start? - No, so there's a million things to say there. So one is there's a reason I stopped taking a salary at MIT and moved to Texas is I wanted my bank account to go to zero because I do my best with my back against the wall. So one of the comforts I have is I don't care if this podcast is popular or not, I want it to not be popular. So I don't want it to make money. - You're failing Lex. - Yeah, I want, I want to, I mean, I just do best when I'm more desperate. That's like one thing to say. - Seems like a recurring theme with how you filled up your greatest work, which is honestly very respectable. - Yeah, so I thank you. That's just like, - I wouldn't recommend. - Right, thank you for finding the silver lining for a non-healthy mental state. But the other thing is I was very conscious just like with chess and those kinds of things that I love numbers and I would be, if I paid attention, if I tried to be somebody at their best like a Mr. Beast who really pays attention to numbers, I would just not, I'd become destroyed by it. The highs and lows of it. And I just don't think I would be creating the best work possible. But one of the, I mean, one of the big benefits of a podcast is listeners. And there's an intimacy with the voice. And I think that is much more stable and a deeper and more meaningful connection than YouTube. YouTube is a fickle mistress. So it's like, it's a weird drug that like, it really wants you. - With very addicting feedback loops. When you have a video, that's number one out of 10. Oh my God, the adrenaline you get. - And then the thing I really don't like also is the world like will introduce you as a person that has a video on YouTube with some X number of views. Like the world wants you to be addicted to these numbers. - Because they associate it with having done a good job. 'Cause that's what people think views are even if it's not. - Right, and primarily because they don't have any other signal of what's a good job. I think the much better signal is people, they're close to you, your family, your colleagues, that say, wow, that was cool. I listened to that. That was really, I didn't know this. This was really powerful. This is really moving and so on. But definitely I'm terrified of numbers. 'Cause I feel like just like I said, I'd rather be a Stanley Kubrick, right? You'd rather create great art, like not to be pretentious, but the best possible thing you can create. Whatever the beauty that's the capacity for creating beauty that's in you, I would like to maximize that. And I feel like for some people like Mr. Beast, I think those are perfectly aligned. 'Cause he just loves the most epic thing possible, but not for everybody. I think there's a lot of people for whom that's not perfectly aligned. And so I'm definitely one of those. And I'm still really confused by anybody who listens to this. But that's also something I guess you're trying to find. You're trying to figure out. - I get very afraid of ever becoming someone who just makes junk food content where you can't stop while you're in the moment and it has all of your attention, but when you're done, it didn't really bring any value to your life, which is something that I think the algorithm still does really reward and making sure that as we are learning how to create better content, it's still something that is gonna be meaningful long term. - Well, ultimately, you inspire a lot of young people. - Yeah, those are the best. When we get messages from people who are like, "I played you a year ago and my rating was 1400 "and now I'm 1900. "I'd like to challenge you again." It's a 14 year old writing a former email. Those things are always very, very fun to get. Even just outside of chess, it's just empowering to see, like for young women to see that kind of thing. You guys are being yourself and making money for being yourself and having fun and growing as human beings, which I think is really inspiring for people to see. So in that sense, it's really rewarding. And then the way I think about it is there is some benefit of doing entertaining type of stuff so that you get the, kind of like Mr. Beast does with philanthropy, right? The bigger Mr. Beast becomes, the more effective he is at actually doing positive impact on the world. So those things are tied together. But of course with podcasts, you guys, well, maybe you have these kinds of tense things, but what kind of ideas, what kind of people do platform, what kind of person, what kind of human being do you wanna be? Because you actually are becoming a person and a set of ideas in front of the public eye and you have to ask yourself that question really hard, like really seriously. Because if you're doing stuff in private, you have the complete luxury to try shit out. - Right. - I think you have less of a luxury to try shit out because the internet can be vicious in punishing you for trying shit out. - And do you think that sometimes a bad thing where you have less freedom to make mistakes? - Yeah, you have two choices. So one, you put up a wall and say, I don't give a shit what people think. I don't like doing that 'cause I like being fragile to the world and keeping my, sort of wearing my heart and my sleeve. Or the other one, yeah, you have to be, you have to actually think through what you're gonna say. You have to think of like, what do I believe? You have to be more serious about what you put out there. It's annoying, but it's also actually, you should have always been doing that. You should be deliberate with your actions and your words. But I don't know, it's a, but some of it, it's such a balance because some of my favorite people are brilliant people that allow themselves to act ridiculous and be silly. Y'all Musk has become a good friend. Is the silliest human of all, I mean, he's incredibly brilliant and productive and so on, but allows themselves to be silly. And that's also inspiring to people. Like you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to, you can be a weird, a giant weird mess and it's okay. So it's a balance. I think when you start to delve into political topics, into topics that really get tense for people, then you have to be a little bit more careful and deliberate. But it's also wise to stay the whole way from those topics in general. Like I mentioned to you offline, somebody I have been debating with, I want to talk to your nice karaoke and on the chess board because chess is just a game, but throughout the history of the 20th century, it was played between the Russians and the Americans and so on where they were at war, cold or hot war. And those are interesting. Those are interesting conversations to be had at the Olympics and so on. It's not just a game, it's some sense. It's like a mini war. And so I have to decide whether I want to talk to him or not and those kinds of things yet to make those kinds of decisions. For now you guys are not playing chess with Donald Trump or Obama or so on. - We are not right now, no. - How long is it stream? Like a few hours, right? - Now they're two to three hours. When I was first streaming, I'd stream for like six hours a day. - A day. - At least usually. - Yeah, for like seven, six to seven days a week. - Are you doing just like a talking one? - No, I would be playing chess the entire time while talking. And when I started streaming, that's kind of how everybody blows up on Twitch. You're just putting in crazy hours and you're always there. It's not about making the best content. It's about letting people feel like they're hanging out with you and just being on as much as you can. But I ended up feeling very burnt out 'cause it's hard to be your best self when you're in front of a camera for that long because you do get scared of going into places where you wanna learn, but you might not be the best in. 'Cause it's harder to learn in public than do something that like, yeah, we're better than 99% of our viewers at chess. So that's a lot less scary than trying to play a game that you're bad at or discuss topics that you're interested in. - Yeah, have the beginner's mind and be dumb at something. - Right. - Which is where the fun is and you get to learn together but people punish you for it on the internet. What about you? Andrea. - Yeah, I think like Alex said at the beginning when we were grinding a lot, you don't really even have time for much of a private life 'cause you're streaming every hour of your life and people want it like the appeal of streamers. It's called like being parasocial where you feel like you're a friend and they like it 'cause they want you to share everything about your life. Really the main challenge for me at first when trying to prioritize quantity over quality which we're not doing anymore was realizing that I can't turn everything I'm interested in and every passion into content. Before I'm like, well, I must dream more but I like music and I like playing piano and I like reading into these topics and I like fitness and then I try to livestream all of it and that's just at some point it's like just enjoy your time off for those hobbies and prioritize what you're good at 'cause that's just gonna be better for the channel overall. So that was a learning lesson for sure. It's nice 'cause there are some intersections when I have tried new things that I really enjoy and it pays off but that's more less often. - So it's more like you can be yourself but only specific parts of yourself online and the rest sometimes it's nice to just keep private and feel that you could just give it your 100% freedom. - See, I feel like I try to be the exact same person on podcasts as in private life. I really don't like hiding anything. - But you're also a generalist, right? Where you have people with all topics for us, we build our audience off of very specific things so people sometimes feel like even at the start when we started playing less chess they're like, I subbed for chess. Why are you not playing chess? - Exactly. People are tuning in for an interesting conversation on a bunch of topics so the more you are yourself the better it is but it is very hard when you build your brand on one type of gaming content. - Build your brand. - But yeah, the way you become a generalist is you slowly expand. It's like expanded checkers. I guess that's a downward-- - Maybe poker. - Poker, yeah, exactly, poker. But also just the ideas, the space of ideas and then one of the cool things about chess is when you're talking over the chess board, you're, it's a kind of podcast, you know? - That is actually an idea we've had with playing chess while also doing a podcast and talking with people. It's kind of like an icebreaker. We're also focusing on the game at the same time but we are slowly evolving and we're doing more things. Like one thing we wanted to do is spend less time in front of the computer. So now we're doing a chess travel show where we go to different countries and look at the chess culture. So it actually feels like we're doing things that we would wanna do and explore anyway. And maybe it's not as much in the idea space which we both enjoy and do a lot in our own free time but in the sharing a cool experiences with our audience that we actually wanna do. - What do you look forward to going? - We're going to Romania on September 9th and I think this is the most exciting for me because we're going back to the country where our entire family's from, where our grandmother taught our dad who taught us how to play chess. It has a very strong chess culture. So it'll be very unique to go back and see how everything is when we haven't been back for a very long time. - And for Romanians, it's very rare when there's a famous Romanian who accomplishes something which is why right now Andrew Tate's most famous Romanian. - But he stands for a dad reason. - Exactly. And there's something very special about Romanian pride and when we meet fellow Romanians in the US, like it's just an amazing connection. And like I hear the way my dad talked about like, for example Nadia who was a famous Romanian gymnast and he's like, yeah like Romania, we sucked at everything but when she won the Olympics for gymnast, every kid on the street was doing gymnastics 'cause it's very rare that they make it to that level of success. And I was saying that we're super successful, super famous but it is really cool to meet other Romanians through chess 'cause it's a very special bond. - Yeah, you feel like it's a community and like-- - Yeah. - You belong, yeah. You can't get that anywhere else.
Andrew Tate (02:00:52)
- Let me ask your opinion since you mentioned him, Andrew Tate, you're both women, successful women, you're both creators. So Andrew Tate is an example of somebody that has become exceptionally successful at galvanizing public attention but he's also from many perspective of misogynists. So let me ask a personal question, do you think I should talk to him on this podcast? How would you feel as a fan, somebody, I'm talking to the great Alex and Andrea Botaz and the next episode is with Andrew Tate. - I think it's a double-edged sword and most of these things are not as black and white as they seem, you know, 'cause on one hand, I don't agree with his beliefs and I think he said a lot of things that are very hurtful and that influence people's opinions. At the same time talking to someone through that and trying to get to the root of it and how much of it he used just as a social media tactic to maybe change the opinion of people who have been so influenced by him towards something that is maybe more understanding towards women or things like that could do some good but at the same time, platforming someone like that and giving them more attention also signals to other people who have a platform that it's okay. So it's kind of weighing the pluses and the minds. It's a very tough decision 'cause it's not clear. - And the thing about the internet, when you make the wrong decision, you're gonna pay for it. - Right. - That's the thing, like personally, and it is funny, like I think the whole way Rose fame is just a growth hack and I've seen other people do it where like you just say kind of, I don't, honestly, I don't really listen to his content 'cause I just find it so dumb but I think he knows that by saying the dumbest, most controversial things, that's like a quick rise to fame and I think surface level, like he can really hold it up but that's why I would honestly enjoy tuning into a conversation where you're really breaking down to the core of those beliefs. And I think like young kids who look up to him and when you actually hear someone challenging it could actually be helpful for people but at the same time, it's a lot of bad publicity. People see your podcast, they see, wow, like they don't, if they don't know you and they don't know why you're interviewing him and they don't listen, they'll see that and then 100% think it's for the other reason. - But I'm also afraid of a society where you can't have discourse with people you disagree with and even though I don't like Andrew Tate, I think the fact that he got banned from all the platforms is kind of scary because it sets a precedent and you always have to ask yourself, would this be ethical if I was on the other side and even things with a president like Trump, even if let's say you're somebody who was on the left, if that would have happened to a leftist president, how would you feel would you think that's morally ethical? So that is something that I think is important. We try to find ways to have conversations and reach some mutual understanding and try instead of just amplifying the worst about every human being. - Well, so one of the major reasons I'm struggling with is because I really enjoy talking to brilliant women. I think it's also have a lot of women reached out to me saying like, it is what it is, but they're inspired when a female guest is on. And to me, if I talk to somebody like Andrew Tate, even if I have a really hard hitting, I think it could be a very good conversation that lessons the likelihood that a brilliant, powerful female will go on the show. Because they'll never watch it, but the thing we do in this society is we put labels in each other. Well, Lex is the person that platforms misogynist. I did a thing where Joe Rogan got in trouble over an N word controversy earlier in the year, and Joe is a good friend of mine and I said that I stand with Joe that he's not racist or something like that. And within certain communities, I'm now somebody who's an apologist for racists, right? Or racist myself, that kind of thing. And we put labels without ever listening to the content, without ever sort of actually, just even the very simple step or seems to be difficult of like taking on the best possible interpretation of what a person said and giving him the benefit of the doubt and having empathy for another person. So you have to play in this field where people assign labels to each other and it's difficult. Ultimately, I believe, I hope that good conversations is a way to like a greater understanding of people to grow together as a society and improve and learn the lessons, the mistakes of the past. But you also have to play this game where people are just like putting labels on each other and canceling each other over those. Or that guy said one thing nice about Donald Trump, he must be a far-right Nazi or the opposite. This person said something nice about the vaccine, he must be a far left, whatever, because apologist for whatever, for Fauci. More most of us, I think, are ultimately in the middle. It's a weird thing, but I think, and it's also painful on a personal level. People have written to me about things like single words, half sentences that I've said about either Putin or Zelensky, where they have hate towards me because of what I said. Both directions, I've now accumulated very passionate people that some call me a Putin apologist, some call me a Zelensky apologist. And it hurts to give him how much family there, how much I've seen of suffering there, and to carry that burden over time and not let it destroy you is tough. So do you want to take on another thing like that when you have conversations? Or can I just talk to awesome people like you two? Where it's not that bad. We're not controversial. It's, or you're interesting, you're fascinating, you're inspiring, you're like fun, you know? Not all those difficult things that come with things that come with more difficult conversations. Right, but somebody has to be making those difficult decisions and challenging the notions that we should cancel someone just for slightly disagreeing with us. And it's very hard to take that on personally. And I think that's a huge part of it. When you know it's something you're doing for the right reasons and you're getting a lot of people coming and misinterpreting it, it's very painful. But I think you have to ask yourself long-term if when you made that decision, you ultimately thought it would be better or worse for your listeners to know that conversation. And then if you can sleep with it at night, take the risk. Yeah, when I actually talk to people that, especially like astrophysicists, and you realize how tiny we are, how incredible, like, how huge the universe is, like, it doesn't matter. You can do anything. You could like, you can walk around naked, talk shit to people, do whatever the hell. And actually in modern social media, people just like forget. It's ultimately liberating. Just try to do, at least from my perspective, the best possible thing for the world you can, take big risks. And it doesn't matter. And that's the other thing with being canceled nowadays because everyone's attention is much more short-sighted. You can get canceled and then it'll blow over in three days. And you actually see things like this on Twitch very often where people just have bursts of outrage and they come into your chat and they're all spamming and saying mean things and then three days after. And of course they're not actually ever serious things. They're usually like things clipped of any streamers and like their worst moments, but then people forget about it pretty soon after. So you're able to accept that, like when somebody's being shady to you for a day? Yeah, I mean, I still get sometimes emotional about it, especially when I'm like, oh, wow, like, these things that are being said are not true or like, this is clearly taken out of context, but I've just accepted that it's part of the job. And if I am trying my best and I am trying things with as good intentions as possible, then I just try to learn every time that happens and be like, okay, what could I do better? And what is just part of the job?
Greatest chess player of all time (02:09:35)
Well, let's start some controversy. Who's the greatest chess player of all time? Is it Magnus Carlsen? Is it Gary Kasparov? Is it somebody else Bobby Fischer? Do you have a favorite, Alex? So whenever I hear this question, I interpret it in a very specific way where it's not who was the most talented chess player or who had the most impact on the chess world, but who is the greatest at playing chess? Where if you were putting all of these players at their peak, who would be the best? And, you know, we're kind of living in a world where obviously humans are becoming more like cyborgs and their tools make them a lot more powerful. Yes. And the computer is the most powerful tool for chess that we've ever witnessed. And the top players now, someone like Magnus Carlsen or Gary Kasparov, if they were going to go towards people like, you know, even Lasker or Bobby Fischer back in the day, Lasker, he was world champion for 27 years. He was the best in his field by far. But would he be able to stand up to someone like Magnus Carlsen who has had these tools? I don't think so. So most chess players have said Gary Kasparov. And I think even Magnus has said that in the past. But I like to think of it as Magnus in his peak and Gary at his peak and because Magnus was able to live more in a computer era, I feel like so far he's the greatest of all time. And some studies say things like how there's rating inflation, but I looked into some of them and they basically calculated people's play over the years. And it seems that there hasn't been inflation. People are just getting better. And I think it's because you have better tools at chess. And also one of the cases, what's your... I was going to say, I actually, I disagree with that. Good. Make it interesting. I think I would judge the greatest, like greatest player of all time in relative to the time that they lived in. And Magnus, although he is technically the strongest chess player in history, that is because he had computers to study chess with. And of course, if you compare him to Gary Kasparov, he plays most like stockfish. But Gary Kasparov at his time, he beat more players of his skill level than Magnus did. Magnus loses more often. He also, of course, held the belt for 20 years more. So I'd say actually because Gary lacked the help of computers to study chess and overall performed better against players of his skill level. I think he would be number one. Nice.
Personal Perspectives And Advices
Magnus Carlsen (02:12:10)
Yeah, but I mean, the case that people make form magnets on many, I mean, what Alex said, but also Magnus plays a lot. And he doesn't... He plays a lot blitz bullet. Like he puts... He gets drunk and like he's really putting himself out there. And in all kinds of conditions and he's able to dominate and a lot of them will get to see many of the like losses and blunders and all that kind of stuff because he just puts himself out there. And I think Kasparov was much more like... Never saw him play drunk. And it's very focused on the World Championship. It was very like a very limited number of games and very focused on winning. And so there's some aspect to the versatility, the aggressive play, the fun, all of that, that I think you have to give credit to. In terms of just the scope, the scale of the variety of genius exhibited by Magnus. And he might not even be done yet. I don't know if he'll ever hit 2900, but we can't judge yet because he's not at the peak of his career potentially. What do you think about him not playing World Championship? Isn't that like... Isn't that wild? The entirety of the history of chess in the 20th century going like meh? Let's walk away from this one tournament that seems to be at the center of chess. What do you think about that decision? You can't help but be disappointed as a chess fan who wants to see the best player in the world defend his title. But I also understand it on a personal level and not feeling as satisfied when you're going to the World Championship and having to defend against people who are less strong than you. And also imagine winning World Championships and not feeling a joy out of that. Yeah. So maybe by not doing that and focusing instead on a goal like 2900, he'll be more likely to accomplish it because he's focusing on what actually motivates him to play chess. But I do think that it will hurt how we judge the next World Champion. I think it won't change him being the best player in the world. And for someone to replace him, even let's say like net over sting, even if one of them win and right on some stance it does lower the merit because now who has the World Chess Championship title isn't actually the best player in the world. And that has happened before in the past, but still going to take them the same effort to prove when they would pass him like 10, 20 years to become stronger than Magnus. So I don't think it changes the skill level that it takes to become the best chess player in the world. I think for chess fans, it's very disappointing. But I think in the overall like grand scheme of like the public view to people who don't really, so like, you know, what breaks the popular culture. And you think of what names people know who don't play chess like Bobby Fisher did it. Most people know Casper over Magnus. It takes the same ability and talent and that doesn't change. I think it does change though if you're playing a player who's not as strong. But I see your point as well and I know we differ on this. Like I said, I heard you ask Magnus, but what is your take on it? Well, listen, his answer is kind of brilliant, which he's not saying he's he's bored of the World Championship. He's bored of a process that doesn't determine the best player. Like in his too exciting, inducing to him to have a small number of games. He doesn't mind losing, which is really fascinating to a better player. Right. Or somebody who's his level. He's more anxious about losing to a weaker player. The weaker player because of the small sample size. Now, if like poker players had that anxiety, they would never play at all. Right. That's the world series of poker. You get to lose against weaker players all the time. That's the throw all the dice. But that's an interesting perspective that he would love to play 20, 30, 40 games in the World Championship, but then he would enjoy it much more and also play shorter games because they emphasize the like pure chess actually being able to like much more variety in the middle game just to see a bunch of chaos and see how you're able to compute, calculate, and intuition, all that kind of stuff. I mean, that's beautiful. I wish the chess world would step up and meet him in a place that makes sense. You know, change the World Championship. So if you did changing it somehow, a loss for that, or having other really respected tournaments that become like an annual thing that step up to that. Or more kind of online YouTube type of competitions, which I think they're trying to do more and more like the crypto cup and all those kinds of things. Yeah, and the grand tour. The grand tour. She does play in which takes a lot of the top players and they do it online in shorter formats. But there's, you know, so that's his perspective. My perhaps narrow perspective is I've romanticized the Olympic Games and those are every four years and the World Championships because they're rare, because the sample size is so small. That's where the magic happens. Everything's on the line for, you know, for people that spend their whole life 20 years of dedication, everything you have every minute of the day spent for that moment. You know, you think about like gymnastics at the Olympic Games. There's certain sports where a single mistake in your fucked. And that stress, that pressure, it can break people or it can create magic. Like a person that's the underdog has the best night of their life or the person that's been dominating for years all of a sudden slips up. That drama from a human perspective is beautiful. So I still like the World Championships. But then again, looking at all the draws, looking at like, well, the magic isn't quite there. So to me, when I see faster games of chess, that's much more, that's much more beautiful. So, but that I don't understand the game of chess deeply enough to know. Like does it have to be so many draws? Like is there a way to create a more dynamic chess? I mean, he talked about random chess with the random starting position. That's really interesting. But then of course that's like, then you do have to play hundreds of games and that kind of stuff. Right. So, but I think it's great that the world number one is struggling with these questions because he's in the position, he has the leverage to actually change the game of chess as it's publicly seen, as it's publicly played. So it's interesting, he's still young enough to dominate for quite a long time if he wants. So I don't know. I, you know, I was because part of the fight between nations, I hope they have the World Championship and I hope there's a, I hope you still a part of it somehow. I hope it changes his mind. And comes back. Comes back. Some kind of dramatic thing. I don't know. But it is, it is, his heart is not in it. And then, and then that's not beautiful to see. Right. Yeah, it is beautiful that the thing he wants is a great game of chess against an opponent that's his level or better. And that's, that's a great that he's coming from that place. But I hope he comes back tomorrow because the World Championship is a, is a special thing in any sport. So you do wish that the person who wins the World Championship is the best player in the world. No, I hope that the best people in the world, the two best people in the world are the ones that sit down. But the person that wins is the person that, that that's the magic of it. Nobody knows who's going to win. I think Magnus is so, he, he really wants the best person to win. Like the, the, that's why he wants the large sample size. But to me, there's some magic to it. The, the stress of it, the, the drama of it, that's all part of the game. Like it's not just about the purity of the game, like the, the calculation, the pure chess of it. It's also like the drama. Like the, the, yeah, the, the pressure, the drama, all of it. The shit talking, if it gets to you, the mind games, you know, this is a part that's fun to watch, but less fun to be playing. To be, but that's why it's great. Who can melt, who can rise under that pressure and who melts under that pressure?
Advice for young people (02:21:20)
Uh, what, there's a lot of people that look up to you, like they're inspired by you because you've taken a kind of nonlinear path to life. Is there any advice yet for people like in high school today that are trying to figure out what they want to do? Do they want to go to Stanford? Do they want to pursue a career? Um, in, I don't know, uh, in industry or, or, or, uh, uh, in the industry. Or go kind of the path that you guys have taken, which is have the ability to do all of that and still choose to make the thing that you're passionate about your, your life. I always like the calculated risks approach where when you're younger, it's okay to take more risks because you have a lot more time, but there has to be a reason why you're doing that particular risk. Is it something that you've spent a lot of time already really passionate and working on? Or is it just something that's trendy and you want to do it because you don't have a better option? And that's actually similar to what Andrea did when she decided to go into streaming instead of school. Yeah, it was the reason I got into streaming because I was initially going to go to college, but the pandemics, it was right the beginning of the pandemic and all my classes were online. And I never thought ever since I was 12, like my dream was school and I saw myself nowhere else than going to university. And I just, I thought of it and kind of wait out the risk. I'm like, well, if I take a gap year and I try streaming with my sister, what do I have to lose? I gained some experience working with someone who has a lot more experience than I do. And then I can go back to school after. And if I go to school right now, I do online classes for a year and that's something that I could do at any time. So that's why it made a lot of sense for me to go into this. But of course, this is also a very unique opportunity. So I don't know how applicable, but I do think overall the calculated risk is a really good lesson. It is like chess. Exactly. Maybe sometimes. Exactly. You also have you considered a career in professional fighting?
Chess boxing (02:23:14)
I saw you did a self defense class, these diligent. Did you see the 10 year old kid who throwing her through her? Yes. And apparently I could have broken the leg, but it's actually funny. Like chess boxing is a thing. And I have been doing a lot of boxing. Like I physical activities, like honestly, one of my favorite things to do. And I have been testing it out on content and we have a creator friend who's hosting a chess boxing tournament, but there's no woman who's could match me unfortunately because all the opponents are male and I can't fight a guy. How does chess boxing work? So you do a round of chess and a round of boxing and we actually did a training camp for it before. And of course, like after you go into the ring. Is this real? Is this actually? Yes. We went to a London chess boxing club. And like after you get- I mean like videos I thought of something you just didn't rush or something. No, it's real sport. Yeah. Real sport. Yeah. No, it's very cool. But after you get really tired, you're more likely to make a mistake. You just have to punch in space. You just have to push in space. Yeah, there's probably good strategies like what do you want to- because some of it is a cardio thing. Do you want to work on your chess or your boxing? They do both. It's very fun. But yeah, from a content perspective, I'm sure there's a lot of people that like would love- And it's also very entertaining. And I would love to see- I don't want to see Andrew getting hit. I thought it would be- I would love to- Oh, she doesn't get hit. I would get- A roommate that fought in a fight. And she did end up winning, but seeing her get hit, I thought I was going to throw off Oscar. I just think it was so cool. She had no experience in boxing whatsoever. And then coming from someone in the content world where we start like waking up six days a week at 6 a.m. and she's training every day like, you know, like a real professional athlete. I think like it's such a unique experience and also like a really test of how much you can really commit to this and progress. That's a reminder. That's really rewarding. Did you ever end up doing the marathon with David Goggins that you were training? I know I got injured, but we're going to do it soon. That's on my bucket list just to see where your limits are. You're ready to do it. What did you do leading up to this? Nothing. You're just going to go into it. It's mental anyway. Oh, you don't. But I do run a lot to make sure like there's no like, you know, you have to be have a base level of fitness to make sure your body doesn't completely freak out. Other than that, you know, 50 plus miles is just about like taking it one step at a time and just being able to deal with the suffering and all the voices, the little voices to tell you all these excuses like, why are you doing this? This blister is bleeding. Whatever, whatever the thing that makes you want to stop just just show it all. Sometimes it feels like you like pain. No. Well, no, no. But the pain does seem to show the way to progress. So what? Your turn. In my world. Something that's really hard and I don't want to do, that's usually the right thing to do. And I'm not saying that's a, that's like a universal truth. It's just, you know, if there's a few doors to go into the one that I want to go into least, that's the one that usually is the right one afterwards. I will learn something for me. The David Gog is the, I don't know. That's, listen, we're talking offline, the different, the conversation will live. She's a very numeric, calculated risk. Everything is planned. I go with the heart. I just, I just go whatever the hell. I think two years ago, I woke up, it was summer, I decided to tweet, I will do as many push-ups. I don't know why I did this. I will do as many push-ups and pull-ups as this week gets likes, something like that. Okay, good. Right. And then that, it got like 30,000. Once you put it out on the internet, you're held accountable. Well for myself, I mean, in some sense, and then that's when I already was connected to David at that point, but that's when he called me. And then they have to do it. And then I did it. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. How long did you take? I did it for seven days and I got injured, so I did about a few thousand. Wait, so this is what got you to be injured? This tweet challenge? No, it's different. I keep getting injured. I keep getting injured doing some stuff. But this particular thing, I started doing the, you don't realize that you have to really ramp up. So I got like overuse injury, ten and I was on the shoulder all the way down to the elbow. So I took like eight or nine days off and then started again and then it took about 31 days to do. The number was like 26, 27,000. Wow. Yeah. And it took like three, four hours a day. Oh God. Yeah. Sounds like torture. And not, you know, constantly asking myself, what am I doing in my life? This is why you're single. It was the voice method. This is what are you doing? It's like face down on the carpet. I really like exhaust it. Like what, what? Because of a tweet, what is this? Did you record it or you just? I did. I did record it for myself. Okay. Now imagine doing this every day and that's what it's like to be a Twitch streamer. Just doing stupid things. Well, that was really important to me actually to not make it into content. You know, I recorded everything. So maybe one day I could publish it. I recorded it mostly because it's really hard to count. Yeah. When you get exhausted. Yeah. Like I just, so you actually enter the Zen place where with pushups where it's just like, it's almost like like breathing. You get into a rhythm and you could do quite a lot. But I wanted to make sure like if I actually get this done, I want there to be evidence that I got it done for myself. Like counted. I had this idea that I would use machine learning to like automatically process the video to count it. But then like after like 10 days, I didn't even give a shit when I even thought it was about me versus me. I didn't even care. Lex versus Lex. Yeah. And then, yeah, and David was extremely supportive. But that's when I realized like I really want to go ahead to head with him. Yeah. Those kinds of people are beautiful. They really challenge you to your limits. Whatever that is, it's like the thing is physical exercise is such an easy way to push yourself to your limit. Because in all other walks of life, it's tricky or difficult. Like how do you push yourself to your limits and chest? It's hard to figure out. But like in physical. Do you think it's ever dangerous? Yeah. And that's what that's why it's beautiful. The danger you like to pay. I don't like that. You don't like that. You're isolated. Yeah. Like if you don't know how you're going to get out of it, you're going to have to figure out something profound about yourself. And I mean, one of the reasons I went to Ukraine is I really wanted to experience the hardship and the intensity of war that people are experiencing. So I can understand myself better, I can understand them better. So the words that are leaving my mouth are grounded in a better understanding of who they are. And the running a lot with David Ganges is a much simpler thing to do, simpler way to understand something about yourself, about like the limits of human nature. I think most growth happens with voluntary suffering or struggle in voluntary stuff. That's where the dark trauma is created. But I don't know. Now maybe it is, maybe I'm just attracted to torture. And what is it that your mind does when you're going through this involuntary suffering? I think it, there's like stages. First all the excuses start coming. Like why are you doing this? And then you start to wonder like what kind of person do you want to be? So all the dreams you had, all the promise you made to yourself and to others, all the ambitions you had that are having come yet realized somehow that all becomes really intensely like visceral as the struggle is happening. And then when all of that is allowed to pass from your mind, you have this clear appreciation of what you really love in life, which is just like just living. Just the moment, the step at a time, I think what meditation does and it's most effective, it's just that pain is a catalyst for the meditative process I think. For me, I don't know.
Meaning of life (02:32:08)
Magna said there's no meaning to life. Do you guys agree? Oh no. Why are we here? I do not know why we're here. But I do know that having some kind of meaning that I give my own life makes it a lot more motivating every day. So I just try to focus on finding meaning within my own life, even if I know it's just self-imposed. And then chess is a part of that? Chess is a part of it. Maybe it was more so when I was younger because it was easier to just feel like I want to improve as a person and use chess to measure some kind of self-improvement. And now it's more different than that. And I think I need to once again find what that northern star is. Basically, I need to have a why for why I'm doing things. And then I feel like I could do very hard things.
Discussion On Love
What role does love play in the human condition? Alex and Andrea. I'll let Andrea start this one since I took the last. Sure. And yeah, just to add my answer for the last one, I also kind of think, well, life is meaningless, but I like the stoic idea where that's something that you live to revolt against. But for the second question. The revolt against the fundamental meaninglessness of life I like it. Yes, exactly. Yeah. It was what does love play? What role does love play? Yeah, in the human condition. The way I see it, love is a reason you want to share experiences with other people. That's how I see it. Like the people you really love, you want to share the things you're going through with them. The good and the bad. Yeah, exactly. That's my simple take on love. My take on it is that part of what it is to be human is to be somebody who feels things emotionally and love is one of the most intense feelings you can have. Obviously there's the opposite of that and there's things like hate, but I think the love you feel for people like your parents and your friends and romantic love in that moment is much more intense than in other situations. I think it's also just very unique to humans and that's what I appreciate about it. Maybe that's the meaning of life. Maybe that's what the Stoics are searching for. Andrea, Alex, thank you so much for this and thank you for an amazing conversation. Thank you for creating, keep creating and thank you for putting knowledge and love out there in the world. Thank you for having us, Alex. It was a pleasure. We're both big fans of your podcast, so this was really exciting for us. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Alexandra and Andrea Boetes. To support this podcast, we should check out our sponsors in the description. And now let me leave you with some words from Bobby Fisher. Chess is life. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.