When Fintan Hand says “checkmate” on his stream, it’s usually when he’s pleading with an opponent to let him see a cheap showdown on a tough river.
But now Fintan is venturing into the chess world with the Chess.com PogChamps, an exciting live-streamed chess tournament in which he could win a share of $50,000.
It all kicks off on Friday, while his first match is on Saturday, and you can watch the whole thing on Twitch.
We caught up with Fintan to find out how his entry into the chess world came about, the overlaps between poker and chess, the streamers he’s excited about, and more.
Fintan “easywithaces” Hand is a man of many talents.
An accomplished poker player and PokerStars Ambassador with hundreds of thousands in poker earnings who took down his first Spring Championship of Online Poker title this year.
An entertaining streamer who has built his Twitch channel into one of the largest in the poker directory with more than 90,000 followers.
Arguably, you could throw DJing and dad dancing into the talent bowl, too.
But chess? Despite having played plenty of chess on his five-minute breaks during poker tournaments, and more recently streaming chess-only sessions, we’re going to have to wait and see whether Hand has got the goods on the board as well as the felt.
We won’t have to wait long though as this weekend he’ll be in the mix in the Chess.com PogChamps, alongside 15 other top content creators from varying areas.
The first edition of PogChamps earlier this year became the most-watched chess tournament of all time.
So how did Finty get involved?
“I don’t have any background in chess other than playing a bit at school around 24 years ago, which makes me feel very old,” Fintan tells us.
“I did a collaboration stream with Alexandra Botez late last year though, and it’s from that stream that I’m most known for in the chess community. I played against Alexandra in two games where I had a full board of pieces and she only had her King. I failed to win either time, with both games resulting in a stalemate.
“If you’ve never played chess, this is the equivalent of your opponent sitting out and you still somehow don’t manage to win.”
“The Chess community has been so welcoming to me and I’ve really enjoyed the vibe of all the streams I’ve hung out in,” he says. “They’ve also done an amazing job in making it feel accessible to everyone.
“I feel some people think chess can be elitist and not very welcoming to newcomers. But I think PogChamps 1 completely blew that out of the water. It was all amateurs and newcomers and it was the most viewed chess tournament of all time.
“On top of that though, you have the no.1 bullet player in the world GMHikaru playing against a player regarded by many as the greatest of all time, Magnus Carlsen, and then going over his world title games live on Twitch. It’s so crazy.
“Imagine LeBron James breaking everything down after an NBA finals game or Lionel Messi going on an hour-long podcast right after a Champions League final. I’m not sure people appreciate how lucky they are to get that access.”
The aforementioned chess superstar GM Hikaru Nakamura and WFM Alexandra Botez, alongside others, will be in the commentary booth throughout the event’s two weeks, as well as providing lessons for everyone watching.
Hikaru has been a big inspiration on Fintan entering chess, but we wondered which other chess Twitch streamers he admires.
“There’s so many and I’m definitely afraid I’ll miss out on some here,” he says. “Alexandra Botez is someone I now consider a good friend and it’s been amazing to watch her growth. I met her in NYC in January and she spoke about how she envisioned having one of the biggest channels on Twitch or she’d move onto something else. I admired the belief but I just didn’t see how it would happen in the Chess directory.
“Well, she and her sister Andrea have done just that with the channel BotezLive.
“Another streamer and one of my coaches for PogChamps, Levy aka GothamChess has absolutely exploded recently too. It feels like he has come out of nowhere, but he’s been grinding the past few years and just been in the right place at the right time.
“Then there’s Hans Niemann, definitely a good one to watch. He’s only 17 and one of the best online players in the world already. He says he’s moving to Europe next year to play poker full-time so that could be a fun journey to follow.”
It’s not unusual to see many great chess players excel at poker, but we haven’t seen many poker players make the transition to chess with no prior experience. When considering some of the qualities shared by great players in both, Fintan shared his thoughts.
“I think anyone who is successful in chess will have the right mindset to be great at poker. It won’t come easy, but if it’s something that they really want to pursue, they clearly have the mind for it. Both are games in which the more work you put in, the better your results will be.
“I think that if you enjoy one of them you’re highly likely to enjoy the other. In my opinion, they are the two greatest games ever invented.”
It’ll be exciting to see Fintan flying the flag for poker in PogChamps, and while his confidence his high, he’s also keeping it real.
“I’ve got one of the tougher groups, so it’s hard to say how I’ll do,” he says. “I’d love to make it to the finals, blast out Maniac 2000, get in my Irish suit and represent the Poker community well.
“It’s a long shot but I think I have a small chance to win.”
Why should people from the poker world tune in to PogChamps?
“It has the potential to be the most viewed chess tournament of all time. Do you really want to miss out on that? It will also just show you how fun the game can be. I’d recommended anyone who plays those brainless games on your phone, give them up and gives chess a bash. It’s so much more rewarding and you won’t regret it!”