SilverStar Japan announced that Real-Time Battle Shogi has become a licensed title of the Japanese eSports Union (JeSU). A qualifying tournament will run from April to August this year, and professional licenses will be issued accordingly.
Is Shogi the next big e-sports in Japan?
The addition of Real-Time Battle Shogi to the licensed titles is favourable in serving the objectives of the Japan Shogi Association and JeSu and in benefiting both communities. Yoshitaka Hoshino, a professional Japanese chess (shogi) player of the Japan Shogi Association, who works for SilverStar Japan, is participating in the certification tournament. The first title match is scheduled in August with Chubu Telecommunications as the main sponsor.
It was the excitement of the user community that pushed Real-Time Battle Shogi to enter the esports scene. In May 2019, volunteers hosted a tournament “Real-Time Battle Shogi Ryuo Tournament” at C4 LAN 2019 Spring (one of the largest LAN parties in Japan). This user-driven event ignited the subsequent efforts to make the game to be acknowledged as esports. Upon the release of Real-Time Battle Shogi Online in January 2020, SilverStar Japan hosted a couple of events with professional Japanese chess (shogi) players including Yoshiharu Habu, Yuki Murotani and Nikori Yamaguchi, as well as the author of “Ryuo’s Work is Never Done!” Shirow Shiratori.
Rise of Chess in the Esports scene
This may come as no surprise looking at what is happening in the worlds of both esports and Chess. Hikaru Nakamura has been named as the most popular chess player on Twitch, with an average of more than 11,000 viewers in the past year and over 1,755 hours of airtime playing chess on Twitch. Last summer, TSM signed Nakamura, which made him the first professional chess player to join the esports organization. Nakamura officially holds the titles of both an esports athlete and chess grandmaster.
While there is still a debate over whether or not chess is considered a sport, chess is finding its own new environment to thrive in. World Champion Magnus Carlsen made an impressive figure of $510,587, ranking no.1 in the list of top esports earners of 2020. The coronavirus pandemic boosted both e-sports and chess while traditional sporting events were cancelled and people looked for alternative entertainment. The classic game of chess has clearly received increased attention thanks to Netflix hit “The Queen’s Gambit” as well as the rise of Twitch streaming.
Betting on esports and chess
Carlsen also signed a sponsorship deal with Unibet, acting as a global ambassador for two years 2020-2021. Unibet was the first international betting operator to offer live odds on chess. Odds are not offered for any major Japanese chess (shogi) tournaments so far but there are bookmakers targeting the Japan market with odds for esports.
The covid-19 brought a fresh opportunity for both esports and chess betting to flourish. In response to the corona situation, betting sites such as Pinnacle and Bet365 quickly adjusted their product offerings and enhanced esports markets accordingly. In the event of Real-Time Battle Shogi becoming popular internationally in the world of esports, a chance for future betting opportunities is likely to follow.