Chess.com is excited to announce the winners of the 2021 Chess.com awards! It was a year of massive growth for chess. In February, PogChamps 3 set the Chess.com record for the biggest live-streamed event ever—at one point even breaking the 140,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch alone. Over-the-board chess started at Tata Steel at the beginning of the year, and then the second half of the Candidates was finished in April. The year culminated with the World Championship in November and December, a historic event that smashed PogChamps’ month-old live stream record while GM Magnus Carlsen defended his throne.
Here at Chess.com, an unbelievable 4.6 billion games were played in 2021—which equates to more players than Earth’s population! Over the last few weeks, you and the rest of our community cast their votes to celebrate their favorite chess players, commentators, content creators, and everything else that made this year so great. With all of the votes in the books, we are ready to reveal the winners of each category:
Player Of The Year: Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen won Chess.com’s Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year. After winning his fifth world championship title with relative ease, it’s hard to argue against the voters’ choice. Carlsen also won the 2021 Champions Chess Tour Final and the 9th Norway Chess and was among the top-three players in numerous strong tournaments throughout the year.
- Magnus Carlsen
- Alireza Firouzja
- Ian Nepomniachtchi
Creator Of The Year: Levy Rozman
Over the past couple of years, events like The Queen’s Gambit and PogChamps helped propel chess to another level. That boom helped chess creators reach new heights that were unimaginable just a few years ago. And in 2021, no one made it bigger than IM Levy Rozman. GothamChess earned the spot of number-one chess channel on YouTube and has now won the award for Creator of the Year!
- Levy Rozman (GothamChess)
- Hikaru Nakamura
- Daniel Naroditsky
Game Of The Year: Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi, Game 6
The return of over-the-board tournaments worldwide allowed chess fans to witness many incredible games. However, one particular game certainly made its way into chess history. The longest chess game ever played in a World Championship match happened in 2021 between Carlsen and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.
When Carlsen traded his queen for two rooks to squeeze for a win, the world stood still. 110 moves later, the world champion would win his first game in the match—and the rest is history.
- Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi, Game 6 of the 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship
- Giri vs. Carlson
- Firouzja vs. Report
Move Of The Year: 10.Nf6+!! By Wesley So
There are very few things as satisfying as seeing a brilliant chess move on the board. During these moments, chess stops being just a game and becomes art. This year, GM Wesley So was the artist who gifted the world with a gorgeous chess move that could easily be on display at the Louvre. A knight sacrifice on move 10 against one of the strongest players in the world is certainly enough for the Move of the Year award.
- 10.Nf6+!! by Wesley So against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
- 36.d4!! by Richard Rapport against Fabiano Caruana
- 25…Bf1!! by Nihal Sarin against Noel Studer
Rising Star: Alireza Firouzja
With Carlsen dominating the chess world, it’s natural for chess enthusiasts to look to the future and wonder who will eventually take the champion’s place. Among the young talents who aspire to take over the chess throne, voters chose GM Alireza Firouzja as the most prominent rising star of the year.
The Iranian-French prodigy had a tremendous year in 2021. Firouzja became the youngest player to break the 2800 barrier after his fantastic performance during the 2021 European Team Championship and guaranteed his participation in the 2022 Candidates Tournament by winning the 2021 FIDE Chess.com Grand Switzerland. No matter what the future holds for Firouzja, he certainly deserves the title of 2021’s Rising Star.
- Alireza Firouzja
- Nihal Sarin
- Andrey Esipenko
Tournament Of The Year: Alireza Firouzja, European Team Championship
As much as we love online chess, it’s certainly great to see over-the-board tournaments coming back. With many players pulling off outstanding performances, it’s not surprising that the top three in this category were so close in votes.
Still, one player sure stood out. The Iranian-French phenom Firouzja won both first and second place for his performances in the European Team Championship and the Grand Swiss, respectively.
- Alireza Firouzja (8/9), European Team Championship
- Alireza Firouzja (8/11), Grand Swiss – Champion
- Jan-Krzysztof Duda (12.5/18), World Cup – Champion
Commentator Of The Year: Fabiano Caruana
We all enjoy watching great chess events while appreciating an outstanding commentator’s insight, wit, and excitement. And who would’ve thought that the best commentator of 2021 would be one of the best players in the world? Fabiano Caruana made his debut with the sofa boys during Chess.com’s 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship broadcast. The American grandmaster went from Chess.com’s studio straight to chess fans’ hearts and won the Commentator of the Year award!
- Fabiano Caruana
- Viswanathan Anand
- Daniel Naroditsky
Event Of The Year: FIDE World Championship
For those who enjoy watching their favorite players and streamers competing in tournaments, 2021 was surely a satisfying year. Those who appreciate online tournaments had the chance to keep up with bigger-than-ever PogChamps 3 and 4, the Speed Chess Championship, and many more marquee events. OTB chess lovers could enjoy nothing less than a dramatic Tata Steel, a thrilling World Cup, and an incredible second half of the Candidates. However, none of those were bigger than the most important chess event of them all: the FIDE World Chess Championship.
With the longest game in world championship history, unbelievable blunders, and a brilliant and decisive move by Carlsen in the last game of the match, chess fans really couldn’t ask for more. Add to that the event’s massive viewership—over 25 million views and concurrent viewers peaking at 255,500 on Twitch and YouTube—and there’s no doubt that we’re talking about the Event of the Year.
Clip Of The Year: “How Does The Knight Move?”
If there was ever a clippable year, 2021 was it. With broadcasts bigger than ever, it’s no surprise that the best moments of the year were caught on camera and immortalized as clips. Players’ reactions to blunders, world-famous streamers hanging their queens, IM Danny Rensch twerking, and many other notorious clips came to light. However, it was Andrea Botez who steps up to the podium with the most famous question asked during the 2021 FIDE World Chess Championship post-game interviews.
Story Of The Year: “Official Rules Of Chess Updated, Draws Removed”
In April 2021, many people woke up and were surprised to see that one of the oldest board games in the history of mankind had drastically changed. Chess as they knew it was gone in the blink of an eye. While some chess fans appreciated the effort of reducing the number of draws, hundreds of thousands of readers were outraged.
And then they realized it was April Fool’s Day.
This article has had over 450,000 reads and was collaboratively written by Chess.com’s writing team (@dave, @pedropinhata, @nathanielgreen, @raync910, @colinstapczynskiduck @samcopeland).
The second-most read story of the year was Peter Doggers’ news report for game six of the FIDE World Chess Championship. This game was the turning point of the world championship match and the longest game in world championship history. The report currently has more than 350,000 reads.
Computer Game Of The Year: Stockfish vs. Lc0, TCEC 21
Watching supercomputers playing chess is like staring at the stars in the sky. There’s no way for us to truly comprehend the mysteries behind what we’re seeing, yet we can’t help but feel awestruck by its beauty. This year, the almighty Stockfish won a game against Lc0 and the Computer Game of the Year award.
- Stockfish vs. Lc0, TCEC 21
- Stockfish vs. Lc0, ECO Mega-Match 2
- Lc0 vs. Stockfish, ECO Mega-Match 2 pt. 2
Member Of The Year: Tomodovodoo
This year, we wanted to celebrate the members of our community who make our site great every day! The member of the year for 2021 is @tomodovodoo!
According to Chess.com’s Community Director Trym Sorsdal: “@Tomodovodoo is a rather new member, but he has really embraced the site and the community. He is active in the forums and he is a super-admin for the Dutch community clubs. He is often in our Twitch chat and always has great questions for the State of Chess.com shows—he even got called out by Danny Rensch last time because of a good suggestion he made. He has also been a member in the Discord server since it was small and is still one of our more active members over there, helping people improve and inspiring chess discussions.”
Book Of The Year: Winning by Nigel Short
If chess improvement is something you’re seeking, chess books can be one of the best paths for you to get there. If you’ve decided to read more chess books this year, look no further than the 2021 Book of the Year winners. Winning by GM Nigel Short came in first this year, followed by How to Study Chess on Your Own by GM Davorin Kuljasevic and Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships: Volume II by Sergey Voronkov.
- Winning by Nigel Short
- How to Study Chess on Your Own by Davorin Kuljasevic
- Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships: Volume II (1938-1947) by Sergey Voronkov
Winners Of The Free Diamond Memberships
To celebrate the excited members of our community who took some time to vote, Chess.com is gifting free diamond memberships to the following lucky winners: