Around 300 people packed the Reitz Grand Ballroom for a morning of lectures, chess tournaments and book signings.
On Saturday, the Gator Chess Club hosted international master of chess and online content creator Levy Rozman, known online as Gotham Chess, while he promoted his new book.
The 27-year-old released his first book, “How to Win at Chess: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners and Beyond” Oct. 24. Gainesville is the first stop of his five-city book tour.
Rozman began his lecture by reflecting on his personal journey with chess. Originally from suburban New Jersey, he was the only one of his friends and classmates to competitively play chess in elementary school.
In college, Rozman taught chess while pursuing a statistics degree at Baruch College in New York. After graduation, he continued to teach chess and play matches. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, he started making YouTube videos recapping chess tournaments and teaching chess strategy.
“2020, 2021 was just content. Nonstop,” Rozman said. “Two videos every single day. A recap of a tournament online or some chess opening videos.”
Chess began growing in popularity during the height of COVID-19 because of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” he said. In turn, his YouTube channel grew, and he now has 4.35 million subscribers.
“It is mind-blowing that chess is this thing that you will always do a little bit of. It’s not a trend anymore. It’s not a fad,” he said.
After talking about his journey with chess and content creation, Rozman broke down three of his previous matches and shared what movements went right and wrong.
“I put such a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself in these tournaments and I wish I could just not do that,” he said. “But it’s not that easy. It’s an internal kind of battle against yourself.”
The first game he walked the audience through was his match with grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. Any time he plays against grandmasters, he feels respect for their talent, Rozman said.
When he finished the lecture, Rozman took part in blitz matches against audience members and did a book signing.
Liam Bozarth, an 18-year-old UF computer science freshman, played a blitz match against Rozman. While Bozarth did lose the match, he gained insight into the strategies Rozman used to win.
“I’m kind of proud of how I did,” Bozarth said. “I went into it expecting to lose because he’s an incredible player.”
Bozarth began playing chess in 2020 with his friends at school. During that time, Rozman’s YouTube channel rose in popularity, and Bozarth became a fan. While he plays for fun, he enjoys learning competitive strategies from his peers and Rozman’s channel, Bozarth said.
The coverage of Rozman’s game against grandmaster Carlsen was the highlight of the lecture for Bozarth.
Bharath Ganesh, a 25-year-old UF construction management graduate student, is a member of the Gators Chess Club and has been playing chess on and off since he was 12. He watches Rozman on YouTube to learn more strategies.
“If you want to watch chess on YouTube, he is everywhere,” he said.
Contact Megan Howard at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganmhxward.
Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the University General Assignment reporter. In her free time she enjoys reading and belting Taylor Swift songs.