If you’re looking to spice up your socially distanced New Year’s Eve 2020 with a little excitement, you could do a lot worse than taking on the band Phish in a game of chess.
Strange as it might sound, that’s what the band is doing to welcome 2021 in lieu of their usual New Year’s Eve festivities at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Phish announced on Saturday that they’ve teamed up with Chess.com for a special showdown with fans as part of the regular streaming series they’ve been doing since the early days of the pandemic.
The chess challenge is more on brand than it might sound if you’re not up on your Phish lore. Back in 1995, the band staged a similar showdown with fans during their fall tour. At each show, the band shared their move sometime during the first set. Fans then gathered between sets to agree on their own move for that night.
Phish won the first game after fans conceded in mid-November. But the fans bit back in the second game, with Phish conceding on New Year’s Eve 1995, their first end-of-year show at MSG. For 25 years, that 1-1 tie has stood — but it won’t for much longer.
To celebrate the news, Phish put together a funny little mockumentary short about the ’95 tour and their commitment to besting fans in 2020’s ultimate showdown.
That ’95 NYE show is the one coming out of the archives on Dec. 31, 2020 for Phish’s ongoing “Dinner and a Movie” series. The band launched the archival streams in late-March as the full reality of 2020’s nightmare pandemic settled in. It was meant to deliver a taste of the community-centric fanbase to fans who were stuck at home, with the band sharing the video recording of an older show along with a personally meaningful dinner recipe selected by one of the four bandmembers.
They’ve been fun escapes, delivered weekly at first before switching to a monthly cadence at the end of the summer. But this New Year’s Eve plan is the most ambitious and interactive one yet, with Phish planning to engage in this live chess game.
Here’s how it’ll work:
At the end of 5 minutes, whichever move has the most votes is the ‘audience’ move. Stick around during the set breaks as the band joins in from their various homes, playing a few moves and providing scintillating commentary on the game.
— Phish (@phish) December 26, 2020
Phish New Year’s Eve shows are three-set affairs, so expect plenty of face time with the band as they deliberate over their moves.
That’s really all there is to it. If you want to participate in the game, you have to sign up for a Chess.com account (which is free) and then join “the official club for the audience side” of the game, found here.
If you’d rather just watch the show and see the chess shenanigans unfold, Dinner and a Movie streams are posted on Phish’s official YouTube page. (And yes, they’ve already got the recipe suggestions posted for New Year’s Eve.)
It’s worth mentioning that these Dinner and a Movie shows have offered up swag and opportunities to donate, with all proceeds going to support various causes named ahead of each stream. The final show of 2020 will benefit the WaterWheel Foundation, Phish’s own charity initiative.
In the absence of any real New Year’s Eve parties in 2020, this seems like a fun way to spend the evening. Here’s hoping we’ll all be able to gather safely once again by the time Dec. 31, 2021 rolls around.