Ilya Merenzon, the likeable president of AGON, which has the exclusive worldwide marketing rights for the FIDE world chess championship and its qualifying events (such as the one that just finished in Moscow) is NOT a happy man this week. He had earlier irritated pretty much the entire online chess world by trying to arm-wrestle exclusivity for the live transmission of moves, even instigating costly legal action against several popular websites, preventing them from doing business as usual…
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Merenzon gambled on playing a dubious game of smoke and mirrors, arguing that while much of the world’s estimated ONE BILLION chess players were AGON’s natural, god-given target audience, they could ONLY watch if they first signed a legal waiver. Some, such as former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, felt that this was a good thing for chess, especially from a marketing point of view.
Others, myself included, were not convinced and/or felt the opposite: this move was only good for AGON–which is a 100% private company, rumoured to be 51% owned by Ilyumzhinov himself– and that trying to legally bind the entire chess world to become AGON’s private property (spectators that could face prosecution if they violate some of the conditions of the legal waiver)–if only for the duration of the game– was little more than blackmail.
HOW MANY WATCHED ONLINE?
At the closing ceremony, Merenzon spoke briefly, as did FIDE president Ilyumzhinov and several other invited guests, government representatives and the head of Tashir, the principal sponsor. It was here that it was revealed the scale of Merenzon’s failure to reach any significant world market share:
I was also surprised by this DIRECT question that was thrown at Merenzon about whether he was at all pleased with his efforts:
So, it seems, AGON is back at the drawing board: 500,000 page views (?!) over 14 rounds does not even get you past the receptionist at MacDonald’s Personnel Department if you were looking for minimum wage work. On average 35,000 page views per round; this is just NOT a good enough reason to take legal action to prevent other sites from showing the moves…
You can see the entire closing ceremony in Moscow on YOUTUBE (only about 4,600 views so far, and not expected to reach 5,000) Once more the myth of one billion chess players (or 600 million according to other ‘informed‘ sources) is exposed for what it is: just a cheap trick to try to fool potential sponsors…
Readers might be interested in what the NYTimes and Chess.com wrote today about the Moscow/AGON fiasco.