The Disappearing Chess World
The Incredible Disappearing Chess World
I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, but I had been hoping it would be later than sooner. We have come to think of the internet as a place where chess players, tournament organizers and chess fans of all persuasions could all come together and celebrate the promotion of the game for the game’s sake. Where watching a tournament LIVE or downloading the PGN is as uncomplicated and natural as a pretty girl’s smile…
But those times are disappearing, and might soon only be a memory. Leading chess websites are quickly trying to monetize on our passion for the game. Agon – the financial arm of FIDE – immediately comes to mind, but is hardly the only guilty suspect. Wrote Peter Doggers last week of Agon’s monetizing initiatives:
“The user experience for following the Candidates’, the world championship match and now these Grand Prix tournaments is simply worse than at other major tournaments. An important reason is Agon’s position towards the live transmission of games.
By trying (and, thus far, failing) to limit the live transmission to the WorldChess website, Agon has alienated a number of well-established chess websites. One of the major Russian sites, ChessPro, hasn’t covered Agon’s events since the Candidates’ Tournament last year. Chess24, who have been involved in lawsuits with Agon, decided to boycott the Moscow Grand Prix altogether and also did not cover yesterday’s first round of the Geneva GP…All in all, it seems regardless of their statements, things are tough for Agon right now, but even harder for those interested in follow these tournaments.“
But, truth be told, Chess24 is just as guilty of trying to monetize on the transmission of games as Agon, but it operates with a different scheme. Chess24 freely gives the moves LIVE, but if you want to afterwards download the games (PGN) then you must first buy a membership package!
Worse still, this practice by Chess24 (and other websites that have LIVE coverage packages) effectively discourage tournament organizers from offering PGN files to third party sites that traditionally specialize in free downloads.
TWIC comes immediately to mind:
The above sad image is from this morning’s TWIC website. TWIC is perhaps the best known website during the past 20-odd years for free PGN downloads of tournaments, and as far as I am concerned, has been my principal source of pgn for my blog.
As we can witness above, TWIC is hardly recognizable anymore! For downloading purposes, TWIC is almost dead (however, the site still offers other excellent services). I have to search the internet for the PGN downloads that I want, and it is becoming increasingly difficult, and in many cases impossible.
It might seem wonderful at first sight that more and more tournaments are going on-line, and that the number of sites offering LIVE coverage is growing (ICC, Chess24, ChessBomb, ChessDom, etc), but if something as basic as the game score is becoming almost impossible to find – except if you are willing to PAY for it – then chess on the internet has its days counted.
Long ago the courts decided that game scores can not be copyrighted. Despite this, the insistence of AGON and other leading chess operators to ignore this fundamental legal reality and try to get chess players and fans to fork over some coins for the game score is hurting chess’ potential to grow on-line.
I understand that those who invest tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) to build a website want a return on their investment. But, as any professional chess player knows only too well, money is HARD to find in the chess world. Any website owner who wants to make money from chess should get a REAL job!
The continued efforts to monetize internet chess news and tournament game scores is simply alienating the chess community, leading to money being wasted on futile law suits and breaking apart what was once a vibrant on-line chess culture. The promotion of chess needs people who can add to what already exists, not people who try to profit from what does NOT belong to them.