Bitcoin, invented in 2008 by “Satoshi Nakamoto” and first released as open-source software in 2009, is the first decentralized cryptocurrency. Without a central bank or single administrator, it can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography, eliminating the old danger of “double spending”, and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.
The first large explosion of cryptocurrency went largely unnoticed by the world. This was the time when Bitcoin’s value gradually rose and reached $100.
The second large wave saw the appearance of many alt-coins, solid development of the blockchain technology, and bitcoin crossing $20 000. This time the world knew: the blockchain is here to stay. However, the chess world and crypto, despite the global craze in the second wave, stayed largely apart. One could hear about some chess player that has dived into crypto, but those were rather remote stories and the chess community was not taking them seriously.
The chess-crypto relationship largely changed in crypto’s third wave. The explosion of Bitcoin and literally hundreds of alts took the world by storm – and the chess world was in zugzwang and could simply not avoid the revolution.
This Monday the chess world got to know about the “World’s first bitcoin chess tournament” – the FTX Crypto Chess Cup 2021. Reading into the details of the press release, one understands that this will be the first tournament to actually give part of the prize fund in crypto, specifically in Bitcoin, provided by the FTX sponsor. However, this is not the first major contact between crypto and chess – rather it was the Candidates Chess 2020-2021 with Algorand being a major sponsor of the event.
The WorldChess Candidates and Algorand
Based in Boston and founded by cryptography pioneer and Turing award winner Silvio Micali, the open-source software company Algorand was the official sponsor of the Candidates 2020-2021. The crypto company was prominently displayed on the official website and could be seen on most photos in the playing hall.
There is hardly a chess fan that missed the Algo branding during the Candidates. Yet there was one highly important news that was missed by many in the chess world, but actually made a solid impact in the crypto and blockchain communities – the first ever recorded digital chess rating on blockchain happened during the Candidates.
While the video that you see below got around 2100 views at the moment of writing this publication, the news about the digital rating made it to serious crypto news websites. One of the prominent mentions was in CoinDesk. And the news is key – while crypto remains volatile and the value fluctuates, the use case of blockchain is proven and the technology is here to stay.
Silvio Micali and the first digital chess rating on the blockchain
CoinDesk on the digital chess rating
Algorand’s blockchain platform has been selected by the official online body of chess to record the ratings and titles of players.
In an announcement on Thursday, Algorand said it will record FIDE Online Arena World Chess players’ data and provide a transparent platform where participants can view game information that’s updated in real time.
FIDE Online Arena is the federation’s internet server that is solely responsible for official digital tournaments and world championships in which players earn international ratings and titles.
“It’s exciting to continue bringing innovation to chess,” Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Сhess, said in the press release. “The advent of digital games on the internet made chess more popular than before, and now we can’t wait to further explore blockchain innovation for digital chess.”
“This historic moment brings the blockchain community one step closer to mainstream adoption, as a widely popular competitive game like chess leverages distributed ledger technology to serve as the official record for trust of millions of online chess players and fans,” said Sean Ford, COO of Algorand.
Blockchain and anti-cheating in chess, article in Cointelegraph
Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Chess, told Cointelegraph that chess was unusually well placed to thrive during the pandemic:
“Unlike other sports, chess can be played with equal excitement offline and online. That is something that sets it apart from all the other major sports. In the absence of other major sporting events, the Candidates Tournament received unprecedented press coverage this time around.”
Although considered a gentleman’s game, cheating is still an issue in chess. It can take many forms — from taking strategic bathroom breaks, to creating fictitious records of games that never happened, or relying on the help of computer chess engines when playing online.
Merenzon believes that blockchain technology can help identify and prevent such unsportsmanlike behavior:
“We are working on the anti-cheating engine that may record over one hundred data points for each move — its timestamp, players’ biometrics, chess engine evaluation, etc. Storing this data in the decentralized database would make a lot of sense”
Merenzon also shared with Cointelegraph that Algorand and World Chess have been working on a project that will:
“introduce blockchain into chess. The project is expected to launch in a few weeks.”
Algorand’s spokesperson released a statement to Cointelegraph which elaborates the rationale behind the partnership:
“Algorand’s partnership with World Chess is exciting because of the overlap of early blockchain adopters, computer science experts and chess enthusiasts. World Chess is focused on bringing new technology to the forefront of their traditional game and Algorand is proud to be partnering with the organization to drive mainstream adoption of both chess and blockchain.”
FTX and the “World’s first bitcoin chess tournament”
Carlsen’s company Play Magnus, listed on the stock exchange and valued at 85 million, organizes series of tournaments under the name Champions Chess tour. It attracted prominent sponsor including Opera, AirThings, Julius Bar, and Meltwater among others. This Monday the Champions Chess tour announced the brand new sponsor of the tournament – the FTX crypto exchange and the start of the FTX Crypto Cup.
FTX Crypto Cup has a record prize pot for an online tournament of $320,000. About one third of that the players will receive in actual Bitcoin on FTX. Hence, the title of the event , “World’s first bitcoin chess tournament”.
The FTX Crypto Cup prize fund was set to be 2,1825 BTC at the time of the press release, which was a value of exactly 100 000 USD. Unfortunately for the players, the BTC crypto lost ground and by the end of the day the value of the prize fund shrinked to about 93 000 USD. How will this volatility be seen by the top players? One can only guess. Few of them spoke openly about their attitude towards crypto. One of world’s best GM’s, the silver medalist in the Candidates Maxime Vachier-Lagrave , who will also play in the FTX Crypto Cup, had this to say about crypto during the event in Yekaterinburg.
CryptoChamps Chess by Coinbase
Just a day after the announcement of the FTX Crypto Chess Cup 2021 by the Play Magnus group, Chess.com launched its crypto related chess event – CryptoChamps Chess by Coinbase.
The event line-up features Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano, Benjamin Cowen, Jing Wang, Matt Huang, Logic, Daryl Morey, Meltem Demirors, Kevin Owocki, Kain Warwick, Vinny Lingham, Peter McCormack, Ben Forman.
The $25,000 total prize fund will be donated to a charity institution chosen by each of the participants and the donations will be made entirely in cryptocurrency.
Chess, the blockchain and adoption
Bitcoin is currently under attack after the recent publications on Twitter by Elon Musk. The volatility of cryptocurrencies has always been high – they go up and down like no other asset. However, they have something of high stable value behind them, and it is here to stay – the blockchain.
As the COO of Algorand rightly pointed, having the chess ratings on blockchain is one step closer to crypto’s final goal – adoption.
But is the chess world ready for the change? Having the technology is one thing, using it is a totally different story.
Blockchain is here to stay. Chess is here to stay. Chessdom is here to stay. And you know the bottom line: none of the information written in this article is financial advice!