We live in the epoch of the Internet. And with that, another phenomenon comes that marks our everyday life – the social networking. Facebook grew as the largest network, but there are many others, some are better known, some are obscure, but all they have one thing in common: to connect friends and acquaintances from various walks of life. Some specialise in a specific grouping of people united by a certain profession, activity, belief etc.
By now, it is an irrefutable fact that the virtual communication is our reality.
If you thought that chess players are asocial types, Facebook will prove that the contrary is true. Everyone who is anyone in the chess world is on the Facebook. They are abuzz with changing statuses daily; with plenty of photos immortalising their important events that everybody must see and, hopefully, ‘like’; jokes; games; birthday wishes; teasing each other and selfies… selfies … galore.
Of course, the business side is not neglected. Networking, in its base, understands making business deals. In our case, it has became a common practice to announce tournaments on the Facebook, inviting players to participate and giving all sorts of information connected to it.
Jenifer Shahade, one of the more active ones on the Facebook networking from London Chess Classic, a photo and info that got 227 ’likes’.
It is obvious that if the chess world could be united in a social network dedicated specifically to the chess community, it would not lack adherents. It would most probably prove very useful as it would be clean from all unwanted elements and deal exclusively with chess matters among chess friends. Like a chess family.
The idea has cross the mind to many and modest attempts have been made to imitate the Facebook and strengthen the communication in the chess world in a specially designed chess network.
However, it seems that only now, a real, professional social network is on its way with the aim of connecting chess professionals, aficionados and all kind of chess workers.
It is aptly named ’Chess Family’. It closely resounds the fide’s motto Gens Una Sumus.
Its marketing logo is “Playing for Fraternity!”.
The logo of the new social media dedicated to chess: Chess Family.
It was the idea of an accomplished chess worker from Tunisia, IA, IO Jawhar ben Fredj who is also the main sponsor.
Jawhar sais: ’The FIDE’s slogan is “We are a family”. This large family is sharing noble values such as peace, fraternity, fair play, respect, sharing, wisdom, solidarity, patience, work, search for perfection and many other values. This is the basis of my idea to create a mobile application and a Web service that would allow a better social connection between the members of this global family.’
Jawhar Ben Fredj as Arbiter at the Open Mediterranean in Casablanca (Morocco), 2015
Jawhar Ben Fredj (b.1971), comes from Monastir in Tunisia. He has been involved with several enterprises as a general, marketing and media manager in Tunisia, France and Belgium. He is recipient of several prizes within the business management for his business involvements in Africa, the Middle East and Japan, including a Cup for the best Tunisian inventor (2001) and a Gold Medal of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), in 2002. (The invention was a mini SMS sending server whith a built-in robot that analyses data from major global exchanges (Paris, London, Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo) and detects the investment opportunities in real time.) His current business activities are General Manager of Multi-Vision Ltd and Co-founder of the AnnoncesExpress group http://www.annoncesexpress.com/.
Chess wise he is a FIDE master and trainer and an International Arbiter and Organiser. He is a Vice-President of the Tunisian Chess Federation (since 2013) and has served as a General Secretary of the African Chess Federation (2013-14). He has been a Technical Director of the chess club La Tour Blanche, team champion of Tunisia on several occasions and the team’s coach and captain. As a trainer of the Tunisian chess elite youth group, his charges brought in several titles and medals in national, African and Arab youth championships.
Jawhar at the closing ceremony of the Tunisian Youth Championships, 2013, with some of his trainees – champions
Since 2009 he has been running the very successful international Festival «Memorial Mohamed Slama»
Since 2014 he is a member of the FIDE commissions Chess in Schools, Marketing Committee and the On-line Commission.
From our exchange of correspondences, over email and Skype, I understood the basic premises of the idea about the Chess Family: a social network in the services of the chess global family. By installing the application that extracts the GPS position in real time, members will have access to:
• Chess players, available to meet within 10 Km
• All Chess current events within 50 km (tournaments, matches etc.)
• All clubs in operation (depending on schedule) within 20 Km
• All Chess play areas within 10 km (Bar, lounges …)
• All Chess events which will take place in the next 10 days within 50 km.
I also gathered that something similar to Facebook was in the offing, but in order to present a clearer idea to our readers, I requested some clarification from Jawhar and conducted an interview in which he elaborates his intention in quite a comprehensive manner.
A taste of the application with three sample screens
DM: Basically, your project will be based on the GPS (Global Positioning System) application. How will you get information on what is happening regarding chess events worldwide, as you predict, within 10 to 50 km?
JBF: The Chess Family project includes several services. The main innovative service is making possible real, face-to-face, meetings, which would be facilitated through the geolocation (application programming interface – API) found in all of the latest productions of mobiles. The principle is very simple: The user of Chess Family, via the menu accessible to the subscriber, activates his/ her position and starts the search. The application displays a list of active, available chess players that seek partners to play. Obviously, those players need to be also registered as members and have the application active on their mobiles.
From the list of members in the vicinity, the user could make a contact via mobile notification and fix an appointment to meet and play.
Jawhar with GMs Mohamed al-Modiahki (QAT), Hichem Hamdouchi (FRA), and his son Jad, in Al Ain (UAE), 2013
DM: I understand that it will be a kind of a “social network”, like Facebook. In what way it will be similar or different to Facebook?
JBF: There are several similarities between Chess Family and virtual social networks as Facebook. For example, the members will have a network of private contacts (friends) and will be able to inform, publish texts, images, videos and share articles. Chess Family will also be a source of information for members.
However, one of the highlights of the Chess Family is the ability to go beyond simple virtual connections. It is a service that would help to meet to play chess really, not online or virtually, and share moments of pleasure. These friends are real!
Thanks to the Chess Family, real friendships can be forged. It will not be just clicking on an icon to ’add a friend’ virtually, but it would be about real meetings that allow a real discovery of a person, sharing moments and warm human relationships strengthened by the universal values of chess.
Chess Family will also avail members with access to basic chess locations like clubs, public squares, bars, cafes, hotels, and the activities that take place there. For example, in a town like Montpellier in France, a member would have the map of all clubs, their opening hours, their programs and upcoming events (tournaments, simuls, visits by great personalities, etc.).
Jawhar with his son Jad and his two daughters, Mayssa (on the left), Arab champion 2013, and Meriem, a bronze medallist at the African championship, 2014
DM: To implement this idea and application you have to make investments. How will it be financed? Do you have any sponsors?
JBF: Yes, obviously, a project of this magnitude requires an important investment. My partners in France and Belgium and I were confident about the usefulness and feasibility of this ambitious project and we decided to go ahead devising a financial plan consisting of 3 major steps:
The first phase will involve the launch of the project. Our objective is to reach 100,000 members during the first quarter. Currently, all indicators show that the chess community is awaiting such a service and that this figure could be reached within the first month.
Regarding funding, in addition to our own, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on the site Indiegogo, the world leader in this field. We opted for this in order to keep some independence. We have a strong will to provide basic services to the mobile application free of charge to all in the global chess community.
In this context, I would like to initiate a call for support among the members of the chess community who believe in the values carried by this project. They can support the Chess Family even if only morally by clicking this link: http://igg.me/at/chessfamily. (This link will be fully operational at the launch of the campaign of crowdfunding, within a few days).
We are also open to all investors who might be interested to join us in this ambitious adventure. Most important for us is that our associates believe in this project and its noble values.
It is normal that one must have money, resources and revenues so that such a project may survive, but money is not everything!
The team La Tour Blanche, Tunisian champions in 2010 and 2012, with their captain
DM: Do you have a marketing company to help and raise awareness within the global chess community?
JBF: Yes of course, we do things very professionally and we are using the services of experts in communication, web marketing and social marketing. In addition, in the team we have various professionals in the Graphic Design and in Digital Marketing.
We started to prepare the ground for the first crowdfunding campaign and I can announce that the first results are very promising. For information, the project’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/global.chess.family/?fref=ts was launched just few days ago but it has already surpassed the number of 10,000 fans, which shows that the interest is huge.
Arbitrating at the World Youth Championship in Al Ain, UAE, 2013
DM: How will you generate revenue? Would it be through the usual method of advertising?
JBF: For the phase of the launch we rely solely on donations and package purchases through our crowdfunding campaign. The basic application will be always free. Members also can buy subscriptions to extra services in the form of packages. From March, 2016 we will have available two formulas: the first is a “KIDS membership”, which is a subscription including games and exercises that help develop children’s mental ability. The second is a “Premium Membership”.
Concerning advertising, we have had contacts recently from potential sponsors who have shown interest because Chess Family allows for a precise and relevant targeting. However, we work on a innovative concept that should avoid disturbing members with advertising harassment.
We also intend to offer our members products and services directly related to chess in partnership with publishing houses and reputable sites.
At a training session with youngsters in the presence of Lakhdar Mazouz (ALG), the current President of the African Chess Federation
DM: When will the application become fully operational?
JBF: Our team has been working on it for several months. Currently, 4 teams work in parallel: the first is responsible for IT development, the second for the graphic design, the third for financing and partnerships and the fourth for the marketing and communication.
According to our schedule, we will start beta testing on January 15, 2016. We hope to start the version 1 of the application in March, 2016. This version will be available in two languages: English and French. Then there will be a version 2, scheduled for the end of 2016 and available in 13 languages. Version 3 is scheduled for December 2017 and will be available in 54 languages.
DM: How did you come to this idea? Are you the only creator / author?
JBF: In fact, I have been looking for an idea, innovative and useful to the chess family, to which I also belong, for quite some time. I got the basic idea when one of my associates told me how he met his wife using a mobile dating service based on geolocation. I found the story amusing and when I got home, I retraced memories of my own hazardous encounters with chess aficionados with whom I have established excellent rapports and friendship. Despite our different language, colour or religion, we created a strong bond since the very first meeting because we shared common values and a similar state of mind.
At the same time, I realized that members of the big global chess family do not know each other well and that a simple information that a person in the vicinity shares the love for chess could open bridges and facilitate a contact. Guided by this reflection, I concluded that it was something that could be done for the chess community and that it had a huge potential.
At first, I discussed the idea with close friends who all approved with admiration. Encouraged, I presented my vision to my associates and we started the study of the project.
Jawhar Ben Fredj ont he cliffs of his native city Monastir, Tunisia
With terrorism upon us, almost daily somewhere in the world, and Jawhar’s country, Tunisia, being hit recently, again, with an odious attack, we could not pass by these sad occurrences with silence. I had a chance to visit Tunisia and met Jawhar in person a few years ago. This beautiful country led bravely the Arab Spring Revolution but, alas, it is not left alone by fanatic destructive forces. In a way of an end to our interview, Jawhar added these few words:
JBF: Unfortunately, terrorism is a scourge that threatens the whole world and Tunisia is in the front lines of the fight against fundamentalism. The world must mobilize all the forces to combat it by relying on goodness.
There is a quote that says: “Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to violence”. It is this ignorance that poses a big problem today.
I am more than ever convinced that chess, through the universal values it represents, can contribute substantially to the mutual understanding among the citizens of the world and help to dissipate this fear fueled by ignorance.
Chess Family is a project that falls into this global vision of things and I think that the chess community will actively adhere.
Please have a look at this 2.5 min promotional video https://youtu.be/VEblwW7lRzg
Time will tell, but it seems to me that Facebook may lose quite a number of its chess ’friends’.
Official website: http://www.chessfamily.net