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Tag: Censorship

America Shows Agon How an Open Market Works

Just prior to the start of the 2016 World Chess Championship (WCC) in New York City, Agon Limited filed suit in United States Federal Court against Chess24, Chessbomb, and ChessGames.com to prevent them from broadcasting the moves just as they did (and lost) in Moscow earlier this year.

“These entities expend no time, effort, or money of their own in organizing, producing, or hosting the chess events for the World Championship and instead reap economic benefit from free-riding on the work and effort of World Chess.” – Reuters

However, just as with their loss in Moscow, New York District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the defendants for most of the reasons that have been covered on this blog and in countless others in the chess community already. The most important of those? CHESS IS FOR THE MASSES!


Chess is a game that transcends all boundaries. (Credit: WikiMedia)

RIAA of the Chess World

Although they were readily handed defeat in two countries, Agon promises to continue pursuit of its business model despite widespread business and consumer disapproval. Despite obvious attempts to assist the company with its model, Agon refuses to acknowledge that its attempts to restrict access to tournament moves is misguided. As a direct result, it seeks to force consumers to engage its unreliable and third-rate content delivery system instead of offering a compelling service for fans of the game to watch and enjoy.

Agon has quickly turned itself from an obscure entity into the modern chess equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America which successfully sued a multitude of families in the early 2000s for downloading mp3 files from Napster and other file-sharing services. By suing grandmothers and teenagers for untold millions of dollars, the RIAA quickly became synonymous with corporate greed, censorship, and created a gap between recording artists and their fans from which some artists never recovered.

Hope for an Agon awakening remains dim, but I am pleased to see that both the United States and Russia dealt a blow for freedom to its blatant attempts to monopolize public domain information.

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Agon Loses in Moscow Court

As the world prepares for the coming showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in New York City, a Moscow court dealt a serious blow to Agon/FIDE’s attempts to limit the broadcast of moves from the event. The court ruled that Agon’s claim to the moves as trade secrets was not accurate and even ruled that its claims against Chess24 were invalid because Chess24 is outside of Agon’s legal jurisdiction.

English translation of the ruling. (Credit: Chess24.com)

The ruling is re-printed in English above from Chess24’s article with a full explanation of the ruling and its implications for Agon’s ongoing war against chess freedom located on the same page.

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The Agon Widget from Hell

Remember back in March when Agon, the FIDE puppet company responsible for organizing and managing the World Chess Championship cycle limited the live game broadcasts and infuriated pretty much everyone except their billionaire Russian investors and mafia henchmen? Well, run-on sentences aside, the Agon mafia has returned to show its ugly teeth in the run-up to the World Chess Championship in New York City this November with an announcement that broadcast of the games will be limited to a widget designed to be embedded into an external website to broadcast the games. Peter Doggers at Chess.com breaks the announcement down a little more. When you have finished reading his excellent report, behold the new widget:

Agon’s WCC broadcast widget. (Credit: Chess.com)

According to the official statement,

First, and most importantly, the live moves of the World Chess Championship match will be made available for free to responsible chess websites and other media organizations that take our official broadcast widget.

Although it is presented as the most important part of the broadcast announcement, the idea that the WCC moves should be free is buried in the typical Agon-FIDE hyperbole and legal threats to the chess community and its myriad of online portals. For example,

It is fair to say that the furor that followed divided the global chess community. We were asked, “Does Agon have the right to prohibit anyone from broadcasting the moves as they were made?” We believe that we do and that we have a strong legal position. We also have the full support of the World Chess Federation and many others within the game.

Agon acknowledges that its actions divided a deep and thriving community, but it still fails to see that the divide is between Agon-FIDE and everyone else, not a divide among the chess community. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed an online community come together en masse like the chess community did when Agon announced its monopoly. With its restrictive broadcasting agreements and tactics aimed at subverting the established ecosystem, Agon has alienated itself from countless people who care about chess and want to see it grow. Furthermore, to assert that its position is legitimized by a FIDE endorsement is no different than saying that its okay to restrict the games because the Kremlin says so. In addition, those within the game that are often quoted by Agon-FIDE couldn’t care less about broadcast rights for chess. Their names are solidified in the annals of chess history and their view is always from the front row…at the board!

What we are doing has never been attempted before in the chess world. It is a revolutionary approach and I am sure we will probably make some mistakes in its implementation before we are finished.

Really? It hasn’t? Do they mean that nobody has ever created a chess widget before to cover broadcasted games? How interesting because Chessbase has one and Chessbomb has one that regularly broadcasts live tournament games. This kind of drivel expounds on how little Agon-FIDE really knows about the depths of ingenuity, innovation, and connectedness that exist in the online chess world.

Suspicious Widget

As a veteran of nearly thirty years of computer and network development, I can say that most competent webmasters are reluctant to arbitrarily add external widgets to their platforms. Companies often gain the trust and respect of their customers by demonstrating commitment to that platform’s service before said platform allows their widget or code to be embedded within their framework. For me, I trust Chessbase and Chessbomb because they have earned trust and respect as reputable companies with a legitimate interest in furthering the game of chess. Agon has done nothing but drive a wedge between the chess community and the organization that is supposed to be championing our game.

Would you trust a Soviet JavaScript or PHP widget on your network or content platform? I sure as hell wouldn’t. Call me paranoid, but the truth is always buried in fine print and revealed in data breaches or midnight special forces raids.

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Nazi Paikidze and Hijab Hubbub

Editor’s Note: I try to keep away from writing about politics, but sometimes the world of chess becomes intimately entangled in the affairs of the world. The battles on the board begin to mimic those of the world around us and something has to be said.

US Women’s Chess Champion Nazi Paikidze rocketed into mainstream fame recently with her vocal protest of Iran hosting the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship due to the country’s strict laws regarding female dress codes and specifically, compulsory wear of the Muslim hijab. Given that Nazi (pronounced na-SEE) is an immigrant to the United States herself and with the foundation of our country being that of individual liberty, one would expect rousing support for the champion. Yet, that is not the case in a world gone mad.

Social Justice Warriors Weenies, who seem to insert themselves anywhere they can criticize, ridicule, or otherwise remind others of their professional victim status, have lashed out at Nazi for her protest because she is too white to make a difference… As a man who has served with people of all races, genders, nationalities, and sexual orientations, I have reached my wit’s end with the incessant blame game on race, inequality, or random social condition flavor of the week used to marginalize the voices of people trying to make a legitimate difference for others. The voices on Twitter and on television crying racism, sexism, or whatever-ism simply do not represent the truth in much of our country.

One need not look too far to see that Nazi is not alone. Chess champions Garry Kasparov, Nigel Short, and lesser entities like Campfire Chess along with thousands of others have voiced their support for the protest because silently accepting the Iranian venue demonstrates a remarkable contempt for women’s rights around the world. You can sign her protest petition here.

Chess is a game that empowers men and women of all races and all backgrounds to break down the walls that typically restrict them. That is why I am proud of Nazi and her resolve. She represents the best of what our nation was founded on.

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The Agon Monopoly – The World Takes Notice

It took some time but the mainstream media has started to notice and report on the war between Agon and the rest of the chess world. A recent article on Bloomberg has raised interest in the company’s move to monopolize the 2016 Candidates Tournament broadcast and that of any subsequent tournaments connected to the World Chess Championship cycle. As many of us already know, the move has deepened the wedge between the World Chess Federation and countless fans across the globe. As explained in the article,

The company hired by the World Chess Federation to organize and broadcast the ongoing tournament in Russia announced earlier this month that other websites would not be allowed to offer live coverage, as many had done in the past.

This paragraph represents how the situation most likely appears to outsiders because it is how Agon/FIDE has worked to project its position in relation to live tournament broadcasts. Agon appears to be a legitimate company hired by FIDE to manage the championship tournament cycle because that is how the elaborate pyramid system involving FIDE and Agon is established and portrayed. It goes without saying that the boards of entire corporations have been put in prison in the United States for engaging in the same activities that have been undertaken by the leadership of the World Chess Federation and its phantom company. Let us take a moment to break down the history of Agon, its influence and relationship with the World Chess Federation.

  • Agon was founded in 2012 by Andrew Paulson, an American businessman for the sole purpose of managing and promoting chess tournaments and specifically, the World Chess Championship cycle. Because of missteps in management and controversy over the company’s ownership, Agon never organized a single chess event or sponsorship under Paulson and shortly after he became president of the English Chess Federation, Paulson sold the company to its current owner, Ilya Merenzon. Although it operates primarily out of the Russian Federation, Agon is registered as a private company based out of New Jersey.

  • As early as 2014, accusations arose that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of the World Chess Federation, was to be provided 51% in shares of Agon, which would have made him a majority shareholder and a de facto controller of the company and its assets. Conflict of interest is a term ill-suited to describe that kind of situation. Because of Ilyumzhinov’s reputation for deception and monopolistic control of the World Chess Federation, it is hard difficult to determine exactly where fiction ends and reality begins in the story of his relationship to Agon.

When Agon announced its intentions to limit the broadcast rights of chess websites around the world shortly before the start of the 2016 Candidates Tournament, the reaction was swift and furious. Campfire Chess joined in support of Chessdom, Chess24 and Chessbomb as they defied the company’s demands and continued broadcasting the live moves in protest throughout the tournament. I continue to stand by this position because everything that I am says that dissent in this case is the right thing to do. According to the official website, Agon has filed legal action in Moscow against Chess24, ChessGames.com, The Internet Chess Club, and Chess24 because of their defiance, but it will be curious to how the whole scenario plays out because Agon has no standing to pursue action against these sites, as has been demonstrated in case law and in settlements as recent as 2015 with Major League Baseball.

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Kent Brockman reporting… (Credit: Fox)

Naivety and Corporate Expectations

I am certainly not blind to the needs of companies to turn a profit from their products. Campfire Chess is a nonprofit organization funded entirely by me, but my long term dream is to monetize some kind of product. However, the rules of business are much more complicated than ordering other companies to cease their operations so that another company can turn a profit.

This is what Agon and FIDE leadership do not understand. If they want to build sponsorship and monetize chess tournaments, then they need to offer a product that is in higher demand than others. Chessbase, Chess24, Chessbomb and countless other sites in the online chess ecosystem offer live commentary, video lessons, and a sense of community that draws people in to their services. This is what Agon should be doing if it wants to compete. I am entirely open to watching tournaments on an exclusive tournament site if that site offers coverage and supplemental material that makes the experience worth it.

Until they figure that out, dissent will continue because chess is for the people.

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WorldChess.com DDoS Claims Most Likely Untrue

Those who were tuned in to the 2016 Candidates Tournament in Moscow and took note of the anger that is seething in the social media world regarding the recent attempts to censor the live game broadcasts of the tournament, may have noticed a tweet from the official account stating that the official website responsible for broadcasting the match was the victim of a Dedicated Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. The tweet was sent from the account at 0449 EST:

It is intriguing that whoever posted the tweet was specific in expressing their opinion that this was an clear attempt to stop broadcast of the Candidates Tournament. For anyone who knows anything about subversion and the attempts by shady and underhanded organizations to manipulate these kind of events knows that this is a propaganda ploy. Because, why would the chess community as a whole have any reason to bring down the single website available to broadcast the moves of one of the most important tournaments of the year?

For those of us with extensive backgrounds in information technology, we understand that it is more likely that the world chess Federation underestimated (like it usually does) the demands that would be placed on a broadcast server. If you are running one server to broadcast a series of games and it is the only place in the world where chess fans are told that they can legally obtained the moves from the event, then countless attempts to contact and connect to the server is not a DDOS! In an attempt to further their efforts to manipulate the chest broadcasting system in future tournaments, claiming that it was a dedicated denial of service attack enables them to deflect the blame from their own services and failings.

Fortunately, the chess community is brilliant and few (if any) actually believed the claims although there are some websites that have repeated the story, but almost none of them have approached it from a purely serious standpoint and are quick to note the sarcastic response from most of the chess community on social media.

As my readers know, I am very passionate about this situation, which is why I offered my $0.02 above. However, I tip my hat to this tweet, which sums up everything I believe that people have come to think about professional international chess under Kirsan Ilyumzhinov:

Will we see more craziness like this in the coming days? Probably so, but I can tell you that the backlash has had an effect on how the tournament and organizers are conducting business. Today, the tournament organizer, AGON, rescinded its to our release rule for the PGN file and will be releasing them immediately after the conclusion of each game in the match.

Small moves.

-w.s.

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Support the Broadcast of #BootlegChess!

Because I grew up in the United States of America and believe in freedom from oppression and disobedience to illegitimate authority, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my support for the growing number of chess websites that are lining up to disobey the illegal order of Agon and the World Chess Federation to block the broadcast of moves from the Candidates 2016 tournament.

Chess24 sent out a link earlier via Twitter with a video broadcast feed for the event on LiveStream

Chessbomb, which is one of my personal favorite sites for following tournament games, has posted instructions on its blog so that fans can help the site broadcast the games. I encourage you, if you have the time and resources available, to check out the instructions and support Chessbomb and other websites in broadcasting these moves around the world! Do not let corporate greed silence the chess community!

Here is the full text of the instructions from Chessbomb:

As explained in this post, ChessBomb will not use the official site of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016 because we don’t accept or agree to their Terms and Conditions. This means we have to obtain the moves from other sources. First and foremost, we rely on volunteers to anonymously submit the moves to us. Here is how you can do that:

  1. Download and install the Tor Browser.
  2. Using the Tor Browser, visit this link: http://cbomb73x6akxqm6r.onion/
  3. Select a game, and send us any missing moves!
  4. Click Back, repeat step 3.
  5. By using a Tor Hidden Service, we protect the anonymity of the volunteers. We don’t know their IP addresses or locations, so we can’t be compelled to reveal them.

Your support means everything to us. Thank you!

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The Strange Goings-Ons at FIDE

Back when I started running this blog, started paying closer attention to what was happening with FIDE and the politics of chess. I am not a big fan of politics and I assume that most people are not, but it is hard to resist the temptation to follow the latest drama whether it be a United States political race or controversy in the World Chess Federation. Obviously, Gary Kasparov has made quite a few headlines in recent years over his staunch opposition to the current regime in the World Chess Federation. He took a brutal beating in the 2014 election cycle to elect the new president and is even being accused by Kramnik of being directly responsible for Ilyumzhinov sanctions by the United States Department of Treasury due to his ties with terrorist nations and their leaders.

Therefore, it was no surprise today when I was browsing through Twitter and came across an outstanding article by Chessdom in which the author poured out an immense level of fury over the World Chess Federation’s recent decisions involving the broadcast and exclusive rights of the candidates tournament. This tournament will determine who faces Magnus Carlsen in the 2016 World Chess Championship, and is of great interest to millions of chess players around the world. Before I get into the specifics, I would like to provide you with a link to the tweet that prompted this post. At the end of the day, it is my intention to reaffirm that regardless of your political leaning or your philosophical beliefs: chess belongs to the people!

In my day job we have a saying called BLUF, which stands for Bottom Line Up Front. As clearly indicated by Anton Mihailov’s post on Chessdom, the BLUF is that FIDE and AGON continue to show immense Disrespect and outright contempt for the chess community of the world. Because I am the kind of guy who does not like doing double the work I will not take the time to fully analyze the post, but I highly encourage you to stop over and read it! However, I do not encourage you to go over and read the article simply because I am worried about the future of the world chess Federation or the tournament system as it exists today. Instead, I encourage you to go over and read the article in the context of what Mihailov is trying to say: FIDE, through its corporate sponsors, is continuing its relentless attempt to subvert the freedom of chess players and their fans around the world, and has crossed the line!

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Kent Brockman is not a big fan of chess censorship. (Credit: FOX)

Imagine if you will for a moment what would happen if Major League Baseball suddenly decreed that no one was allowed to discuss games in progress in any form on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media website. I think it is safe to say that there would be riots in the streets! This is because MLB appreciates its fans and understands how to harness the power of the fan community to boost interest and to create a personal connection to the game. Because FIDE is just now showing up to the internet world (20 years too late), it believes that it can exert control over information flow like the moves of a chessboard are the key to unlocking the launch codes of a nuclear submarine. FIDE does not respect its players and its community, which is why it is able to treat its fan base with this kind of contempt with absolutely no remorse.

I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I would not shed a tear if the World Chess Federation simply ceased to exist as a result of its own miscalculations. It is curious that an organization charged with supporting a vast community of the finest calculating minds in the world routinely makes some of the worst possible decisions both on and off the board. Chess is counter-culture because it is so accessible, which is why countries like Saudi Arabia and other regimes frequently target it for banishment.

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Bobby Fischer had problems with FIDE as well. (Credit: Pawn Sacrifice)

Campfire Chess is proud to be among the tiny chess blogs that make up the dynamic and thriving global chess community. Trust me that if I had the servers and resources, every single move would be beamed into the stratosphere the moment it was made. For now, I leave that to the professionals who have been doing this longer and have the resources. Go forth, my brothers and sisters! The beautiful, hard truth for organizations like FIDE and AGON is this: chess is for the people!

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