I am working on a separate entry that will address the recent lack of updates here on the blog, but for now I thought I would take a moment to speak about upcoming realignments to the Campfire Chess social media presence. After careful thought and much soul-searching, I have decided to cease updating the Campfire Chess Twitter account. The platform itself has become incredibly toxic, which leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of this site to part ways with it. I will not close the account itself, but there will be no updates or posts on the account in the foreseeable future.
In addition, the Tumblr account will be closed this weekend because I simply do not use it. The remaining social media accounts will remain active for now.
Contrary to what you might have heard about chess players, I am a (mostly) social guy! Campfire Chess is not my full time job, so everything I do here and on social media is a hobby (for now). But that does not mean that I half-ass my efforts with the site! There are social media pages for Campfire Chess on just about every relevant platform out there! Some of these pages contain exclusive updates and stories that are not found here on the main blog. If you are a social type, then check out Campfire Chess on its myriad of other broadcast mediums!
If the links above don’t work, try these:
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.
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.
Imagine for a moment the social stereotype of the typical chess player. Is it the image of an old white guy sitting alone in his house hunched over a chessboard with stacks of newspapers, magazines, and books around him? Perhaps he is disheveled and could use a refresher on how to use the shower? Bobby Fischer did not own a computer so this guy does not have one either. This creepy stereotype continues to persist in the mainstream media, but is there any truth to it?
A recent article on World Chess took players and fans to task for not embracing social media like other sports. The article’s title warns of things to come: Chess Players are Surprisingly Bad with Social Media. There is nothing surprising about this to chess players, fans, and the community as a whole. The author insists that professional players have not harnessed the power of social media marketing tools to boost their popularity and popularity of the sport. The whole argument assumes that chess audiences are ready to embrace social media marketing on a wide scale. History proves that this is not the case with chess.
An example brought up in the article uses the always fun and engaging WCM Claudia Munoz. The author focuses on Claudia’s 19,000+ Tweets relative to her 3,000 followers and implies that her inability to reach more people is due to a lack of cooperation from other chess masters. I would argue that it has less to do with the quality of personality or the collaborative efforts of different chess masters and more to do with the nature of chess itself. Chess is a game that has transcended the board and is readily available online. Chess players meet to play chess, not to share their favorite cat videos with each other. Quite often the focus of obsession for chess fans is not the personality or the player, but the quality of their game. There is no social media requirement to obtain PGN files of games, so the community as a whole lacks the need to be social.
I am more social than your average chess player because I run a chess blog and because I am a (way) less than average chess player. I enjoy the social elements of chess because I am interested in personality and how a player’s personality affects their style. The world’s greatest chess players have made serious efforts to improve their social media presence but the chess audience is not reciprocating. I wish that chess players as a whole were more social but chess is not an inherently social game. It is a strategic battle between two people who are not required to be friends to play. Yet, I think that Claudia Munoz and players like her are a ray of hope for a future where that mentality changes and the community is transformed.
Read the full article on WorldChess.com.