Reports | April 15, 2011 2:50

Bulgarian Chess Federation vs. Chessbase: 0-1

Bulgarian Chess Federation loses court case ChessbaseIn May 2010 the Bulgarian Chess Federation, after organizing the Anand-Topalov World Championship match, took Chessbase to court for "violating copyright rules". Chessbase had transmitted the moves of the match live on their Playchess server, without permission of the Bulgarians. Recently in a court in Berlin all demands of the Bulgarian Chess Federation were rejected.

Last year, in May 2010, the Bulgarian Chess Federation organized the Anand-Topalov World Championship match in Sofia, Bulgaria. They managed to collect a prize fund of 3 million Euros: 2 million for the players, 400,000 for FIDE taxes and 600,000 for organizational costs.

In an attempt to earn back at least part of that money, the organizers tried to sell the rights to cover the event to other media. For instance, the Bulgarian national TV channel were said to have paid the organizers to have the right to film the players with cameras inside the playing hall.

Anand-Topalov

Vishy Anand and Veselin Topalov fighting out the 2010 World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Chess Federation also attempted to sell the media the right to transmit the games live on the internet. On behalf of the organizers, Silvio Danailov told ChessVibes a few weeks before the match that we needed to pay 15,000 Euros if we wanted to transmit the games live. Although we weren't sure about the legal situation, we were not inclined to fight this in court. Chessbase was.

Bulgarian Chess Federation vs. Chessbase

While they backed off during the Topalov-Kamsky Candidates Match in February 2009, this time Chessbase decided to play hardball. The Hamburg based company, a market leader in chess software, transmitted all twelve games of the Anand-Topalov match on their Playchess server.

On June 2, 2010 we reported that the Bulgarian Chess Federation had taken Chessbase to court. We quoted Silvio Danailov, who in the mean time has become President of the European Chess Union and also President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation. Back then, as the main organizer of the World Championship match, he said:

Silvio Danailov"Before the start of the World Chess Championship we explicitly stated that no company can use the moves without the official site's staff permission. And this was violated by Chessbase, they put themselves above the law in Europe, above the general FIDE ethical rules. (...) I believe in European law and in our Attorney who is presenting the case - Mr. Rainer Polzin. What's more, I am candidate for President of the ECU and as such I have to stand behind the rights of professional chess. Such actions, as the one by the German company Chessbase, affect the sponsors of events negatively, which damages sponsorship, from there future organization and level of events. In the long run the biggest damage is made on the chess fans, who are the most important part of the game - they certainly deserve to enjoy high level events and have chess sponsorship on all levels. Thus, by defending our rights through European law, we will be defending all fans and the future of chess."

Their attorney, GM Rainer Polzin, has a law firm in Berlin. In June he explained to us:

Rainer Polzin"The case has been filed at a court in Berlin [Landgericht - CV]. The action is partly based on the German Copyright Law, which is based in the protection of databases mainly to European directives. The EU directive (EU Directive) 96/9/EC of 11 March 1996 will play an important role.

Further claims from the Competition Law will be invoked. It is essentially a question of whether the live acquisition of content from a website, which is funded by sponsors, put onto another website, with the intention of generating profits, is admissible.

There have been some cases in Germany on broadcasting rights of football matches. But there it's clear what is copyrighted: photos, moving pictures and radio reports. The problem for the clubs is when reporters without prior permission for sale, after buying a ticket, make photos or videos. These are fascinating cases. But it's not comparable with our case, as ChessBase had no reporters in Sofia."

Demands rejected

It's quite common that the preparation of such cases takes many months, but on Tuesday, March 29th at 10.30 in the morning it was dealt with in the Landgericht Berlin. Half an hour later everyone had already left the court room. The judge had rejected all demands by the Bulgarian Chess Federation.

As soon as we heard about this, we requested a copy of the judgement. A press spokesman of the Berlin court sent us a preliminary copy, on which the following description of the court case is based.

Update: This document is now also available online for download.

The demands

As it turns out, the Bulgarian Chess Federation demanded both information from Chessbase, and damage compensation for their relay of the games on Playchess.

The two parties had a difference of opinion about whether it was possible to send information, via a mobile phone or the internet, from the playing hall to the outside world. However, it was clear that his was possible from the press room.

The Bulgarian Chess Federation transmitted the games on the official match website, without delay. It claimed that it spent about 8,000 Euro for this, and managed to find 15 commercial partners for advertising. Other sites and servers also transmitted the games live. Chessbase/Playchess transmitted the moves of the games live or at least very quickly after they were played, and there the games could be followed without advertising. This was done without permission from the Bulgarian Chess Federation.

The BCF claims to own all commercial rights over the match. Chessbase didn't record the moves in Sofia themselves; the BCF assumes that they used their data to re-transmit the moves. The main claim from the BCF came down to the following: by using data from the match website, and re-transmitting this on Playchess, Chessbase was violating the rights of the BCF as database producers.

Anand-Topalov transmission on the official website

Anand-Topalov game transmission on the official website

Database

As written above, in June last year Mr Polzin referred to the EU directive (EU Directive) 96/9/EC of 11 March 1996 which deals with the legal protection of databases. In this court case the German version of a similar directive was referred to. Basically, the BCF argued that a chess game can be seen as a database, and one move from a game can be seen as an entry in this database. Needless to say, the German directive declares the copying or redistributing of a database, without the permission of the owner, illegal.

Secondly, the BCF referred to the Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb, or in English the Law against Unfair Competition. They argued that transmitting the games for free without permission, and selling them as part of a database, was a case of unfair competition. Chessbase was doing this for commercial purposes while the BCF would miss out on advertising income because of this.

Furthermore, the BCF demanded to see the number of visitors at Playchess for all playing days of the match, and what income Chessbase had achieved from this. Besides, a decent amount of compensation for the lost damage based on this income, plus a 5% interest rate. Besides, it was demanded that Chessbase would authorize the BCF to mention all this harm in an advertisement in New in Chess Magazine, to be paid by Chessbase.

Chessbase's position

Naturally, Chessbase asked the judge to reject the demands. They claimed to never have accessed the tournament website to report about the match. They said to have obtained their information from several, free accessible internet sources as well as journalists present in Sofia. They manually entered the moves for transmission based on this information, which automatically led to some delay in the transmission of the moves. Therefore, the transmission wasn't live. Besides, said Chessbase, there is no such thing as a game being a database that contains chess moves, referring to the definition of a database in the German law.

Chessbase noted that they were under the impression that the Bulgarian Chess Federation wanted to monopolize free accessible and historically relevant sports information. They pointed out that monopolization of information is against both the EU Database Directive and German Law.

Anand-Topalov transmission on the official website

Anand-Topalov game transmission on Playchess (fictitious image)

Judgement: claims rejected

The judge rejected all claims from the Bulgarian Chess Federation. The BCF cannot stop Chessbase from using their database or transmitting games. The most important aspect was that the judge didn't agree that a chess game can be seen as a database, and therefore the BCF couldn't refer to their rights as database producers.

Interestingly, to support this, the judge pointed out that the according to the definition in the law, the obtaining, verification or presentation of a database requires a qualitatively or quantitatively substantial investment. The BCF had not supported enough evidence that their investment of 8,000 Euro to show the games to the world is a realistic amount.

Besides, according to the judge the rights of sporting events are currently not regulated by special law. In this case, however, it was clear that the moves of the chess game were not part of the rights, according to the judge. They were freely available on other sites, and could have been entered manually after recognizing them on site.

The BCF could also not rely on the Law against Unfair Competition, since the transmission of chess games cannot be seen as a product with a competitive character. This is, because this transmission isn't done in a specific way, with certain unique elements, for which chess fans would want to follow the games. (They only want to follow the games because they want to know the moves.) The games could also be seen on other sites, and the BCF hadn't done anything to make their transmission different from those.

Not final

As said before, the description of this court case was based on a preliminary copy of the judgement. Chessbase preferred not to comment on the case (and in fact also decided not to report on it on their own website.) Earlier this week we spoke to Rainzer Polzin, who told us that he hadn't received anything official yet. He did say that he found the judgement "very interesting" and that he's contemplating a possible appeal. Silvio Danailov told us the same:

We are waiting for the arguments from the judge regarding the court decision in Berlin. He is expecting [to send] the report within the next thirty days. When we received those arguments, we will discuss to appeal in the higher EU Court or not.

In certain cases, against a Landgericht judgement like this one it's possible to appeal in a Kammergericht. After receiving the official judgement on paper, the Bulgarian Chess Federation will have one month to file the appeal. And so clearly, the current judgement isn't final yet. However, for the moment Chessbase leads this fight, and the ball is in the Bulgarians' court.

ECU plans

Silvio Danailov always tries to find ways to make chess more professional and more interesting for a bigger audience and potential sponsors. The Sofia rule is a good example of his ideas, and has been widely adopted by tournaments. However, Danailov's idea about the copyright on chess moves is quite controversial.

It's interesting to see that exactly this subject was on the agenda at the Extraordinary General Assembly which was held in Aix les Bains (France) on 29 March, 2011.

4.4 The decision on the copyright on the use of chess games from the ECU competitions and the organization of the WebSite in the ECU competitions

1. In all the official competitions ECU shall exploit all rights which it owns or shares with third parties, such as property rights of any type, intellectual property rights and rights for audio-visual and sound-broadcasting transmissions by picture or data carrier of any kind (including all means of transmitting computer images, with or without sound, such as Internet, on-line services or the like, whether existing already or not). This includes the production, duplication, dissemination and broadcasting of pictures, sound or data carriers of any kind by ECU alone or with third parties.
2 For this purpose, ECU alone, or with third parties, shall be entitled to form or operate companies, for which they may make use of any legal entities authorized under Swiss law.
3. A detailed way of the exploitation of rights, the organization of transmitting computer images, with or without sound, such as Internet, on-line services or the like will be specified by the European Chess Union Board.
4. The way the income earned from marketing is shared, as well as the income earned from transmitting computer images, with or without sound, such as Internet, on-line services or the like, will be specified by the European Chess Union Board.
5. The details from 3. and 4. of these Rules will become an integral part of every contract signed with the technical organizers of the official ECU competitions, starting from January 1, 2012.

Danailov told us that at the ECU General Assembly, the delegates agreed on achieving this goal: "Having agreed on the details, the delegates will vote for passing the new rules." It remains to be seen whether "the copyright on the use of chess games" will include the transmission of the moves by third parties.

Update: Medienrecht-blog posted about the case on April 13th, 2011.


We decided to report on this case extensively, because we consider the issue of copyright on chess moves very important, and we have reported on the subject several times before here at ChessVibes. Here are some of our previous articles:

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

Max's picture

Chessbase probably needed to fight the case to preserve their games database business -- otherwise if chess games are copyright then each individual game would have to be licensed from the players.

Of course, in that case, Chessbase would have had its computers play a huge number of games and copyrighted them and charge any chess players who played out those exact moves without a license a penalty.

jmd85146's picture

I'm glad the court decided this way.
There is so much more fun in following a live game, then when u replay it when u know the result already.

arbiter's picture

You have it backwards.

The court deciding this way will cause the public *NOT* to follow the live game.

The chessbase display of the game provides one without advertisements, and without
commercials of any kind.

For me, and many others I don't enjoy advertisements. I like to focus on the program.

This is all for the price of a ten second delay, and the undermining of making professional chess respectable for marketing purposes.

How is the world cup funded?

How is the NBA funded?

These are professional leagues, I state, and have professional and legal policies in hold to protect and attract resources for the game.

Max's picture

Actually, copyright infringement does not require 100% copying. Even if a fragment of game moves is copied then it's a violation. I believe a few riffs of a guitar are enough to trigger copyright, but that is so that musicians continue to innovate because you know 75 years of compensation for self and descendents is necessary for it to become worthwhile for people to create music.

R.Mutt's picture

Too bad, somebody sold me the rights to the Queen's Gambit a few years ago and I was hoping to finally get some returns on my investment.

Arne Moll's picture

Actually the longer I think about it, the more creative I find the idea that a game of chess can be seen as a database - even if it's completely ridiculous legally, technically and even morally.
After all, according to that principle, everything someone writes or says can be seen as a "database" and would therefore be copyright-protected. Brilliant!

S2's picture

Legalities aside, I think the Bulgarians were right on this one. Both morally and practically. When organizers can't earn back a part of their investments the players will earn less, and the fans will see fewer events. Unfortunate.

Mauricio Valdés's picture

Sorry, Silvio!
Is it true that every time two poeple refuse to shake hands on the planet Silvio Danailov earns a a dollar?
.....You know....because he has rights on the patent.

Bartleby's picture

They invalidate their own case with that bizarre chess-is-a-database twist. They aim not only for transmission rights, but try a lucky shot for the Megabase itself.

Zeblakob's picture

This is the first time when Dainalov is right but lost. Previously he was wrong and won. This makes the balance Ok.

sotov's picture

Danailov has acted in terrible form and ethics in the past. However here, while he is clearly protecting his own finiancial interests he is also making an attempt to help chess move forward.

There is not much money in chess. At the highest level there is some, but for those who are say 300th in the world there isn't, which is still a tremendous achievement.

Other sports, are broadcast with video, such as basketball, and this video of the basketball game cannot be rebroadcast with a 10 second delay without consent of those owning the rights.

In Chess, it is not the video of the match, but the moves of the game that are of analogous interest to the fan base. Play by play update without video is not analagous to play by play update with chess.

With the rights to these moves not being owned, even if only for the day of the match, it makes chess as a sport much less attractive to sponsors.

From a sponsors perspective they want people to see their advertisements! They want people to know they are sponsoring the match. This decision should be fought vehemently, here is an opportunity to give the game much more appeal and attract more opportunities as a whole.

Chess as a whole will suffer. The organizers of the tournaments should have rights to the games, if only for a timeframe surrounding the tournament.

Some amateur's picture

This so called "professionalism" is killing chess.

Roberto Alvarez's picture

To me, the copyright of "chess moves" is a real non-.sense. First, because most of the moves were played in the past, and thus, nobody is the owner ! Or in fact, the moves are in the "public-domain" :-)

Second, when broadcasting the moves, you are not broadcasting "the game", only a record of the moves, which in fact is not the same. You are not broadcasting the "intellectual work of the player", since only broadcasting 7.Bxh7+ is not the same as broadcasting the whole process of thinking of the player. This is a very important difference, and the reason because a game with annotations can be copyrighted and a game without annotations cannot be.

And of course, there are hundred of years of a tradition, which indeed is a reason for chess being SO POPULAR: nobody is the owner of the record of a particular chess move!

Just my two cents :-)

brabo's picture

Broadcasting is more than just showing the record of the moves. Besides the broadcasting, very important and often forgotten is the timeconsumption of both players. Timeconsumption shows who is in troubles, at which point a new plan is made, why some player can't find the winning move,.... Timeconsumption is a critical element of the broadcasting which is almost never shown in the pure recording.

Mac's picture

I say give everyone the right to broadcast games live.. and whoever does the best job with commentary and presentation etc .. - well, they get the biggest fan base / visitors to their site. And guess what -anybody that tries to charge me money for watching a chess game on the internet.. wont get my attention -
( maybe because Im too spoiled by plenty of free chess info online)

arbiter's picture

Why wouldn't you wish chess to have the popularity that the world cup enjoys?

The game of Chess itself will improve it is treated as a professional sport. Not a buffet line.

christos (greece)'s picture

How does your proposal help chess have the popularity that the world cup enjoys?

And why would we want chess to be so popular? Are we all chess professionals?

Not that I think that you have proved that "the game of chess will improve" if live transmissions are restricted. I do not even understand what this means.

Rob Brown's picture

Why is it everything Danailov touches turns to controversy? He's the Bulgarian Sam Sloan.

bird's picture

Who will sponsor tournaments if nobody is seeing the official website and is going to other servers with other sponsors (chessbase, icc, etc) to see games?
This court decision could be very harmful for professional chess.

Pablo's picture

Well, my friend. There is no simple answer. But do you think owning the moves is the only way to make chess be "friendly" for sponsors? I think this main idea (supported by many voices in here) is not fully right. I will not list a lot of ideas; I never thought about this intensively.

Anyway, there are many other ways to make a chess game or a tournament interesting for sponsors. What's the real problem? Do you need that many people get into the official page? Well, just an idea (not new, anyway): make a good broadcast with video. Usually, official pages collapses because they can't support so many people entering on the site at the same time. This happens very frequently; my experience, at least, doesn't hold your idea: I mean, that copyrighting a game is THE way to get full life into chess.

I think the real problem is another: Danailov business as always (I think).

I believe there are a lot of improvements that can be applied into chess. Video broadcast; a good live transmission with commentary; press conferences being recorded; good editing afterwards every day; and there are a lot of interactive ways to make that an official page could be interesting, but a deep thinking is needed.

And another idea (a personal one that I'm sure a lot of people won't agreed): is unfair to compare chess with another sports like basketball or soccer. There are different kind of games. Chess won't never compete with this sports. Anyway, there are ways to make chess interesting for sponsors. But don't try to make chess that massive as basketball or soccer; maybe (badly, I have to say) in a different world. But not in this one.

Guillaume's picture

Any sponsor that is smart enough to figure out that good live video and commentary are what will keep the audience with the official website of a tournament.

brabo's picture

I don't think good live video and commentary gives much extra value in a chessgame. I am never going to pay for such features. Players are barely moving during a game so I am really not interested in seeing Carlsen drinking his orange juice and Kramnik going to the toilet. Personally I understand pretty well what is going on in a chessgame when armed with a topprogram and the latest databases.

Septimus's picture

The BCF obviously have their priorities mixed up. They are singing the same tune as the MPAA/RIAA criminals here in the US.

Despicableme's picture

Decision not final , the full rights and benefits of organizing and broadcasting chess events will be enforced sooner or later and will favor sponsors.
Chessbase should pay.

Rainer's picture

Major chess events have been retransmitted live on several sites ever since they began live internet transmission. This has not affected sponsorship, and there is no reason to assume that this will change in the near future.
If you want your transmission to be something special, you have to add something besides the mere moves, e.g. special graphics, computer evaluation, or better, good audio commentary. That's how to attract chess fans. And sponsors.
Danailov's claim that the games themselves could or should be copyrighted by the organizer is just ridiculous.

Abbas's picture

Who paid the court fees?

inter alia's picture

It's funny how people always feel entitled to discuss legal issues without any knowledge of how the law works.

BCF never claimed they want to copyright the actual moves and later charge players if they play them in another tournament. They are claiming copyright over the broadcast of moves so that they can't be broadcasted for profit by someone else. Think of this case as a boxing match where the organiser is broadcasting play-by-play (not images and sound) of the punches as they land and they claim it is subject to copyright.

As for the meaning of the word 'database', you would have to look at the EU Directive and see if it it matches the requirements. You can't just say what database means in ordinary English.

The moral issue as to what the law should be is completely differenent to the issue of what the law actually is.

bhabatosh's picture

Can I play e4 with white anymore or I have to pay Danilov first ??
who knows soon he will get copyright for different opening ......

brabo's picture

In music there is no copyright on the tones. However there is a copyright on the songs.
In chess nobody claims a copyright on the moves. However a copyright of the games isn't nonsense. With a game I mean the combination of the recording of the moves, the result, the date, the names of the players, the place the game has been played and the tournament in which the game has been played. All these elements together make one game and should be in my opinion much better protected as it is done today.

bhabatosh's picture

Danilov said "In the long run the biggest damage is made on the chess fans, who are the most important part of the game – they certainly deserve to enjoy high level events " ...... but I believe by transmitting chess moves by Chessbase client software fans enjoyed the games even more... I could use chess engine to figure out what is going on ....... is not something that Danilov wants when he is trying to "promote" chess........... micro management is too bad ... he needs to understand that .........

brabo's picture

Yes you are right that with the Chessbase client software fans enjoyed the games even more. However the problem with this reasoning is that next time your sponsor won't come back anymore as the interests of exclusive advertisement weren't guaranteed. As Danilov correctly said, in the long run more and more sponsors will disconnect from chess, leading to a decrease of the prizelevels so a lot of professional players will get into financial troubles.

Everybody likes to get everything for free but it simply doesn't work that way.

bhabatosh's picture

I dont quiet agree prize funds are dropping or organizers are moving away from chess because of Chessbase and other companies are streaming games online.

Economic slow down is the main reason behind most of the big tournaments are going away. Chess community is very small and sponsors would prefer to spend on basketball , soccer etc . where you have much bigger audience.

On the contrary it is much better to find chessgames live online directly in chessbase. you dont have to find a bulgarian , chinese , mexican website to search for a game. for me chessbase is doing a favor by transmitting the games. I can easily follow the games. my wife opens chessbase always to see chess games. it is really cool .

chessgames notation can not have copyright . live video and audio feed can be.
any attempt to do so will cost "us" the fans money . And at times we will probably miss action for some other reasons.

For me chessbase , chessvibes are sites which are popularising chess or making an attempt to improve chess presentation to general audience like me.

And BCF , Danilov is a joke in other words looser.

blueofnoon's picture

Of course, we chess fans can ask for whatever we want, but at the end of the day we will be the losers if nobody wants to organize a chess tournament.

I would like to know what other tournament organizers think of this judge.

ablos's picture

The Bulgarians, losers!

SXL's picture

Yes and No on Danailov "helping chess move forwards."

The FIDE top dogs have a crazy plan to build chess centers in big cities around the world, and to make the transmission of chess moves intellectual property that can be treated as an exclusive commodity.
Part of their plan is a scheme where chess players will be participating in enormous opens for large purses, but where the format of the games (short) will make it audience friendly. They have clearly been very envious of poker for a long time, and are willing to change chess to get the purse that poker generates, if changing chess is what it takes.

The ability to own the transmission of moves, and to be the sole relayer of moves, is part of the generating money strategy, as they then consider that everyone will have to pay FIDE and the organizers to take part in the action, either as participants or spectators.

If one reads the ECU proposal that concludes the article, it's pretty clear that the groundwork is being laid for this strategy.

Is it good for chess? I think the major problem is that they are trying to commodify an activity that does not lend itself to mass distribution. There is an essential difference between chess and poker: in the latter, nearly everything is hidden, because the game is so "simple"; in chess, everything is disclosed, because the possibilities are so complex. And that complexity chases away the large audiences that Danailov and others are dreaming of, unless they reduce chess to a came of four pawns and two knights together with a Quing and a Bishrook.

Chess is too complex, and it's all in the head. The actual physical representation on the board is just an intermediary image of the possibilities seen and unseen - and a general audience gets as little from chess as they would watching snooker with no balls on the table, but with the players still playing shots they held in their minds, with the arbiter deciding when they were making them up.

You can't sell chess the way Danailov and others in FIDE want to sell chess - which means we'll have to suffer another number of years of their nonsense before this finally dawns on them.

Mycogen's picture

Today is a sad day for the future of commercial chess and chess as a sport. Protection of content - and moves form the most essential part of this content - is a cornerstone for creating a successful commercial broadcasting product for various media platforms, which can attract mass audiences and advertisers. Without this chess will continue its current decrease and eventually transform from its current niche sport
status into being just a game.

Mycogen's picture

Today is a sad day for the future of commercial chess and chess as a sport. Protection of content - and moves form the most essential part of this content - is a cornerstone for creating a successful commercial broadcasting product for various media platforms, which can attract mass audiences and advertisers. Without this chess will continue its current decrease and eventually transform from its current niche sport
status into being just a game.

ebutaljib's picture

I knew from the beginning that legaly Bulgarians will lose, but Chessbase is lying that they didn't get the moves from the official site and that they entered the moves manually.

I know that they have a software that reads moves from pgnviewers on official sites and that software then relays the moves to playchess automatically in real time. Thats how their transmitions always work with every tournament. Or do you think that there is a Chessbase guy who sits in front of a computer the whole day and manually makes moves in all 20, 30 games from various tournaments simultaneously?
And if they didn't get it from the official site, then from who did they get the moves? They didn't have anybody in the playing hall.

Mark Crowther's picture

I don't know for certain but I'm pretty sure ChessBase got the moves from ICC. They did this precisely to protect themselves from a sidewise action as was tried in this case.

As I understand things there is not any prospect of the law changing in the US, in fact the world over the case law on this is pretty settled. So even if they were to win in the EU it would change almost nothing except websites would have to move to the US, Russia, China, somewhere where this law has no prospect of being challenged.

Someone said just because we want things free doesn't make it that it is in law. The reverse is true, just because you'd like to protect things doesn't mean you can. Most tournaments have the opposite thought, they want them covered in as many places as possible. This free publicity is far more effective.

The free an open exchange of games is probably the single most important reason that there has been an explosion in chess activity and standards of play worldwide.

brabo's picture

I agree that most tournaments prefer free publicity by coverage done in many different places as often the revenues are linked with the number of participants. However in this case we are dealing with a world championship which is of a completely other level of pricelevel. I think the last developments have clearly shown that bringing together such kind of funds isn't an easy thing to do. In fact only by some sponsors with their own advertising interests, you are still able to generate the kind of funds necessary for such kind of tournament. If Chessbase and others jeopardize the advertising system then we should realise that some of the next wordchampionships probably will have much lower prices or in worst case not happen at all if some of the contenders aren't agreeing to play for such low wages.

Mark Crowther's picture

I'm sure both ICC and ChessBase would argue that people are paying for the commentary not the moves. I think it is fantasy to say that even if you had a compete monopoly on the moves that they wouldn't be published all over the internet on social networking sites anyhow. I also don't believe the live market is that big. This isn't the big get out of jail free card for professional chess.

Leaving aside the financial meltdown worldwide the biggest problem chess has is that FIDE has not taken care of the World Chess Championship and the Cycle that produces a qualifier for a long time now, that has always been the primary driver for the over-all health of the game. The fact that the biggest star in the world game right now has withdrawn from this cycle has obviously not helped at all either. Mainstream coverage of chess is what is required, something that has diminished greatly recently worldwide. This would not be helped at all by trying to concentrate everything in one place. That is the major problem the game has right now.

George Clowney's picture

Suppose Coca Cola pays US$ 1,000,000 for a match Nakamura - Anand and Chessbase, Chesslive, TWIC decide to broadcast the moves adding a Pepsi logo on their websites, everybody still thinks it's OK?

I think Dainalov has a point when he wants to restrict direct broadcast of chess games. I do not think there is a lot of money to be made selling these rights, but it would already mean a lot if one could force these websites to include logo(s) of the sponsor(s) of the event they are covering.

Mark Crowther's picture

I'm always open to promoting the sponsors of events.

In these big events their success as media events does not rely at all on the established chess fan, it relies on the vastly more mass market casual interest of the general public. I'm pretty sure they end up using the official sites unless they're absolutely terrible or break-down. I don't see people finding and joining ICC or Playchess in these circumstances. I didn't do anything like live for the Anand-Topalov World Title match, putting a huge delay on my coverage but you do look somewhat lacking when almost everyone else is doing live.

The real chess fan visits many sites including the official one in these matches.

brabo's picture

I don't think that the health of the game is linked with Fide taking care of the World Chess Championship and the Cycle. Point is that after Fischer it became more and more difficult to attract sponsors and to bring the contenders on the chesstable.
Kasparov was the first one to say that the money wasn't enough despite big financial efforts by the fide. Today the financial meltdown has gone further and has arrived at a point that some change must be done. Danilovs initiative is to attract private advertisers willing to sponsor such events. I agree with you that I also don't see a big market to compensate for the sponsors but at least there is an initiative trying to improve the standards. Free broadcasting via Chessbase and other sites bring even less gain to the contenders and the organizers.

Mark Crowther's picture

The high point of chess sponsorship was the 1980s finishing with the Kasparov-Karpov match in 1990. To be sure the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky probably was the one that helped this to become the case.

Every major sport promotes its stars as its biggest marketing tool. FIDE took the decision that they didn't want to create huge stars as they tended to be a bit of a pain to deal with and so produced a cycle designed to stop this happening by making it practically impossible for someone to have a sustained run as champion and having so many players it was bewildering for the mainstream media to know who to focus on until the very final stages.

It isn't something I understand but the vast majority of chess stories (the more mainstream you go the more this is true) contain no chess moves at all.

brabo's picture

I believe the mainstream lost its interest in chess after the famous rematch Kasparov- Deep Blue in 1997. From that moment onwards chess was relegated to a simple game as humans weren't able to show superior thinking anymore (at least averagely during a standard game). Before this event, topplayers were considered by the mainstream as geniuses and in some cases raised to mytical figures. Today in even worldchampionshipmatches, errors are shown within seconds after the moves have been played. Nothing is left of the genius or mytical figure we had before and which the mainstream loved.

I don't believe we ever will get the mainstream interested again in chess as it was in old times. Computers have brought a lot to chess but also destroyed some things. I think better is to concentrate on our chessplayers instead of the mainstream as I believe the players are the future.

Mark Crowther's picture

I would not wholly disagree with this point. Kasparov's loss did tremendous damage to the game as a whole, and the situation with computers vs humans is now worse than it was then.

But things move on and players have adapted and top level chess is to me a spectacle again. The obsession with live coverage and the reduction in time limits to promote online watching is a huge error in thinking. Making the conditions so bad that the players make more mistakes will diminish the prestige more than anything.

The general public in the right circumstances would drop into live coverage and the longer games go the more chance that they will revisit websites. The way forward is nice post-game presentations of 5 and 10 minutes pioneered by ChessVibes and Macauley Peterson is much more likely to succeed and of course there the key is the quality of chess.

Kasparov had it right in thinking that the sponsors with the best fit with chess are computer manufacturers. The current policy of chess tournaments at every major oil terminal in the world is clearly not working.

brabo's picture

People visiting chesswebsites are exclusively players loving the game a lot. You won't see anybody of the general public no matter how you present the chesscontent. 25 years ago I would've said yes your way forward makes sense to attract the general public but today I dont think so.

I agree with you that reduction of the time limits is a huge error but for a different reason. Chesswebsites are as said earlier exclusively visited by players loving the game a lot. These players don't kick on quick games based on many errors in which luck becomes a huge factor but like to see quality chess in a sportformat (without quick draws). You need for that long games and probably young players ready to fight every game till 2 kings left on the board.

I repeat my statement: we need to concentrate on the players as that is the future. If we scare away the players by unpopular measurements which weren't checked in advance with the players then we risk to see a big decrease of the playerspopulation.

SXL's picture

This particular quarrel goes back to Elista and Topa/Kramnik. Chessbase was pretty vociferous against Danailov then.

Chess as a mass market advertising vehicle is a ridiculous notion. Sponsored events with exclusivity directed at a niche market can make sense, but FIDE have managed to make a mess of that by making the championship process completely unpredictable.

Their only hope for mass market appeal is to degrade the game in order to make it less impenetrable.

"Huh? What just happened? Why did he resign?" just doesn't cut it compared to seeing a tennis ball go out of court, or someone not getting two pairs - that much, a general audience will understand.

FIDE and Danailov are going down the wrong path by their attempts to industrialize chess in the hands of FIDE, and chess will suffer for it.

brabo's picture

The blame isn't solely with Fide. Kasparov, Topalov, Kramnik,... certainly also play a role in the mess of today. All these topplayers wanted to have special rights which led to all kind of strange constructions and championship processes. I hoped with Anand this period was finally behind us but clearly we still are going through some hicups. Topplayers can be very stubborn in agreeing on terms and conditions (see Magnus as lastest example). Without a unified strategy of the topplayers, fide more or less will continue doing what they are doing today and everybody knows that isn't fantastic.

A lot of chessplayers have an enormous ego which leads to defending their own interests at any cost so often damaging the overall interests of chess.

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