The Rise of Chess.com

by Webmaster on November 22, 2017

For chess players, Chess.com is clearly the premium domain name for the game. When I first started playing chess, the domain belonged to a company that marketed the chess software Chess Mentor. The software was a training software that was designed with the help of American International Master Jeremy Silman (Silman is most famous in popular culture for being the consultant for the chess scene in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone).

In 2005, entrepreneur Erik Allebest bought the domain at auction. He brought in Jay Severson, whom he had collaborated on chess ventures before.* For years, I had thought that this was part of a well-funded and thoroughly fleshed-out business plan. However, it turns out that the owners did not originally have a big vision for the website. Instead they had three goals for the website – being a landing page with a bunch of links, possessing a forum to create a chess community and offering @chess.com email addresses.

Later on, the brand became a hit when it gained momentum on Facebook, becoming the most used chess app on the social media website. In fact, the technology is even integrated into Facebook Messenger – simply type “@fbchess play” into a private conversation. Chess.com hired many strong chess players to write articles, including Gregory Serper, Bruce Pandolfini, Rafael Leitão, Dan Heisman, Jeremy Silman, Petar Genov, Daniel Naroditsky, Natalia Pogonina and Daniel Rensch. Australian Grandmaster David Smerdon often posts on his Chess.com blog.

Chess.com now hosts a number of high-profile competitions and matches. This year, it even usurped the official United States Chess League, which has now been renamed the Professional Rapid Online Chess League (PRO Chess League). In its inaugural season, the PRO league comprised 48 teams, whose members included some of the highest-rated chess players in the world, including the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen plus over 100 other grandmasters. One direction where the culture of the game is headed is faster-paced online play and Chess.com has really capitalised on this.

You can see the evolution of Chess.com using The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Here are three sample dates:

Feb 04 2005 – Domain still belonged to Chess Mentor
Nov 26 2005 – Chess.com has been bought, but is mostly a landing page, linking to a few other websites*
Jun 04 2007 – Chess.com up for the first time, featuring chess news and playing chess against the computer; later, email chess is introduced and Chess.com gets featured on TechCrunch
Feb 14 2009 – The website resembles what it looks like today, including the introduction of ‘live chess’ (which happened before 2009, but for some reason those archived pages don’t display properly)

Earlier this year, Chess.com celebrated its 10-year anniversary (when the website ceased to be mostly a landing page) and you can catch an interview with the creators.

 

* One of these was Wholesale Chess, a highly successful discount chess shop. Even I used to order from this US-based website because it was cheaper than buying from local retailers. In fact, it rose to become the most successful online chess shop in America according to Allebest.

 

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