World’s chess fans await next move in battle over tournament broadcasts
Organiser of competition to determine who will play Magnus Carlsen for world title threatens to sue websites showing moves
The tournament to determine who will play the reigning world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, for his title later this year is under way in Moscow. For the eight grandmasters doing battle, this biennial contest – called the candidates tournament – can be career defining. But this year the on-board struggles are being overshadowed by an even more hotly contested off-the-board fight over the right to broadcast the moves in the games being played.
Usually when a tournament of this importance is played, the moves of the games – which can take up to seven hours to complete – are carried in real time by a dozen or so websites, operating from a variety of different countries and broadcasting in different languages to audiences numbering tens of millions. But a few days before this year’s tournament began, Agon, the company which organises the world championship cycle, announced that as the holder of the rights to the event it also claimed exclusive rights to the moves and would sue any other website that carried them.
The legal threat has been met with an angry reaction from chess sites that routinely carry the moves as they happen. “This is a huge blunder,” wrote Anton Mihailov, CEO of the Bulgarian-based website chessdom.com, which styles itself “the global chess news site” in response. “The moves [are] the very essence of the game itself. It is an element loaded with historical right of freedom, public domain value and global availability. … Clearly unaware of the global mechanics in chess journalism and largely ignoring the desire of the chess community, Agon has put the whole world chess championship cycle in jeopardy.”
Chessdom’s position received wide support on social media from chess lovers who preferred to follow the games on their favourite websites and do not want to be compelled to follow games on the Agon-owned worldchess.com.
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