Checkmate is a new initiative by the VADR team poised to become a leading web3 competitive chess promoter, focused on producing and broadcasting linear and online tournaments for a new generation of players.
At its heart, Checkmate is a skills-based platform that provides the opportunity to compete for bragging rights, cash, credits, and in-game assets and an XR-led, esports-first international chess series. All Checkmate in-game assets will be owned by its players and can be freely traded on and off the platform.
A key focus for Checkmate has been to improve the integrity of online chess matches and opportunities for more players to earn an income from a game they love to play.
The project is VADR’s second major play in the gaming space, following the success of its launch of ‘Let’s Play Live‘ in 2016, which went on to become the largest linear and online esports broadcaster and platform in Australasia.
Checkmate’s entry into the market is timely with the growing interest in the metaverse and a significant boom in online chess since 2020.
It is estimated up to 700 million people play the 1500-year-old game of chess. COVID-19 had a marked impact on its increasing popularity along with the release of Netflix hit mini-series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ in 2020 and the increased popularity of chess being streamed online by influencers.
“It was admittedly a bit of a shock when we realised the sheer size of the Chess audience,” said co-founder Curt Jones, former Executive Producer for Fox Sports. "Our research showed that there are over 420 million players between the ages of 18 to 34, and female participation has grown significantly since the release of the Queen’s Gambit. It’s an extremely engaged audience, and the time is right to put a new twist on the Chess experience with the latest tech and some good old broadcasting magic.”
In what may be a surprise to many in the broadcasting sector, online Chess has seen higher viewership than some of the world's largest esports due to its popularity with the 420 million players between the ages of 18-34.
“This significant number is larger than Football’s global player base and that of the world's top Video Game Fortnite”, VADR Managing Director John McRae said.
This 18-34 demographic is also the same demographic that has seen brands flock to esports, but chess has the advantage of higher female participation and greater brand hygiene due to the lack of guns or overt violence.
Chess is one of the few competitive online games that can be played internationally as it is asynchronous and not so reliant on server locations like traditional video games or for players to be physically present like traditional sports.
The 1500-year-old game is not only part of the social fabric in business, politics and entertainment it has always been at the forefront of innovation and technology. Chess was the first game to be played between earth and space and has been a proof point for new technology, including Artificial Intelligence from 'Deep Blue' to Google’s ‘Alpha Zero’.
The advent of online chess, AI, and chess engines has brought in many new players to the game, but cheating using these technologies has stifled competitive online play.
“We identified the problem of online cheating and its impact on fair play early on and have firmly cracked this issue, although we are realistic that it will be an ongoing battle as players continue to try and game the system. We have achieved this through a mix of proprietary AI and existing technology, partnerships and the development of a strong integrity programme,” said McRae.
Checkmate’s proprietary AI technology and integrity programme also opens the door to wagering on online Chess in some markets. “Having played a key role in the recognition of esports as a sport in New Zealand which saw the advent of legal esports betting in that market, we have seen the positive impact it can have,” McRae explained.
The founding team for Checkmate and its international advisors bring an unparalleled experience to the project with experience in chess, gaming, promotions, large-scale events, media, blockchain, sports and esports governance and broadcasting.
“We’ve designed Checkmate to meet the wants and needs of a new generation of chess players. Combining the best of web2 and web3, personalisation, reward mechanics, and a broadcast esports series with some of the most engaging graphics the world of chess has seen are the perfect ways to enhance the game and viewer experience for modern competition,” said co-founder Jamie Skella, a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award winner and former top-ranked Counter-Strike and MTG: Arena player.
Checkmate’s take on chess, the world’s oldest game, will launch in Q1 2023 on Web and Mobile.