The Finals of the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour opened in Oslo on Friday night to crown for the first time the world’s strongest player over a full season of online chess.
At a ceremony to kick off the event, Andreas Thome, CEO of Play Magnus Group, the $1.6 million Tour’s organiser, said: “The first season of the Tour has been a remarkable experience.
“What started as an initiative to drive activity and attention to chess during the Covid-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020 is now established as a huge success for the sport, its players, and the chess community.”
Forty-four of the world’s best chess players, representing 18 different countries, took part in the competition.
It reached a growing audience, with more than 100 million live views and over 27 million hours watched on online streaming platforms.
The Tour has fuelled the popularity of chess in numerous ways. According to Meltwater, the Tour has created significant engagement in the chess community with over 160K mentions on news and social media achieving a reach of over 32B views.
The Tour has also contributed to raising the popularity of participating players.
Magnus Carlsen drew the most mentions on news and social media with 43% of the share of voice throughout the season.
However, exposure for all players grew significantly throughout the season with an increase in mentions on news and social media of 132% for Magnus Carlsen, 305% for Wesley So, and 156% for Anish Giri.
“Chess is one of the most popular sports in the world and is truly global,” Mr Thome. “Still, chess is vastly underdeveloped as a spectator sport.
“We are building chess into a world-leading eSport and we aspire for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour to be for chess what Formula 1 is for racing or the PGA Tour is for golf.”
The Tour has attracted a significant number of commercial partners, of which the most recently announced is Mastercard. Others include Skilling, Airthings, Opera, Julius Baer, FTX, Goldmoney, Breakthrough, Aker BioMarine and MPL.
“Play Magnus Group is driving innovation to bring chess into the future,” Mr Thome said. “In addition to the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour we are starting to expand into regions, and into cutting-edge verticals.
“We have already announced the Indian Chess Tour in partnership with MPL. We are also embracing the latest innovation in sports, namely non fungible tokens (NFTs).
“The winner of the Tour crowned in the upcoming Finals will receive the first NFT trophy in chess, and the world’s chess fans will have a chance to win unique NFTs in an auction or through collecting.”
The Finals of the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour will see Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and the world’s best chess players face off across nine rounds of rapid chess from September 25th to October 4th.
Tune in on www.chess24.com, YouTube or Twitch starting at 17:00 CET each day.