When asked “are esports a sport?” a few years ago, in the book Esports – A universe of the videogame (Simbaldi, Strata, Gn Media 2019), Luca Pagano replied: “Clearly there is a sedentary component much more predominant in esports than in traditional sports. But if we consider the sport of chess, for example, I see no difference. “ Words, those of the CEO of Team Qlash, one of the most important Italian esports organizations now known internationally, appear today decidedly in line with what was recently announced. Following the trend of 2020, the Qlash have communicated through the words entrusted to Pagano that they want to embark on a path in chess to combine esports with one of the oldest known board games in the world.
“The world of gaming is constantly evolving and more and more publishers have to face the challenge of presenting themselves to the public with a new approach that can capture the attention, and above all the imagination, of the public, aimed at the << next big thing. >>.” Pagano’s words correctly portray what the world of gaming is today. But it gets weird when the “next big thing” becomes a game that’s thousands of years old. Chess has been the fastest growing trend in the gaming sector for almost a year, now aimed at being a mainstream component and not just a passing trend dictated by lockdowns or TV series. Over the past twelve months, the Chess category has grown sixfold on Twitch, the leading streaming platform, and by 17 times in terms of viewers in a single year. An all-Italian example is Alessia Santeramo, a blue player who has become an international star thanks to her streaming, also in English. Born in ’98, she is a female Maestra Fide and Italian champion 2014, when she was just 16 years old. On Tik Tok, on the other hand, the first Italian channel is that of Nicolò Napoli with over 10,000 followers and a simple motto: #scacchipertutti, with which he explains the basic moves, the traps and how to get to check the opponent.
QLASH have decided to enter the world of chess by establishing a collaboration with the Italian Grand Master Roberto Mogranzini, member of Unichess, an Italian company that organizes all the most important chess tournaments in the country, such as the Itailani Youth Championships. Using words more congenial to us, as highlighted by Leonardo Vilona, Sports Manager and National Instructor at Ostia Scacchi Asd, is essentially the “Pg Esports of chess.” By including them in the Educational program, the Qlash would like to present chess from a formative point of view and not just a high-level content, also trying to find the talents of tomorrow: “Our efforts will focus on teaching young people and gamers more than just being winning players. We want to teach them how to become professional players through esports, how to tackle and solve problems and grow as individuals in everyday life. Chess marries all these values very well and is a natural expansion of our projects”Continues Pagano.
As for GM Mogranzini, in addition to being the CEO of Unichess, is a figure who has been investing in the digitalization of chess for years offering both video courses and online activities. Among other things, he was the first chess entrepreneur to create an agreement between FSI, the Italian federation, and FIDE, the international one, for the activation of an Italian online chess site. In the past he also founded ChessStars, a portal along the lines of PokerStars.
Who for several months, if not years, has been spending for a more formal and close encounter between esports and chess is the aforementioned Leonardo Vilona, author on his blog HistoryFacts of an interesting discussion on the subject, entitled How chess changes: the Italian and international digital revolution. “For me, the esports and chess relationship represents the synthesis of the digital revolution that the ‘noble game’ is experiencing in recent months. The collaboration between two leading companies in the two sectors such as Qlash and Unichess undoubtedly represents very positive news and allows us to plan the future with optimism. The organization of chess lan parties and the involvement of sponsors linked to the world of competitive video games is only a matter of time. In fact, chess is well applied to the exporting universe, guaranteeing, through its sporting solidity, possibilities unexplored until now. The ferrying of chess into the export world promoted by the agreement between Unichess and Qlash will allow both the exporting and the sporting worlds linked to chess to obtain innumerable advantages and visibility.“
A topic, that of chess in the esports world, treated by several voices, including myself, which reached the headlines thanks to the lockdown and the TV series The Queen’s Gambit. To provide some numbers, chess clubs worldwide have registered registration requests like never before, as have various tournaments, now played mainly online. On eBay, board sales have even grown 215% since October 2020. Chess.com, the leading online tournament platform in the world, had an additional 2.5 million subscribers at a rate of + 400% per day.
And among the great chess fans, from time immemorial, there is also Mario Draghi, the new president of the Council of Ministers called by Mattarella to form the new government. And not just traditional chess: Draghi, who shares the reference to the mythological animal with the Qlash, often plays chess online on Chess.com in his spare time, according to what is learned from various sources. As reported by Repubblica, he would even love to participate in online chess tournaments anonymously. Using, like all gamers, a custom nickname. Maybe, why not, “Father of Dragons”, following the famous epithet of Daenerys Targaryen of the Throne of Swords.