Chessable, an online chess site start-up established by 21 year-old amateur player David Kramaley, has been sold to the company of grand master and current chess world champion Magnus Carlsen for a reported £1 million. Founder Krameley, until recently a graduate psychology student from Swindon, launched the tech start-up in 2016 and three years later should have little trouble repaying any student loans he has built up while studying at Bristol University.
Through his company Play Magnus AS, Carlsen has made a number of investments into the potentially lucrative market for online chess. Chessable sells online chess courses that turn chess books and videos into fully interactive learning experiences delivered through either the main website or app. Courses are broken down by ‘Openings’, ‘Endgames’, ‘Strategy’ and ‘Tactics’ categories and can sell for up to $170. Many of the courses claim to be built around the science of memory and learning. ‘Spaced repetition’, which prompts students to review previously learned openings, gambits and checkmates is key.
Founder Kramaley explains:
“We’re a platform that guarantees that you can actually remember what you study.”
While not yet an online chess titan like Chess.com which boasts 30 million members, Chessable’s popularity has grown quickly in recent months. Around 40,000, mainly more experienced chess players that Kramaley says include a number of high profile chief executives, use Chessable every month.
Play Magnus, the main chess platform of Mr Carlsen’s company, has around 1 million actively monthly users and was founded in 2013. It allows users to play chess against simulations of the grand master himself at different ages, starting from 5 years old. Dubbed ‘the Mozart of chess’ for his emergence as a child prodigy, Carlsen was already a grand master by the age of 13. He won the World Chess Championships for the first time in 2013 at the age of 22 and has successfully defended that title since. His next defence comes next year.
As well as being the best chess player in the world, Mr Carlsen is one of the first leading chess players to monetise his reputation through business ventures in the chess market. Digitalisation has opened a significant new market for online chess simulators and training tools targeting the hundreds of millions of chess players around the world.
Another way in which the worlds of chess and technology have intersected in recent years has been the popularity of the game as a showcase for the learning abilities of AI algorithms. The game’s clear set of rules and huge but finite number of choices for moves that every possible configuration of the pieces on the board at any given time offers made chess on of the easiest games for AI to crack. IBM’s Deep Blue algorithm became the first computer to beat a reigning human world chess champion when it vanquished Garry Kasparov in 1997. The latest AI algorithms are now even able to beat the best human players of much more ‘lifelike’ computer games such as StarCraft II that don’t have the same kind of defined rules as chess.
On top of the price paid for Chessable, which has not been officially announced but is estimated at around £1 million, Play Magnus plans to invest an addition $600,000 (almost £500,000) to further develop the platform.