Magnus Carlsen’s chess skills have become not only a major entertainment for his fanatical Russian following, but also an intriguing business venture that has led to the emergence of Chess Chess Chess Cos., a sports production company operating on two continents that boasts of making some of the most prestigious events in the sport accessible to millions of potential viewers.
One big example is the Youth World Chess Championship, the youngest ever to be held on the world chess scene. Created three years ago, that championship first brought together the youngest players competing at their level to Russia’s Baltschug Chess Congress. Inaugurated in 2011 with the aim of turning two-year-olds into world-class chess players, the CYCA will be hosting its seventh major tournament – the Youth World Chess Championship, to be held from 25 August to 4 September – for almost 70 countries across three continents.
As the founder of CYCA, Magnus Carlsen will again be sitting out the tournament, as he only attempts to be involved in four tournaments a year, the last one being held at the end of this month – the $1.5m Age Group World Chess Championship in Changsha, China, which again will be contested by 74 two-year-olds.
Magnus Carlsen will be looking for his first victory against the youngest players in the world in the Age Group World Chess Championship
The CYCA now has 15 permanent staff with a worldwide network of 300 students – a quarter of them are full-time chess students, teaching not only chess but also entrepreneurship and mental toughness.
Unlike the professional chess world, the CYCA attracts and produces top sponsors and children are also offered up for free training clinics on how to make money – and they have an immense skill set to work with.
Carlsen has established a network of his own, organising events and producing promotional pieces that can be sold, as well as building co-presenter partnerships with networks like ESPN and Sky TV. These allow the likes of ESPN, Star, Discovery and others to take part in a more active media campaign.
He has also set up his own live footage production company, the VISION Agency, which he co-founded with Yuriy Adelikhin.
One of the high points of the CYCA has been the appearance of international celebrities in youth tournaments, with entries including 1980 Olympic gold medallist Fabiano Caruana and former World Junior Champion Valery Zavarov.
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana have even met face-to-face – at the Youth World Chess Championship earlier this year
Having been a big element of chess advertising for at least a decade, this move is now central to the CYCA, as well as being viewed as quite the mouth-watering prospect for Carlsen himself, who has become known as a huge movie buff in addition to his mastery of chess.
“We are trying to push forward the chess line of thinking beyond commercials and television,” Carlos Abarca, the current CYCA president and a finalist at the 2008 Chess Olympiad, told me last week.
“The nice thing about this business is the branding aspect is part of what we do, apart from the entertainment and the prizes. In chess, there is never any end, it has you always developing new skills and building them from the amateur level upwards. It’s an exciting business to be a part of.”