Global Chess League's Sameer Pathak: Chess is also a sport that bridges generational and gender gaps

Sameer Pathak, CEO, Global Chess League explains the factors driving the recent surge in interest and participation in chess, the opportunities exist for corporate investment in chess and more.

By  Indrani BoseMay 29, 2024 9:09 AM
Global Chess League's Sameer Pathak: Chess is also a sport that bridges generational and gender gaps
Sameer Pathak, CEO, Global Chess League

During the pandemic there was one sport which parked tremendous interest in schools, colleges, homes, and offices. You guessed it correct if chess crossed your mind. Technology has played a crucial role in the growth of the sport.

"The emergence of creative influencers on social media platforms has attracted a younger audience and fueled its expansion. A whole ecosystem cropped up where players could receive good coaching, travel abroad, and play tournaments, adding to their rankings. Overall, chess is known for intellect and strategy and has no barriers of age and gender," says Sameer Pathak, CEO, Global Chess League.

Pathak explains the factors driving the recent surge in interest and participation in chess, the opportunities exist for corporate investment in chess and more.

What factors are driving the recent surge in interest and participation in chess?

Chess sparked tremendous interest in schools, colleges, homes, and offices during the pandemic. As one of the few sports where the online and offline versions are the same, it was easy for people to transition between the two and play with friends and strangers alike around the world at any time. People found ways to connect with the sport, especially with the hit series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, which spread the sport to the consciousness of popular culture.

In addition, technology has played a crucial role in the growth of the sport. The emergence of creative influencers on social media platforms has attracted a younger audience and fueled its expansion. A whole ecosystem cropped up where players could receive good coaching, travel abroad, and play tournaments, adding to their rankings. Overall, chess is known for intellect and strategy and has no barriers of age and gender.

Further, India hosted the Chess Olympiad in 2022, which gave the sport a huge push, and the result was imminent. In 2023, 75 players travelled from India for the Qatar Chess Open. Several state governments have started bidding for global chess tournaments to be brought to India, such as the Olympiad in Tamil Nadu in 2022, the Women's Grand Prix in 2023, and the World Junior Chess 2024 in Gujarat. Globally, chess has also started becoming more aware of the power of social networking, the strength of building a global community, and the need for it to grow beyond a static board game.

Can you provide any trends that support this growth?

There is ample evidence to support the rising popularity of chess worldwide. The number of people watching chess videos has significantly increased, with several videos receiving over 50 million views. Additionally, there has been a steady growth in chess influencers on various social media platforms. There has also been a rapid increase in the number of chess academies in India; one of them also received funding in the third season of Shark Tank India. Further, last year's inaugural season of the Global Chess League, a joint venture between Tech Mahindra and FIDE, garnered impeccable figures with 2.5 lakh viewers on Global Chess League Metaverse and recorded over 100 million reach on social media.

How is chess evolving in terms of popularity, investment, and cultural significance?

Chess has always been an integral part of the Indian culture. At present, the sport has reached nearly 200 nations worldwide. Due to its rich history, chess has common references and features in Indian movies and television. In pop culture, chess references are commonly used in cinema across different languages. Chess specialization markets are thriving in India, with premium and luxury chess sets readily available in popular areas nationwide and leading online marketplaces. Chess players are becoming household names; several have gained impressive corporate associations. The coverage of chess tournaments has also significantly skyrocketed worldwide.

What opportunities exist for corporate investment in chess, such as sponsorships, events, and brand partnerships?

Currently, brands have not yet fully explored the potential of targeting the chess fandom. Despite being a sport with strong ethics and codes that promote intellectual development and strategic thinking, chess has been overlooked by brands that could benefit from resonating with such values. Indian teenagers are earning Grandmasters titles; hence, there is a huge pipeline of talent, player base and audience for the sport. Chess is also a sport that bridges generational and gender gaps. For instance, Global Chess League is the world's largest franchise and globally televised chess league, where men and women can play together on the same team. This opens up opportunities for brands to invest in franchise ownership, become partners, or sign sponsorship deals with this growing sporting phenomenon. Additionally, brands can host activations that leverage chess to teach and simulate various corporate learnings.

How is chess being integrated into mainstream sporting culture, and what potential does it have to attract new audiences and inspire future players?

Chess is a popular game, but efforts to attract new audiences to the sport have been lacking. In most chess tournaments, Grandmasters usually describe the moves and actions of other players, making it difficult for casual viewers to understand and get excited about the game. As a result, there is a need to create a more engaging and accessible experience for both new and existing chess fans. In this direction, Global Chess League aims to be the entry point for chess fans, offering simplified commentary, an exciting draft, a new point system borrowed from football and cricket, and soon-to-be-introduced fantasy gaming, allowing fans to predict moves digitally.

Global Chess League is promoting chess through various partners, such as gifting, music, radio, malls, and other platforms. It is also present on the largest broadcast platforms to attract more viewers to the sport. Innovative camera angles and dynamic set designs are being used to present the sport in a new and engaging way for viewers, gradually increasing the sport's popularity among casual viewers.

Can you share the League's overall growth, and insights into strategies for the upcoming season?

Global Chess League is the world's first franchise-based professional chess league. After a tremendous response to last year's inaugural season, we are working towards making the upcoming second season bigger, bolder, and better. Global Chess League will lead the format of 'team chess', which is a huge opportunity and one of our key brand drivers. We will continue to keep male and female chess players on the same team, which differentiates us from other sporting leagues in the world. We plan to have a larger broadcast footprint this year and explore key partnerships that will help create buzz and attract fans worldwide. We also plan to increase digital fan engagement by introducing various inter-school competitions, inter-college tournaments, and inter-corporate chess events.

First Published on May 29, 2024 9:07 AM

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