Chess.com bid for Play Magnus, move to monopoly?

A merger between two of the biggest major chess sites is imminent following the announcement that the chess.com make an offer for playmagnusgroup.com, the company named after world champion Magnus Carlsen. The offer, which values ​​PMG at approximately $82 million, has been accepted and will take approximately two months.

There were rumors for some time that PMG was in trouble. Earlier this year, some of its Oslo employees were laid off, while its flagship website chess24.com discontinued its tournament commentary in French and German, leaving only English and Spanish.

PMG went public on the Oslo Stock Exchange in October 2020, but its earnings did not rise as expected and its share price more than halved from its peak. It seems that its high-end business model of providing high-level chess24 commentary on top tournaments has failed to generate enough subscribers, while the generous grandmaster prizes participating in the Meltwater Champions Tour in line were probably too high. His apprenticeship courses are his most profitable area.

In contrast, Chess.com was primarily designed to provide a competitive playing arena, while its viewing events have a successful formula of 5/1 and 3/1 blitz and 1/1 ball. Its prize money is lower than Chess24’s, but still sufficient to attract top female players, such as in the current Women’s Sprint Championship which featured a rare appearance by semi-retired all-time No2 Hou Yifan.

Chess.com also provides a platform for extremely popular chess streamers, the most famous of which is Hikaru Nakamura with over a million followers. Women are generally underrepresented in chess, but not in streaming where around 25% are women.

Whether the merger will work in the longer term remains an open question. Optimists paint a golden future where Carlsen regularly rivals former rival Nakamura, but the pessimistic view is that the No.1, who has already announced his retirement from the world title, is taking a step towards further reducing his commitments.

Much will depend on whether Carlsen’s currently stalled goal of hitting a record 2900 rating can be revived by a strong showing in the top flight of the Sinquefield Cup, which takes place in St Louis this week. So far this year, the 31-year-old Norwegian hasn’t been able to replicate his pre-pandemic performances of 2019.

The future may be uncertain for chess24, but there won’t be a monopoly on major online sites in the near future. lichess.org remains a nonprofit rival of a potentially more powerful group chess.com, and is the site of choice for many due to its easy and quick access to a willing opponent. A handful of clicks and you’re in action at your preferred time limit. Its scoring system is easy to understand, although like most online ratings, it flatters several hundred points over the game on the board.

Puzzle 2484

Artur Yusupov vs. Adarsh ​​Jayakumar, Arlington 2015, White to move in and win. The former world semi-finalist built a classic attacking position before unleashing a tactic every player should know.

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