Chess.com Makes a Play for Market Consolidation

Major M&A activity is set to blow up the world of online chess.

Jennifer
Image Credit: iStock Images, dusanpetkovic
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Virtual chess platform Chess.com is about to make its competitor look like a woodpusher, as they call the less talented players in this world.

The US-based site announced it has agreed to acquire Europe-based playmagnusgroup.com (PMG) — named after chess world champion Magnus Carlsen — in a deal worth roughly $82 million. With PMG now on its side of the table, Chess.com is poised to, in the parlance of chess nerds, take control of the center of the industry.

Grandmaster of the Chess Universe

Thanks to Netflix’s popular miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” and the world having plain nothing to do during the pandemic, the past couple of years have marked one of the biggest revivals in chess’ 1,400-year history. Suddenly, seemingly everyone, everywhere seemed to know the difference between the Ruy Lopez opening, the Sicilian Defense, and the Caro-Kann.

As a result, the world’s top virtual chess platforms engaged in a tit-for-tat game to gain an advantage with the world’s top competitors:

  • Chess.com became the main arena for top competitors and online chess streamers, hosting internet-famous players such as grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, who owns a streaming audience of over 1 million followers.
  • PMG, on the other hand, bet on high production value streams and commentaries of its top tournaments held on its chess24.com platform, and offered higher prize funds than Chess.com. Still, it failed to grow a sustainable audience, leading to layoffs and the cancellation of its German and French-language tournament broadcasts earlier this year.

Pawn Sacrifice: The deal is expected to close in about two months, and, once completed, chess24.com is expected to shutter as the company consolidates around Chess.com. Still, one chief rival remains: the slightly more casual-geared non-profit lichess.org. Expect this one to end in a stalemate.

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