David Kaplan's revolution in chess

5/4/2010 – 200-300 million people play chess, one million in a professional environment – but the interest is not increasing. David Kaplan, CEO for Development in FIDE, wants to change that, amongst other things with $64 million as prizes for online chess. If he doesn't succeed in rebranding chess in the next five years, the Israeli business tycoon says, no one will for the next fifty. Interview.

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David Kaplan: “I hope we will perform a revolution in chess”

In November 2007 the FIDE Executive Board in Antalya appointed David Kaplan the “Chief Executive Officer – Development” within FIDE. Kaplan, 44, a successful multinational industrialist, had offered his personal resources and facilities with the objective of developing chess and assisting FIDE in making the organization more professional. Now a new FIDE office has opened in Moscow, with Kaplan in charge. The Israeli business tycoon gave us his thoughts on the future of the game and the role he intends to play in it.

On the popularity of chess

The current situation is a paradox. FIDE unites 169 countries, 200-300 million people put themselves in front of a chess board every week, there are about one million chess players in the professional environment, numerous tournaments are held annually all over the world, World and Continental championships, club competitions… But let’s be honest – the interest towards “mind games” isn’t increasing. We have to improve this situation.

On the game and the Internet

The web today is practically a real world which functions at a different, higher, speed. But, unfortunately, the new generation fails to use it in an entirely correct way. What do many young people do? They tap on their keyboards and dream about earning money; quickly and a lot. We will give them this chance, directing their energy, thanks to chess, into a more constructive, more spiritual course. This is the essence of our project: a social network developed by Chess Line Company.


David Kaplan with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

We don’t suggest that people should become professional players. But chess is an amazing form of training for everyone. Register and play at least couple of games a day online – and earn money! It does not depend on the game level. All users are divided into 64 groups – “squares”. A square includes chess players with the same rating, so the game is played on equal terms. Each square will have a million dollars as a prize. When you start to beat everyone – you move into the next square. So both an expert and an amateur player will be able to win a million in their square.

But where will these millions come from? I am ready to invest $32 million. Two large banks have already agreed to invest in this project. Furthermore, there are about 200 thousand amateur players in the world who play online regularly. And there will be many more of those who would like to play their equals for a million dollar prize. Apart from that, chess players will be attracted by world famous celebrities. There are already 300 famous people on our list, for example, Madonna. Let’s continue counting. How much will a portal with such a number of visitors be worth? One billion dollars? More?

On chess planetariums

We are planning to create chess planetariums in the capitals of several countries, including Moscow. Chess planetariums are centres with numerous pavilions, like VVC (The Russian Exhibition Centre), where the events will be held 24/7: tournaments, concerts, exhibitions. We are planning on holding top class tournaments there. Something similar to the Grand Slam tournaments in tennis.

On information

We also plan to pass all the rights on chess information to Chess News Corporation (CNC) – a company created with FIDE’s support. The reason is simple; free data broadcasting, which is not always precise and correct, will never help the development of interest towards chess and its commercial success.

On education

It is a fact that children who play chess develop earlier than those who do not. They learn to analyse and think from a very early age. The evidence was given by the “Olympus Plus School” under the patronage of FIDE, where chess is a part of the obligatory curriculum. It is generally one of our main goals to introduce chess into the school curriculum in Russia and all over the world. We will also create a Chess Academy which will be destined to be the main educational Internet resource for chess players all over the world.

On Ilyumzhinov

I can say one thing, without Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s modern views on sport and life in general the realisation of the projects would not have been possible.

On the FIDE elections

We are for democratic elections and are happy to have an alternative candidate. But I find it strange that Karpov, a Russian citizen, has his election campaign supported by the USA and France. It is also amusing that he is determined to compete with another Russian, being himself a candidate from France. I would be interested to become acquainted with the programme of Anatoly Evgeniyevich [it's avilable here – ed.], as for years we have not received from him any constructive proposals concerning improvements of FIDE’s work.

On time limits

I hope that modern chess is on the brink of a revolution. For four years FIDE and a number of companies have been conducting a research. There are about 40 people working on projects: psychologists, specialists in marketing, PR professionals. The product is not on the market yet. It will happen only in September/October 2010. I hope we can give a new impulse to our beloved game. If we don’t succeed in rebranding chess in the next five years, no one will manage to do it in the next 50.

Links

  • CNC Chess Network
    This company appeared in 2009 as exclusive commercial FIDE partner. The main aim is "to bring innovative and effective business solutions into the chess world in order to create market strategy for chess development and increase the commercial attractiveness of chess." The CEO is George Taylor, a Sports sponsorship, management and media veteran for over 30 years; WGM Anna Burtasova, Chief Strategy Officer; Alexandra Naydenova, PR Manager ("is an expert in everything related to public. When you see her you will certainly understand what we mean. Already curious? That’s what we call good PR!"); Natalia Nedelko, Internet Manager ("24/7 online! Sometimes we think there is some kind of WiFi devise in her left heel"); Julia Elvartynova, Event Manager ("To invent something absolutely new you need a person who will exceed everyone’s expectations. She fits to this description perfectly!")

  • Interview with David Kaplan in Gazeta
    Kaplan Play explains how chess can become fashionable and profitable, and how Madonna and the Dalai Lama can help to promote chess. "There are three words that everyone knows all languages," he says. "Mama, Sex and Chess." With a billion players on the planet chess is on the threshold of a small revolution.

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