Can you own Byrne-Fischer?

by Matthias Wüllenweber
1/10/2022 – On Tuesday, January 11, 2022, the first auction of the Chess World Champion NFTs (Wilhelm Steinitz) will end at 12:00 CET. The other auctions will follow roughly every hour. So let's summarize what makes this series unique. In one sentence: It will remain the first of its kind for all times! Also: What is the deeper meaning of NFTs? And a short but hefty guide to the technical side of the auction.

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What problem do NFTs solve?

NFTs have been known to a wider public for just under a year. They solve an urgent technical problem: Today art is becoming digital. Not every painter works oil on canvas anymore. Digital images, however, can be copied without loss of quality. How can an artist then still say, "I'll give or sell you this painting," when the concept of a handcrafted original no longer exists?  How can a collector resell a digital work of art?

For example, if you own a copy of "Les Baigneuses" by Auguste Renoir, it would be easy to notice differences from the original: Even if your copy reproduced every brushstroke of Renoir in perfect texture, physical dating methods would immediately reveal the wrong age. An exact copy is physically impossible.

Renoir Baigneuses

Auguste Renoir: Les Baigneuses, 1918-1919, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The technical solution to the question of ownership in digital things are NFTs. Ownership is registered in the blockchain, an indestructible digital accounting system. Critics of NFTs ask: What value does this ownership represent if I can download the original anyway? The question is equivalent to "Why should I spend 20 million on a Renoir when I can buy a decent poster in the museum store downstairs for 20 euros?" Both views have their justification.

The world champions as artists

ChessBase has published "Moments of Genius", an NFT series of the world chess champions. This series is unique for the following reasons:

  • The players Spassky, Karpov, Kramnik, Anand as well as Miyoko Watai, the widow of Bobby Fischer have authorized their NFT.
  • The series is the first NFT series by world chess champions in which the players themselves act as artists and co-authors through their authorization. This is documented by the players' signature on their portrait photo.
  • No matter what happens in the future, this series will forever remain the first of its kind.

Regardless of the specific historical significance, one can also simply find value in Carl Eriksson's art, which fragments the portrait photo as an ingenious collage of the game notation.

The auctions at

World Champion

End of Auction (CE Time)

William Steinitz

January 11, 11:59 (6 am EST)

Emanuel Lasker

January 11, 12:56 (7am EST)

José Raúl Capablanca

January 11, 14:57 (9am EST)

Alexander Alekhine

January 11, 15:59 (10am EST)

Max Euwe

January 11, 17:00 (11 am EST)

Tigran Petrosian

January, 11, 17:54 (12 pm EST)

Mikhail Tal

January, 11, 18:56 (1 pm EST)

Mikhail Botvinnik

January, 11, 19:55 (2 pm EST)

Vassily Smyslov

January 11, 20:57 (3pm EST)

Boris Spassky

January 11, 21:57 (4pm EST)

Bobby Fischer

January 12, 0:38 (6:38 EST)

Anatoly Karpov

January 12, 9:56 (4 am EST)

Vladimir Kramnik

January 12, 10:58 (5 am EST)

Viswanathan Anand

January 12, 11:56 (6 am EST)


Instructions for bidding

The following guide "How to bid" assumes that you already own Ethereum. If not, you could buy it in the Metamask wallet.

  1. Visit and install the MetaMask Wallet as a browser extension. Please observe that the wallet's 12-word "seed phrase" must be kept secret. This will allow you to recover Metamask and your balance and NFTs in any other browser.
    In case you are persecuted by your regime and have to leave your country, memorize these 12 words and take your savings and art collection abroad this way.
  2. Metamask is now available in your browser. Click on the small fox icon in the upper right corner e.g. in FireFox to open the wallet.


    Metamask in Firefox


  3. Transfer Ethereum from a crypto exchange of your choice to the address of your Metamask wallet. The address starts with "0x...". You can find it at the top under "Account 1". Click the copy icon to the right of the address to conveniently copy it. The address is not secret. You can transfer back unused Ethereum at any time.
    However, doing so will incur gas charges, currently around $30 USD. The transfer usually takes less than a minute.
  4. Visit and click on the stylized head in the menu bar of the site to access "Profiles". Now you will be asked to connect your wallet. You will be uniquely identified by the wallet address. No further registration is necessary, everything remains completely anonymous.
  5. Select Metamask. Sometimes the wallet connection takes too long, it then might help to refresh the browser with Ctrl-F5.
  6. Now you have a full Opensea account. However, bidding is not done in ETH, but in WETH. In the Metamask wallet, click on "Swap" to exchange 1:1 ETH into WETH. This can be swapped back at any time. Auctions need WETH to make your bid binding without claiming gas costs. Gas costs are only due if you actually purchase an NFT.
  7. Once you have selected an NFT from the collection, click on "Place Bid" to place a bid. Opensea will now warn that this collection is not "reviewed", which does not matter. Confirm the warning by ticking the check box at the bottom.
  8. In the following dialog click once on the "Place Bid" button. It always takes some time for the wallet to respond. If you click multiple times, you will place multiple bids of the same amount. 

Place a bid - click only once.

Good luck with your bid! If it does not win, there will be no further costs except for the gas in a possible transfer of the Ether back to your main wallet.

Do you find that complicated? Of course! That would make you a pioneer of crypto technology, which one day will permeate our entire lives. But opportunities (and risks) are offered to people who recognize the importance of things early on.


Wishing you success!

Matthias Wüllenweber, CEO of ChessBase
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


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lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/14/2022 10:29
@Saturn23 I'm aware that there is no direct threat against the possibility to analyze a game for the near future. My worry is that if we start thinking about chess games as ownable products, then we may end up in a distopic situation where we have to pay in order to watch a game. I think chess games are not only art products, but they also represent scientifically analyzable information. Due to the latter attribute it would be seriously damaging if we are to end up in the situation I have described. So, while I also think that games will not be restricted from the wider audience in the near future, I'm pretty sure that starting to consider game ownership as a thing, we are starting to advance in a path that leads to that undesired result.
saturn23 saturn23 1/13/2022 08:15
@lajosarpad, 'owning' in the context of NFTs is misleading. The only thing you 'own' is a record indicating that you own a 'token' on Ethereum (or another blockchain) that is associated with an image, URL, audio, etc. In the case of chess games you can make as many NFTs as you want, all representing the same game.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/13/2022 12:05
A knife can be used for good things and it can be used for bad things. Cryptocurrencies, like knifes can be good or bad. I have no issues with NFT in general, my main problem with it in the context of chess is that I prefer chess games not to be owned by anyone. If a painting is owned by someone, then sooner or later the person can ask money from others in order to view the artwork. Which is fine in the case of paintings. But in the case of chess, besides the artistic aspect, which surely exists, we have a scientific aspect as well, because the games are not only beautiful, but they also contain vital information. So I would like to advise the whole community to avoid the path of making chess games owned by people.
saturn23 saturn23 1/13/2022 06:43
@Frederic, fair answer. I just want to add that I never tried to imply that chessbase would try to scam or deceive users with these NFTs. Chessbase has a good reputation.

While I have a strong opinion about cryptocurrencies and NFTs and I think they should be made illegal, I understand that some people just want focus on the positive aspects of these technologies. I just hope that people are aware of the negative aspects as well.
Frederic Frederic 1/13/2022 01:30
@saturn23: "My question to Matthias and Frederic is this: is it worth joining this very shady trend? It's very unlikely that you are going to make a lot of money from NFTs." It has never been our goal, in the 35 years of our existence, to maximize profit. It was always our goal to do new things, develop new ideas, and work together in harmony. It is a kind of family enterprise. When I go to the company (not so often now in the accursed pandemic) I chat with a dozen people, all of whom I actually like. Nobody for whom I have negative feelings. And working in ChessBase has connected me with the most interesting people in the world.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/12/2022 12:18
@Frederick that's a good thing!
vanhelsing vanhelsing 1/12/2022 12:34
It's important to remember that the image itself is not stored on the blockchain, which would be too expensive. It's just stored on a server which could go down at any time and for any reason. This is the problem many court documents are having now because they referred to sources that are simply no longer online.
zedsdeadbaby zedsdeadbaby 1/11/2022 10:10
@saturn I own crypto, I have a PhD in SC and have worked at, not one, but two bit tech companies. I also understand distribution systems very well. I part created block chain technologies in virtual beta simulators. I also do not hate cryptocurrencies, or anything really, without knowing anything about it. I also invented the sandwich and put 'en' on the end of 'chick' to create chickens. Don't believe me. Do your own research!
saturn23 saturn23 1/11/2022 08:20
@Matthias, @Frederic, are you aware that the whole crypto world is dominated by a small number of big players? The crypto market is completely unregulated. The big players have manipulated and they will continue to manipulate the market in order to gain advantage. This is not some sort of conspiracy theory! There are studies showing how the price of bitcoin has been manipulate from $150 to around $1000. Scams and 'pump and dump' schemes are extremely common. In the case of some small cryptocurrencies you can actually join groups that coordinate 'pump and dump' schemes. Hackers are able to steal billions and billions of dollars worth of crypto every year.

I actually own crypto. I also have a PhD in CS and I worked at one of the bit tech companies. I understand distributed systems very well. I understand how the blockchain technologies work in detail. I'm not someone who decides to hate cryptocurrencies without knowing anything about it. But don't believe me. Do your own research!

The crypto world has been completely hijacked by greed to the point where it should be made illegal.

My question to Matthias and Frederic is this: is it worth joining this very shady trend? It's very unlikely that you are going to make a lot of money from NFTs.
KjarHS KjarHS 1/11/2022 07:07
@Frederic: I agree it's cool to give it a try - in that regard, I personally can't agree with people who think of those NFTs as of something to be ashamed of - this seems to be at least some reaction you've been getting here...

The idea of investing in Bitcoin... I guess, it actually depends. It is easy to look back now and think that buying those at $30 and selling at $50k would have been a wise idea... However this is not how people usually invest. If we had a chance to go 10 years back with all the stock market information, making even more money would not be an issue. In reality, you think about how much money/assets/wealth you have, and what are your investment goals, and what's your investment horizon etc.

If 10 years ago you had $50k saved for your kids college and there was an option of investing all this money into Bitcoin... not doing this was the right decision - because the profile of that investment was not matching your investment goals. Same way as going to a casino and putting all the money on red was not smart.

To put it in a different way - I want a nice house, I want my kids to go to a nice college and I want to have enough money for retirement - money that would allow me to live my normal life. If I can get this with 99% certainty, I would prefer this scenario vs. taking a 50/50 gamble and either losing absolutely everything or becoming a billionaire.

Where I am going with that - not necessarily you've done anything wrong :) Some folks also went to a casino and became insanely reach. But many folks also lost everything in process.
Leonilo Leonilo 1/11/2022 07:00
I understand this is going to be an auction... but any idea of what range would be the final price for these NFTs?
Frederic Frederic 1/11/2022 04:00
@lajosarpad: Actually much of the income goes to the player in the picture, or to his heirs. They at last have a chance to get something for the wonderful game they have created.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/11/2022 03:11
To be honest, hundreds of ideas fail and once-in-a-while some of the ideas gain traction. It's unprobable that NFTs will gain traction, because the majority of technical novelties are either bogus or do not get the popularity they deserve (as a programmer, I know lots of examples of ideas, even good ideas dying out due to lack of interest). However, it's still possible. The reasons I dislike the NFT articles are as follows:

1. When I visit Chessbase I'm interested about chess
2. I do not like the idea that a game/match could be owned, I quite like the fact that there is no ownership of chess games and I dislike its introduction, because we may end up in a situation when the classics cannot be legally studied without paying

However, I do understand that everybody, Chessbase included needs money and like TV stations, Chessbase can also advertise products. I have never paid for reading any Chessbase articles (and I have read a LOT of Chessbase articles), so, I would like to thank the Chessbase team for offering intellectual content for free on this website and I candidly accept the fact that this site needs to advertise products and I also advise everyone who likes Chessbase to click on NFT-related articles.
Frederic Frederic 1/11/2022 02:42
I remember how back in 2013 or 14 my sons told me about bitcoin. They said it was an investment scheme. I had the gravest of doubts and did not buy any bitcoin. In the meantime those bitcoins, which were being offered at $30, have appreciated by more than 2000%. If I had listened, understood the system and bought bitcoin for $500, today I would... shudder, shudder.

I do not understand NFT perfectly, but I am trying... In a recent conversation with a Lunchclub partner, a math professor in Taiwan, he told me what Matthias has essentially said in this article: it is like actually owning an original portrait, even if it is only a rough sketch by Picasso, as opposed to viewing it in a museum or having a copy which is practically indistinguishable from the original. Or owning a one square centimetre postal delivery token, which is assessed as worth millions. I'm still not certain how and why NFT works, but my prof in Taiwan, who is an NFT expert, said it was the future and would greatly change the monetary world.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 1/11/2022 12:04
@Matthias It is not just about new technologies. Crypto currencies have been greeted with open arms, but most people look at NFTs as a waste of money.
Matthias Matthias 1/11/2022 11:25
Hi folks

It seems normal that the introduction of new technologies is not always greeted with exuberant jubilation. Especially when it comes to money. The introduction of paper money was met with skepticism, and many people today still view credit cards with unease, and not without good reason.

In our world champion NFT project, being the first was of the essence. Coming in second loses. Why, will probably only become clear in a few years. Since the target group is currently still small, we have to accept that general enthusiasm still leaves to be desired.

Nevertheless thank you for the lively feedback. I would be interested to hear if somebody has constructive thoughts on how digital artists should cope with the property question described in the article.

Best regards, Matthias
bbloop3 bbloop3 1/11/2022 11:19
Awww, just when you thought low couldn't go lower
MobiusGeek MobiusGeek 1/11/2022 08:42
Please future collections can be minted on Polygon. OpenSea allows this.
Molokai1 Molokai1 1/11/2022 08:12
If you can see it or touch it no fun to have. We could do a NFT of ourselves and auction it off....
EnriqueLeon EnriqueLeon 1/11/2022 06:08
There is nothing really unique about NFTs. The auctioneer can create an unlimited number of identical NFTs, one indistinguishable from the next. The "uniqueness" is that the blockchain reveals your NFT was created first. Big deal!
CMDRExorcist CMDRExorcist 1/11/2022 04:50
It's sad that Chessbase is peddling this stuff.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 1/11/2022 03:53
Is Hunter Biden behind all this? Is he augmenting his income from the "sales" of his oil on canvas masterpieces with perhaps even more lucrative NFT "creations ? Maybe he is "the smartest man I know ! " as his intellectual father maintains.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 1/11/2022 12:22
Not in the least interested.
KjarHS KjarHS 1/10/2022 08:06
Making an analogy to traditional art, not every oil & canvas painting is worth even $10 - although yes, some of those are worth millions. Not planning to buy these, but curious to see if they ever resell in future.