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


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