David is Chessable's CEO and Chief Scientist. He finished his dissertation on expertise and expert performance as part of a MSc in Psychology of Education (BPS) at the University of Bristol, and also holds a PGCert in Applied Psychology from the University of Liverpool. David's chess rating is around 1,850 FIDE.
I was doing market research when some data jumped out at me, and an awesome idea was born. What if the biggest chess sites were part of an epic game of Risk? Oh, what a mighty battle that would be. I went down the rabbit hole.
This map shows that the chess playing market is dominated by two behemoths, Chess.com and Lichess.org. Chess24 has bravely held some territories but looks set to lose out should some key contested areas not go their way.
Like in a true game of Risk, both Chess.com and Lichess.org hold strongholds in their capital countries. The game of Risk is said to have been originally invented by a French filmmaker in 1957. Similarly, Lichess.org was too born in the country of love, started by a passionate French developer. Therefore, France remains the stronghold of Lichess.org with a commanding presence, outranking Chess.com by over 25%.
Chess.com, which was started by two high-energy American entrepreneurs, has made the most of their capital country. They out-rank Lichess.org in the United States by almost 65%! This advantage has led to their domination of the entire North American continent. They must be getting a seriously awesome army bonus for controlling a whole continent!
Finally, Chess24’s capital is Germany, and despite a strong presence, it is just not enough to tip the scales. They are the first player in this awesome game of Risk (or Risiko) to lose their capital.
If this were a true game of Risk, which side would you pick? Where would you send more troops? What key territories would you be aiming for? Let us know via Twitter @chessable and join in the fun!
The top three most popular chess sites according to Alexa.com were picked.
Countries were awarded to players if their Alexa.com rank in that country was at least 10% better than the others.
Alexa ranks were accessed on June 7th, 2017
Some countries had no data available, even with our premium albeit still rubbish access to Alexa.
This is just for fun. We endorse no one and love all these sites equally as much; we think they are all awesome in their own way. If you haven’t yet, claim your free Chessable account today!
At the end of last year, I admitted that to improve my own game I needed to learn things beyond the opening. I promised all of you that Chessable would release something to make this possible. However, chess is such a complex game that there will always be many things to learn. We had to narrow it down. We wanted something not yet out there and that would be really useful to chess players of all ratings.
In one of my favourite books, Think Like a Grandmaster, Alexander Kotov writes that “playing the ending well is a mark of the good player, and it is no accident that all the world champions have been noted for this ability”. While this classic book is now perhaps a bit dated, things haven’t changed all that much. The current world champion Magnus Carlsen is well known to outclass most of his opponents during the endgame. Despite this, as De la Villa noted in 2008, there is a tendency for players to neglect this important part of chess. I’ve been guilty of that and lost many half and full-points both online and over the board. Therefore, it seemed logical that we needed to change how improving chess players go about their endgame training. Enter Jesus de la Villa, New in Chess, and their wonderful book 100 Endgames You Must Know.
So what’s new? Why is learning endgames with Chessable better than with a print book and a chess board? Well, De la Villa listed many excuses on why players neglect endgames. It seems appropriate to start with these concerns, and how Chessable changes the picture:
Excuse #1: ‘Studying the endgame is boring.’
No longer does this have to be the case. Endgames are perfectly suited to the Chessable learning method. You can compete in the leaderboards, gain awesome badges, and build up your streak. By making learning fun, we hope to help you gain the motivation necessary to “pay your dues to the endgame as all the greats have done” (De la Villa).
Excuse #2: ‘Half (if not 90%) of the endings I look at are quickly forgotten.’
Chessable’s spaced repetition algorithm will make sure you review at optimal points backed by learning science. Once you’ve started to retain the material, our system will quiz you less and less. Once you know them, you won’t have to review more than once every few months, if at all. Quickly forgotten? More like forever remembered!
Excuse #3: ‘I can’t find a book with good explanations’
De la Villa’s book is one of the most recognised endgame books out there. It’s extremely well written and organised content resonates with many. The author just has a knack for explaining endgames. All the original explanations have been imported with the Chessable digital format. Of course, you can also use our new version alongside the print book. If you choose to do so, for the first time be able to keep track of your progress other than via bookmarks!
Other than addressing these typical excuses, we’ve also made sure to go above and beyond that. Now, there really should be no reasons why someone doesn’t study the endgame:
The Book is Supported by 6-men Endgame Tablebases
This allows Chessable to know all possible solutions to the endgames presented by De la Villa. We’ve taken certain alternative variations and common blunders and added them as their own endgames. In this manner, you can commit everything that’s important to memory.
Alternative Moves Feature Released
We made and released a special feature. Alternative moves allow you to play a different move to the text move without penalising you. This means that if Re2 and Re8 achieve the same thing, and you play the alternative, the system will recognise this and refresh your timer so that you have enough time to recall the text move.
Aside from everything we have already done, as always, we will be listening to your feedback and improving things to make it all even better. Enjoy!
PS.- To celebrate International Chess Day, tomorrow, New in Chess have been very kind to run a one-week sale for $14.99 instead of the retail price of $19.99. Don’t miss out. Check out this awesome book now.
For the terms and privacy, we kept our users in mind at every step of the way. We also followed the best practices listed at https://tosdr.org/ to make sure we were doing the best we can for you. Our lawyers understood our concerns, and we think our new terms reflect that we care about our users first and foremost. What’s more, we’ve provided a running summary in plain English! We know some of us may feel a tad overwhelmed by the language of the law. Please do review these documents as they apply every time you access the site. If you have any questions or concerns, please e-mail us at email@example.com
Today we’ve also released a new payment gateway. We partnered up with Stripe as our new primary payment partner. This allows us to give you the best customer service possible, even better than with our previous partners. For some of you, it may be that some payment methods you have gotten used to (e.g. bank transfer) may temporarily be unavailable. We are sorry about that, and we do plan to increase our payments accepted in the future. Initially, we are launching with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Paypal. Another big plus of this update is that we can now accept payments in British Pound Sterling (GBP) and Euros (EUR). Shortly, we may support more local currencies. In the shopping cart, simply use the currency converter at the top right of the page. US dollars remain our primary currency. For all other currencies, there may be a slight mark up due to exchange fees. You are free to switch back to USD if it works out cheaper/better. Our system will remember your preferences. We wanted to give you more choice, more flexibility.
Now that these important updates are out of the way, we are going to crack on working on something more exciting. We promise you’ll love some of the stuff we’ve got coming up!
Congratulations are in order for user Bumblebee! Over the weekend, he became the very first Chessable member to get the awesome “Legend” badge. The badge is awarded to members who reach 10,000,000 points (whew!).
This is quite the achievement. To put it in perspective, I am the very first Chessable member and had a couple of years head start. I am still about 5,000,000 points behind Bumblebee! Incredible.
To celebrate the occasion, we made a very special one of a kind badge. We called it “The One and Only” and Bumblebee is the proud owner of it. Since we truly love all of our members, there might be another badge or two, but they won’t be quite what this one is.
I briefly caught up with Bumblebee, and I can share with you that he is a casual chess player who purely plays unrated games. He loves studying chess openings on Chessable as he enjoys outplaying his opponents from the get-go. It was a bit surprising to me that he doesn’t play chess competitively. Instead he just enjoys learning what Chessable’s masters have to teach in their books. Presumably, he then plays an unrated game or two like a PRO! Therefore, while we don’t have a rating to share with you, this is what Bumblebee had to say about his progress:
“My inaccuracies, mistakes, blunders, and centipoint loss have fallen. I do think I have improved my feel of the game with a better understanding of undermining, pawn breaks, and weak squares.”
Bumblebee is indeed thinking of joining a chess club soon and getting a rating. We look forward to that day (please do write to us with an update Bumblebee!). We think you’ll absolutely rock your local chess club. Keep going!
When thinking of your next chess move, like when choosing chess openings, often the only feedback we get is from a computer. Perhaps you are doing one better over the majority of us and also looking at a master’s database. However, is this truly enough to learn chess and improve?
We think that when learning anything in life, the importance of feedback cannot be ignored. Chess Grandmaster Georg Meier says one of the most important things in chess is to “be receptive to feedback”. Olympic medallist Matthew Syed says his coach used to say, “if you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right”. The way to know? Feedback.
Can a computer give you this kind of feedback for your next chess moves? Can a master’s database answer your questions? These tools, while great, aren’t quite able to offer us specific feedback. Are we all missing something by not being able to chat with a stronger player about our chess moves? Might they recommend something less “computery” and more suitable to humans? We think so.
It’s simple, to get your question answered, you need one master token. To get a master token, you need to spend some rubies in the store. How do you get rubies? Well, you can earn those by simply logging on to Chessable and studying for a few minutes! We promise you a chess master, above 2,250 FIDE rating, will answer your question – or you get your rubies back.
Aha, you say! You need to spend something after all, so it’s not free! Well, so far we’ve given away 365,000 free rubies to our dedicated Chessable students. This is over 3,000 free questions that we promise our chess master will answer (he’ll have plenty of coffee to hand)… and for having read on, here are some rubies to get you started (you must be logged in), pick your next chess move wisely!
1. You can also buy more rubies for cash if you need a question answered urgently.
2. Here is the FAQ explaining a little bit more about this feature.
3. Our top ruby holder has over 1,000 rubies. Impressive.
4. This feature in BETA, we are pretty happy with version 1, but please bear with us, we are treading new ground here.
5. If the feature is popular, we hope to bring more chess masters on board.
6. Don’t have enough rubies? Don’t worry, you can still ask a question as our chess book authors often answer anyway, no rubies needed!
7. No rubies but still want to upgrade to Ask A Master? Post your question anyway, some kind member might upgrade your question for free! 😉
This is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. It’s the reason why I read all the science there is on Chess and started Chessable! Recently, I got news that one of our users made some remarkable improvement, 300 over the board points in one single year. I got in touch with him to find out a bit more about it. GermanMC is not only one of our power users, but he has also made his opening repertoires available on Chessable for anyone to use. Some are free, and some, cost a few dollars. His top book is on the Ruy Lopez, it’s free and has been studied by an impressive 1,238 people! He has learned 764 variations with a modest maximum daily streak of 9 (there are some who have kept a streak for over a year).
I’ve tried to keep the questions similar to previous chess improvement interviews so as to stick to a familiar theme. Now, let’s find out a few more insights on how to improve at chess, here we go!
1) You have improved around 300 USCF points in a year of tournament chess since joining Chessable, that’s impressive, how do you feel?
Improvement is very satisfying of course, but it also makes me feel hungry for more knowledge and improvement. It’s really nice to live in an age abundant with brilliant resources like Chessable; all I have to do is open up my laptop and get to work.
2) A lot of work must have gone into this, and your game must have improved all around for such a brilliant change. Let’s break it down, how have you improved your chess openings? Over this past year, I have become much more familiar with the typical plans in my openings as well as the “theory” moves. I often understand how to handle the positions that I get out of the opening better than my opponents, which has allowed me to win many easy games against strong players. Chessable has been a key contributor to this aspect of my game because so many of the available repertoire books contain very high-quality instruction and allow me to easily review lines
3) Which openings do you play (if you don’t mind sharing!)?
My style has changed a lot over this past year as I have become a stronger player. As Black, I like to play the Najdorf against 1.e4 and the Benko Gambit against 1.d4 because I always seem to get fighting positions that are interesting to play. As White, I enjoy playing 1.d4 and going for Catalan-type structures with a later Kingside-fianchetto (spoiler alert – this will be the topic of my next Chessable book).
4) How have you improved your middle game?
The middlegame is probably the most critical stage of the game because it is where most games are decided at the amateur level. I personally have improved my middlegame significantly by obtaining a better understanding of the plans out of my favorite openings, as I mentioned earlier. Working daily with an online tactics trainer has also improved my middlegame play a lot. Other than that, I recently got started with Jeremy Silman’s How to Reassess Your Chess, which I find to be a very enjoyable read.
5) What about your endgame, have you worked on that at all?
I have to admit that I have slacked off a bit in my endgame study, but I have taken the time to learn a few basic king and pawn endgames as well as some rook endgames. John Bartholomew has some great videos on his Youtube channel about various essential endgames that I find very instructive!
6) You gained over 1,000,000 points on Chessable, that’s pretty impressive. What would be your tips to new Chessable users about how to get the most out of the platform?
My biggest tip to new users would be to develop a “Chessable routine.” To get the most out of the platform, it is important to do smaller (but daily!) review sessions rather than reviewing a very large quantity of lines every few weeks.
7) What would you personally like to see improved on Chessable?
I think the user interface could be improved a bit, but it seems to be getting better almost every time I log on!
8) What’s next for you? Any new goals? I have my eyes set on 2200, which is when the National Master title is given here in the United States. It would be great to reach that goal sometime in 2018. I would also love to play in some international tournaments when I happen to be in Europe so that I can increase my FIDE rating, but that’s more of a long-term goal.
Thanks GermanMC! It’s very inspiring and motivating to hear of your chess improvement. I am sure many of our readers, including myself, will take a tip or two away from your experience and apply it to our own game. Best of luck on the road to 2,200 and see you on the leaderboards! Personally, I am aiming for 2,000 FIDE this year, which right now, seems a long way away, a long way away!
So, how to improve your chess? In summary, it involves a lot work (1,000,000 points don’t come easy!), habitual study, and a balance between knowing chess openings and understanding the middle game concepts that are relevant to that chess theory.
A bit more about GermanMC: GermanMC is a chess player who is also a student in Austin, Texas. His nickname stems from the fact that he grew up in Munich, Germany. His passion for chess has been highlighted in recent months as he reached his age-groups Top 100 List for the USCF after improving 300 rating points in one year. He spends his free time playing chess tournaments, solving tactics, reading chess books, and of course, creating Chessable chess books.
Last year John and I took the decision to fundraise to accelerate the growth and development of Chessable. A whole year and two crowdfunding campaigns later, I am very happy to announce that we have finally done it! We’ve raised nearly £100,000 from private investors. These funds will immediately be put to good use, supporting our mission of making Chessable the go-to source for chess improvement and education.
Paradoxically, investing time in fundraising would always delay many of the things we want to achieve. Our roadmap and backlog have always been overflowing with things we need to do. I often had doubts, should I be working instead of trying to raise funds? However, I think the following story told by Stephen Covey in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes why fundraising was always the right choice:
Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.
“What are you doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
“Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”
We didn’t want to be too busy sawing. We wanted to make sure we deliver an awesome service as quickly as possible without compromising on quality. While we have been consistently improving the site, which is now unmistakably better than during our humble beginnings in February last year, there are still a lot of things we want to do! With a two-man team this has been a slow process and while we’ve had a helping hand from some awesome volunteers it just hasn’t been enough to work on everything we’d like to deliver. This is why we chose to fundraise and sharpen the saw.
Now that the process is complete (hurray!), we will immediately start growing our team and bring you more great features and content. We’ve already recruited one of our volunteers to be our first full-time hire (welcome Simon!) and have concrete next steps to bring you more great things that we know you will love. Stay tuned.
While fighting for the title Wesley played a beautiful game vs. Jeffery Xiong, find it below. This game is being widely proclaimed a masterpiece in social media, and rightfully SO!
I met Wesley in person a few months ago at the London Classic, what a nice guy. Therefore, to celebrate one of my favourite player’s success, we’ve commissioned a caricature and created a little infographic. We hope you like it.
Finally, we’d like to say again, congratulations Wesley!
Back in October of last year, I wrote Part I of my take on Seedrs vs. Crowdcube. It was a short and sweet post promising more detail down the line. In part II, the goal is to share a little bit more of Chessable’s story and also try and help other UK entrepreneurs considering the same issue.
If you are an entrepreneur, you may ask what lessons can a failed campaign offer you? Plenty! While crowdfunding did not work out for us, our investment bid is not over yet, and we are in the last stages of raising an angel round privately. We are also one of the very few companies to have been listed both on Seedrs and Crowdcube (not an easy feat!). As a failed crowdfunding campaign, I can say that I wish I knew a lot of what I am about to write before the journey. I certainly Googled around for such a post; there was none to be found. Here it is.
First things first, do you really need crowdfunding?
We opted for crowdfunding for multiple reasons. First, we had many enquiries from our users about whether they could invest. This may sound like a no-brainer then, but be careful! If like us, you have a lot of international and U.S. users, you may find that getting U.S. individuals to participate is next to impossible. Confront the platforms on this issue straight away, as despite what members of their team may tell you, it may just be impossible. For instance, we couldn’t get a £10k accredited US investor on board, and we only found out when it was time to make the payment. Initially, we were told by the crowdfunding platforms we’d find a way to make it work, it didn’t. We wasted the investor’s time, and we wasted our time.
This might change as the field matures and certainly if we were able to let our US and international backers participate, crowdfunding may have been the way. As for us, we then hoped that our UK and European supporters would help us pull through, but we really did miss the rest of our user base. Moreover, considering we had trouble getting German and Swedish users on board, the situation is just as likely to get harder as Brexit looms over our heads.
Lesson: If you opt for crowdfunding and have a large user base outside the UK, be sure to check, double-check and triple-check exactly how your international users can get on board, if at all.
Another reason we choose crowdfunding was that despite the high fees charged by the platforms (nearing 10% when tallied up), it appeared to offer us a better deal. The market seemed to offer higher valuations. The crowdfunding companies promised introductions to exciting investors. The platforms said they would make everything easier than raising money privately. “How will you ever raise money from a crowd without us, they’ll say”!
In reality, I’ve found it so much easier to conduct our private investment. We did have to pay a solicitor upfront to draft up some documents and consult with us, but it has been easier than preparing for the crowdfunding platforms. In the UK, the crowdfunding platforms are FCA regulated; which protects people from “financial promotions”. This adds a lot of overhead and makes things harder and longer than they should be. The crowdfunding companies also work pretty slowly, drawing things out for a long time.
If you think you won’t find investor introductions without the platforms, think again! Our most promising investor leads, U.S. and U.K. based, were already part of our mailing list. Consider that perhaps there are other ways to get these same introductions.
Lesson: Hiring your own solicitor and dealing directly with a few angels, may be a more cost and time effective option to raise finance for your business. Crowdfunding takes more time and effort than it initially appears or promises.
We also saw crowdfunding as an exercise in marketing and branding. Let’s make some noise, and more people will find out about us! We spent a considerable chunk of our bootstrapped revenue on this, but in the end, we think it was worth it. In particular, our London events worked out really well. We promoted them via our mailing list and more than a few people joined us. New chess book authors partnered with us. We got invited to present at chess events. I even got a chance to once again appear on the BBC! It was thanks to these efforts that we met some of our private investors who will soon be part of Chessable. There must be some magic to meeting prospective investors in person, rather than having your first interactions with them online. In the end, this became the most important reason of them all.
Lesson: The marketing and branding you can get out of crowdfunding can be very successful. However, do not underestimate its price and how much time and energy it will take. We’ve met companies that have spent £5k just on their crowdfunding video. As a young start-up, you may be surprised by how quickly all the fees add up.
Certainly, if in the future I am ever considering the issue of crowdfunding again, it would be a good idea to consider other financing options in a bit more detail. But if I were to crowdfund again (and due to the marketing and branding, I would!), why would I opt for Crowdcube instead of Seedrs? Here is why:
Key Takeaway #1: Crowdcube’s algorithm is transparent, Seedrs offers you a black box.
Let’s cut to the chase. The big one. To get investment you need introductions to investors. To get introductions to investors via the crowdfunding platforms there is only one way. You need to rank above-the-fold on the platform’s main investment opportunities page. Just like in Google search results, the top three results get all the clicks; the rest is left forgotten. The platforms may not admit it, but it’s not too hard to come to this conclusion yourself.
In one week with Crowdcube, we received ten times the number of introductions than we did via Seedrs. On Crowdcube every single investment gives you exposure at the top of their page. Being at the top of the page leads to further introductions and further investments. Social proof, it’s basic human psychology! In contrast, Seedrs maintains a secret sauce for their top rankings. Raise more money they said, and you’ll get there. The truth was, even a £5,000 investment was not enough for page one! What’s my motivation to get another £5k investor on board if it will lead to no introductions? On Crowdcube, a £10 investment is sufficient.
Lesson: Crowdcube offers a clear strategy for you to follow. Watch the Seedrs and Crowdcube homepage before making your choice. See if you understand their success metrics. What do you need to do to get above-the-fold exposure? Don’t take my word for it, and definitely don’t just assume a good investment opportunity will rise to the top by itself.
Key Takeaway #2: Crowdcube offers more guidance and support through the entire process.
Even if you think you don’t need it, it is good to know that it’s there. During my entire interaction with Seedrs, I heard a real person’s voice once. This was when I was chasing Seedrs down and had to call them to get a major issue fixed on launch day. In contrast, simply to get an application in with Crowdcube, I spent at least two hours on the phone with real people who showed an interest in what we do. Ivan, who would become our campaign manager, researched our business and asked critical and important questions that you rather answer before investors ask them! Mike, their marketing guy, helped us with some of our best marketing and branding ideas. It was awesome to have a real partner in our funding efforts.
Many other little things help Crowdcube have the edge over Seedrs. For instance, the actual interface and web platform used to create your campaign, their support documentation, investor rewards, and more. However, since Seedrs may very well evolve and improve I will leave you with the details only on the key takeaways. Certainly, if Seedrs became a more transparent platform, things would change. However, until they do, at the very least I hope I have encouraged you to scrutinise this choice with a bit more care before making such an important decision. Good luck!
It has been an incredible year. Before it comes to an end, I wanted to send our best wishes and biggest thanks out to all of you.
Your support and feedback have made all of what we’ve achieved possible. We look forward to seeing you in the new year, and for now, please enjoy your holidays very much.
Some of you (we can see who you are!) are still logging in and working on strengthening your synapses. (This is a somewhat cool way of saying strengthening your memories). If you are one of us peeking onto Chessable, I wanted to offer you a brief year in review:
In 10 months, we’ve reached over 13,000 registrations.
We’ve gone from 0 to 2,200,000 chess positions studied.
We’ve increased the books in our store from a single International Master (who we all love); to several masters. Our authors now include some of the word’s best Grandmasters. We now cover many of the most popular chess openings.
We’ve added many many features that you can opt-in or out from. In this manner, you can personalise Chessable to suit your individual learning needs.
We have some incredibly exciting developments in the works for the new year that we know you will love. As a quick hint or sneak preview, I will just say that I personally need to break the 2,000 barrier! I need to work beyond the opening to do so. This requires some new tools and last I checked; no one else has yet built what is necessary. That’s where we come in!
Lastly, some of you may be wondering about our crowdfunding. If you had supported us on our campaign, I have already sent you a personal note via e-mail. However, if you weren’t able to, I just want to let you know that we did not reach our funding target, mainly because despite trying, we could not get our US members on board. We did, however, make the most out of the process. Our campaign has helped us strengthen our brand and has influenced our achievement of significant milestones. We also have this super cool video to show for it: https://goo.gl/wJqv3S. I plan to write more about the crowdfunding next year.
Meanwhile, while the lack of funding slows things down a bit (e.g.,. iOS app), we are nonetheless confident of successfully achieving our next milestones. After all, learning doesn’t have to be hard 🙂