Emerald Specter 118: The Great Chess Experiments Are Over

What, you say? How can this be, you ask?

I’m fooling myself if I believe anyone out there really had a hard investment in what I was trying to accomplish… but it’s time to talk about what worked, what didn’t, and why I’m ending the “Great Chess Experiments” on this website.

Just over a year ago, I launched the Emerald Specter Chess Club with the hopes of expanding the Chess Basho system I developed into something that people would be interested in playing in. There were no rating limits, “titles” for those who earned them, and only a minimal commitment to make to the system in order for that to succeed.

Well, it was a big, fat failure.

At first, there was interest in competing in the tournaments. I had the first two tournaments fill up faster than I could possibly have hoped and was very happy with the results. I have talked about this before, so I won’t go back over it. There was hope early on but the longer the series runs, the less hope there is that exists.

When I launched Chess Basho VII, I made the trophies customized (and very pretty, if I do say so myself), gave everyone enough time to jump in, and ended up starting the tournament almost a full month after the designed start time because there was no one joining. Since this is something that has happened more than once, I’m calling this basho the last basho…

I had a simple goal: engage lower rated people in tournaments and competition to award them titles in a fun little amalgam of chess and sumo. Hell, the only sumo tie at the moment is the naming system and the means of awarding the titles. Results? Dead on the vine.

The other thing I’ve recently attempted to create was SpecterChess. The “TL;DR” version is that I wanted to amalgamate chess and the UFC, awarding championships to players who wanted to be featured in events. If you visit that link, I even created a championship belt for the whole thing.

What happened to SpecterChess? Well, I had a podcast set up and the intention to review my games in my specific “rate class” (which is Straw Rate) to eventually work towards winning a championship. I recorded my first event and have had nothing but problems since that recording was made. I’ve recovered some of the audio, some of the video, but overall, I’m giving up on trying to do what I was going to do and am looking at alternatives.

Currently, as I write this, there is a 32 man StrawRate tournament to crown the first SpecterChess StrawRate Champion of the World. It’s a KO style tournament and it’s being run on Chess.com (where else would I run it?), and whoever wins the championship (if it be someone other than myself, which is likely), I’ll challenge them to a match for the belt. The idea being that if I can get some activity for a championship going, there might be some hope of salvaging a little bit of the SpecterChess experiment.

Let me explain, in a perfect world, what the plan for SpecterChess would be if money were no object…

There are 10 Rate Classes (Heavy, Cruiser, Light Heavy, Middle, Welter, Light, Feather, Bantam, Fly, and Straw) to compete in, each having a rating (Elo) limit. I’ve come up with a lower number of Rate Classes with more of a “digital” feel to them (ExaRate limited to 2200, PetaRate limited to 2000, TeraRate limited to 1800, GigaRate limited to 1600, MegaRate limited to 1400, and KiloRate limited to 1200) to refine what I was hoping to accomplish. Since the experiment is essentially over, I’ll explain using the new Rate Classes.

A tournament in each Rate Class would be held (KO style) between 16 players to determine an initial Rate Class Champion. The 15 players in each Division who failed to become champion would be ranked 1 through 15 as the top contenders for the championship. Each month after the initial tournament would allow for the introduction of new players playing the established ranked players for a chance to play the champion.

This is basically a speed set up to establish a UFC-like ranking system. Since there would be six Rate Classes, there would be six champions. If the interest above a 2200 rating would be sufficient to create a stronger Rate Class, an expansion could be held to establish Divisions higher than ExaRate… but I digress.

Instead of relying on tournament play, like is almost exclusively what “real world” chess uses, SpecterChess is all about match play. The basic idea was that two players agree to play a four game match at a 15 minute per side time control to determine a winner and loser. The only time there would be a tournament would be if a championship becomes vacant and needs to be refilled (which would be used if there weren’t two clear contenders who deserved a shot).

This is all well and good, but why would anyone want to compete in this manner? Money. Again, I am setting this up as if money were no object, so bear with me.

Each signed SpecterChess player would receive a base annual salary of $2,000. Players would be matched by a Competition Board overseeing SpecterChess. A minimum of six match offers would be made per year, with players being required to compete a minimum of twice (or be fined $1,000 per match declined… meaning if you don’t play at all, you lose your basic annual salary).

Winning a game provides $500 (per game) to the player, as well as a possible “best game,” or “most exciting game” style bonus of $1,000 for exceptional play possible to earn (one bonus of each type per event). Losing a game would be worth $200 per game, meaning that if you either win or lose, you earn money. There is no bonus for a draw, period.

All championship related bonuses are doubled. Champions earn a pro-rated $4,000 annually (if they serve a full year, they get the full amount), $1,000 bonus per win, and $400 bonus for each loss… special bonuses are also doubled. This also applies to the challenger, since they are also competing in a championship match.

With a minimum of 16 players per Division, and six initial Divisions, the base annual salary of the entire SpecterChess organization would be $204,000. That’s only for the basic annual salaries of the champions and 15 ranked contenders. Just like the UFC, SpecterChess would have more players than ranked spots in each division to keep things interesting.

The incentive of money is where things would create an interesting scenario. Players who will never be vying for the World Chess Championship have a place to play (SpecterChess) under contract (lengths varying from 1 to 5 years) to create monthly (and eventually weekly) events just like the UFC to promote chess to players who aren’t top rated.

Who better to learn from than players within your own reach? (Strong teachers will tell you to review GM games, but if you aren’t able to understand some basic concepts of the “weaker” game, then how the hell are you supposed to grasp GM concepts?)

Salaries would increase with sponsorships, there would be physical locations for the events (so there would be attendance possibilities… more on this in a paragraph or two), and vendors could jump in to make it more of a convention rather than just a “sit and watch to two players play four games” at a time.

That’s if money were no object. I had hoped to get some sort of footing to use as a “proof of concept” to sell the idea to sponsors.

The physical locations bit might have scared you a bit… fear not, the idea could be to have multiple venues for a single event world wide, not necessarily all players in one spot. I’d like to have all players in one spot for the early events but the Internet is the only means of building this proof of concept, so I have considered many options. The fact that being paid, guaranteed, is involved should at least make this idea as popular as the PRO Chess League.

With the exception of trying to do what I planned on doing with the podcast feed, I think that both of these experiments are officially over. If the SpecterChess StrawRate Championship works out, maybe I let that one hang on a little longer, but the whole idea is on its last leg as I write these words.

I won’t be completing the SpecterChess events as I’ve numbered them out, but I will be reviewing games… I need to go back to what I’m good at: audio production rather than video. Video may come, but I need to start where I know I can do positive things.

Thanks for reading.