Chess gets VR makeover as organizers tap smartphone generation

Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:05am EDT
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By Nivedita Shankar

(Reuters) - Fans tuning in to the 2016 World Chess Championship from home may well have the best seats in the house, with the tournament set to be broadcast live in 360-degree Virtual Reality (VR) - a first in any sport, organizers say.

Norway's defending champion Magnus Carlsen will battle Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin -- the winner of the candidates' tournament -- in November's New York showpiece.

Ilya Merenzon, chief executive of rights holders World Chess by Agon Ltd, says the move will encourage fan interaction.

"As chess is 99.999 percent on the Internet, we were looking for ways to give fans a way to experience the match as if they are in the players area," Merenzon told Reuters in an email.

A pass for the VR experience will cost $15, but the company will also provide moves and analytics as a separate product free of charge.

Merenzon said the long-term aim is to change the way chess is monetized, by offering a more engaged global audience.

The Nov. 11-30 tournament expects to draw an online audience of more than 25 million, organizers say, and will be available on


Norwegian world chess champion Magnus Carlsen (R) plays against Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin during the IX Chess Masters Final in Bilbao, northern Spain, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent West  - RTSJ1G3