Agon Ltd commences legal action against Chess24, InternetChessClub, Chessgames and Chessbomb for breaching broadcast restrictions

March 12, 2016 -- Agon Ltd, the organizer of the World Chess Championship cycle, has launched legal action against four chess websites for blatantly flouting restrictions on the live broadcasting of the games and moves at the Candidates tournament in Moscow. 

Chess24, InternetChessClub, Chessgames and Chessbomb have all received, or are about to receive, injunctions from Agon Ltd, demanding that they immediately desist on live broadcasting the moves from the games at the Candidates. Chessbomb went as far as to create an app so that people who were viewing the games on the WorldChess website could leak them anonymously.

During the first round of the Candidates Tournament, Agon’s WorldChess.com, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the games, suffered major denial of services attacks designed to crash the website. Throughout the day as these attacks were ongoing, the rogue websites, that are now subject to legal action from Agon, took to social media to promote their live coverage of the Candidates.  

The attacks are illustrated in the graphic below. After the games commenced at 15.00 local time there was an expected surge in visitors to WorldChess.com. The website’s servers successfully managed the demand until just after 16.15 when the first denial of service attack took place. WorldChess.com was hit again at 17.45 as the first round games were drawing towards their exciting conclusions. 

The impact of the attacks meant that hundreds of thousands of chess fans from around the world were unable to view the games. It also meant that those that were able to log onto the website suffered significant latency issues throughout the day. 

Ilya Merenzon, Chief Executive of Agon Ltd, said: “We saw a concerted effort to prevent genuine chess fans from around the world from viewing the first round of the Candidates. We don’t know where the attacks originated yet. Could it have been orchestrated by those with a commercial reason to damage our coverage of the Candidates? We simply don’t know.

“However, we hope that the websites that are profiteering from our investment in chess and damaging the commercial future of our entire sport will comply with their legal obligations and cease their live broadcasting of the Candidates.”

All video footage as well as the moves from each game will be shown exclusively at WorldChess.com and by approved broadcast partners in certain countries. 

This is a substantial change from the way chess has been broadcasted. Previously it was common practice that all websites were able to receive moves without broadcast limitations, resulting in a diffusion of major tournaments’ audiences and sponsorship values.

The move is designed to enhance and safeguard the viewing experience for chess fans and to protect the commercial future of World Championship events.

Mr Merenzon said: “If we are to continue to grow the global appeal of chess for the benefit of all fans of the sport, we need to attract and retain further commercial sponsors. In order to do that we need to control how the World Chess Championship cycle is broadcast globally.

Mr Merenzon added: “This is simply a way to protect commercial value. It takes enormous money and effort to hold major chess events, and live transmission is a product of that effort. Chess fans will be able to follow the action for free from the Candidates tournament at worldchess.com, but they will have to agree to terms and conditions that include not re-transmitting the moves elsewhere.”

More details are available on the Agon website.