Idea #13: Subscription-based chess matches

Premise: Chess is a universal game, and in some ways, a universal language. People worldwide can face each other knowing that there aren’t any regional differences in the way a pawn can capture, a knight can move, or a king can castle. It’s a cultural equalizer. However, it’s become sort of plain over the centuries, as players are often confined to facing a small group of their friends over and over. They learn the ins and outs of each other’s strategies, and matches can become very mechanical after some time.

The Concept: Create a system that mashes up Netflix and the game of chess. Players sign up to become members, and receive several cards with a chessboard printed on each. The first card a member receives has each piece in its starting position. The player decides on a single move, annotates it in the space alloted, and returns the card to the center in charge of connecting players. When the center receives the card, it sends him a new one, and this time it portrays pieces in positions that other players have decided. The cycle continues, with a player receiving a picture of a board and picking a single move for the color whose turn it is, sending the picture back, and receiving another card from a different game.

There will be members with varying skill levels, meaning some players will be unable to keep up with others. To make up for this, it may be necessary to use a system of rankings and ratings so that players only receive cards from games played by members similar to themselves. Members can view previous moves online, then rate each move on whether it was the best one for the situation. These ratings reflect upon the players who made the moves, and can be used to match members to other players with the same skill level.

This idea applies to several games, including Checkers, Connect Four, Mancala, and even Battleship. Essentially, what it does is to fundamentally change the way turn-based games work by making matches anonymous and isolated. Each new card is a new game that requires analyzing from that point and that point only.

The Pros:

  • Though this sounds expensive or complicated to carry out, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. A large enough chess club can do something different and have the same effect by having players meet in person, then go from board to board in a fashion similar to speed dating.
  • I imagine that this requires a different type of thought than traditional chess games. One doesn’t have any prior experiences to rely on, so he or she must analyze much more in an almost forensic way to divine the best move possible. In some ways, this is more of a challenge than chess as we know it.
  • If members want to, they can subscribe to receive multiple cards at a time. This provides them with more puzzles, and can mean greater revenue for the company that manages games.

The Cons:

  • Given that there are several moves in a game, this uses a lot of paper. Costs and environmental impacts will probably be pretty large for something like this.
  • Unless players know a few of the most recent positions and know to avoid backtracking to them, games could end up becoming repetitive back-and-forth cycles. However, if they’re given recent positions, then the game loses some of its challenging aspects.
  • To avoid situations in which a player receives a board from the same match a few moves after he or she sent it in, a very large number of players will have to be signed up.


For the inner chess player in you, check out events near you at


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