Jul 26 2011

A message from the CEO – Thank you!

Sean

Dear ChessCube users,

ChessCube certainly has wonderful users. Your response to our appeal to help support ChessCube has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Your contributions to ChessCube – monetary and otherwise – have invigorated us and we are working harder than ever to deliver a fantastic product to you – our community. Throughout the past month we have received support via online purchases, donations, marketing expertise and advertisement offers from our users, tons of heartfelt emails and, most importantly, your vote of confidence and support regarding our recent Cubit and in-application advertising policies.

Those who have been able to support us by purchasing Cubits, ChessCube Cinema videos, virtual items such as backgrounds and chess piece sets in our store, purchases in our merchandise store, VIP upgrades and donations on PayPal – we thank you. For those who have not been able to support ChessCube financially, we thank you too, as we truly appreciate you staying active on ChessCube.

I would also like to mention a huge thanks to our community members who have been using our social gifting feature. We have seen large amounts of virtual goods and VIP memberships being gifted to friends and strangers alike.

We appreciate your continued support for ChessCube – which really helps secure our future as a leading chess network and we will do our best to serve you well.

If you would like to contact me to discuss any issues, please email [email protected].

Thanking you in advance!

Mark Levitt
CEO ChessCube


Jun 21 2011

ChessCube Update: A message from the CEO

admin

Dear ChessCube users,

ChessCube has always been a labor of love for the staff of ChessCube and our moderators and community for a number of years now. Our users love ChessCube as it is unique in what it offers to the chess community.

We have also been very fortunate in having fantastic investors whose funding allowed us to build out a great online playing product. Our tournament services are really unique and fun. All our staff love ChessCube and we all play on it regularly!

While we have always been a free-to-play service, we do in fact have a number of products that people can purchase to increase their enjoyment of ChessCube, such as VIP memberships, chess videos, backgrounds, sound packs and, of course, cubits for wagering and tournaments.

As only a few percent of our users actually do purchase items from our stores, ChessCube has not been able to run profitably enough to improve our services and grow our staff numbers.

So, we have been looking at our cost structures and have cut costs where we can. This also included moving most of our servers to a more cost-effective environment over the last two weeks. This has led to some downtime and some small issues with our service – but we have been hard at work to ensure that our service levels are back to normal – and in fact our goal is to make them better than ever. Due to the high volume of games on our servers (6m a month!) though, we are already hitting some limits on our new server infrastructure – but we have some ideas how to manage this.

As you know, every company needs to make a profit, in order to invest into growth and improvements. For this reason I would like to appeal to you, our loyal users, to help ChessCube by taking up VIP memberships, buying cubits and crowns and taking part in our amazing tournament services.

As you know, you can earn free cubits every day by showing up and winning games or playing in tournaments. Our promise to you is that we will always keep ChessCube a free service. Nevertheless, as the cost of our servers, staff and other running costs is high, we have decided to ‘charge’ 10 cubits for all rated or unrated games.  This is not a true financial charge though as you can simply use the cubits you receive each day to play. You can also win cubits in wagering games, tournaments and off our hourly/weekly/monthly leader boards.

Wagering games and tournament games will not be affected at all by this charge though. We will also increase the number of free and low-cubit entry tournaments at the same time.

VIP members play free and will not have to pay any cubits for their games. And in fact, if you do run out of cubits, buying even $5 worth of cubits will give you around 5,000 cubits which is 500 games!

I understand that some of you will not be happy to have limits imposed on your free games, but this will lead to a better service for all of our users.

VIP has all of these great benefits http://www.chesscube.com/vip but, even if none of them are appealing to you, consider a VIP purchase as a sign of your support for ChessCube. All of these actions will be greatly appreciated by your ChessCube team and will lead to a better service for all.

If you would like to contact me to discuss any issues, please email [email protected]

Thanking you in advance!

Mark Levitt
CEO ChessCube


May 25 2011

Rating Category Tournaments

Jacques

It is often daunting to compete in a tournament with strong players. You may feel that you have no chance to win a prize against such opponents. One way to equalize the playing field is by adding handicaps. For example, giving stronger players less time, less pieces or less points gives their opponents a chance to cause an upset. However, handicaps also have a dark side.

Many strong players pretend to be weak – also known as “sandbagging” – so that they can gain a handicap advantage. That means they intentionally lose games in certain tournaments to lower their rating, while winning as much as possible in big prize tournaments. Even though we track and ban users for doing this it causes a negative perception of tournaments. This goes completely against the competitive spirit ChessCube wants to promote in tournaments. It also means that prizes could be going to undeserving players who abuse the system.

Enter Rating Categories.

Rating categories are a different way in which ChessCube is awarding prizes in tournaments. They are fairer and, more than ever, give anyone a chance to win. The idea is that while everyone competes together prizes are awarded to players in rating restricted categories. This means that a 1500 player is not competing against a 2500 for a prize, but against other players around 1500 strength.

How does it work?

Every tournament will have open prizes which will be awarded to the top places, no matter what the prize winner’s rating is. So even new players in their first tournament can compete for these prizes. Thereafter prizes are awarded to the top players in each rating category. For these prizes only players within the rating category will be considered. Even if you finish near the bottom of the tournament, out of contention for the open prizes, you still have a chance to win a rating category prize (depending on how the other players in your rating category performed). A player can only win one prize, so if you qualify for an open and a rating category prize you will get the biggest of the two and someone else will qualify for the other.

Let’s consider a practical example for a tournament with the following prizes:

  • Open prizes: 1st = $1000, 2nd = $750, 3rd = $500
  • Rating category 1800-2199: 1st = $400, 2nd = $350
  • Rating category 1500-1799: 1st = $200, 2nd = $150
  • Rating category 0-1499: 1st = $100, 2nd = $50

If you are a player with a rating of 1450 you have a chance to do great and win overall 1st and $1000. But even if you don’t you still have a chance to win the 0-1499 rating category prizes and get $100 or $50. On the other hand, if you are a 2500 rated player you are only competing for the open prizes (and you have a good chance to win them!). Note that you qualify for a rating category based on your start rating in the tournament.

In addition to rating categories ChessCube has also started a new initiative of verifying all prize winners in such tournaments. This assures players that the final prize winners got there fairly.

Now all players have an incentive to play and fight in every game. Enjoy playing against strong players and learn from them – get the experience which will make you a better player too. And know that whatever score you end on there is still a chance to win!

FIND A TOURNAMENT


May 25 2011

ChessCube VIP Membership

Jacques

In case you haven’t noticed, ChessCube has an exciting new membership called VIP. This replaces the previous premium membership which will no longer be for sale. Existing premium members will still receive all their current benefits but will no longer be able to extend their premium membership.

What are the benefits of VIP?

ChessCube has packaged a lot of the former premium benefits with some exciting new features:

Stand Out from the Crowd

  • Get preferential listing in rooms. This makes you more visible to your friends and other users.
  • Members-only badge & (new) player card. Show-off with some special effects.

Double XP Multiplier

  • Earn XP (experience points) at double rate. ChessCube is working on bringing additional benefits to users based on their XP level. So start earning more today!

Free Videos & Virtual Goods

  • Weekly streaming videos. Get free training videos inside the application – a new video is added every week!
  • Access to last 5 videos. Don’t worry if you’re running short of time as your videos will be available for a while.
  • Free limited edition virtual goods. Get 6 (new) exclusive free items which are not for sale anywhere else on ChessCube.

Exclusive Access & Features

  • Exclusive tournament access. Join tournaments which are only open to VIP and premium members to play.
  • Audio/video chat. Use the built in audio/video chat feature of ChessCube to interact with your friends.
  • Customized board colors. Make the board look the way you want.
  • Preset take-back & abort options. Tired of rejecting annoying requests during your game? Preset your response for all future opponents.

Valuable Game Data & Statistics

  • Full game history. Get access to all the games you have ever played on ChessCube!
  • Full game statistics. Delve deeper into your past performance.
  • (new) Get own games as email PGN. Get all your games sent to you via email in the PGN standard format.
  • (new) Daily ChessCube PGN game access. Download all the top games played on ChessCube and analyze them with your favorite program.
  • (new) Tournament report as email PGN. Get a full report and all games emailed to you after each tournament you play in (opt-in required on tournament entry).
  • (new) Other player game history. View all the games of any player on ChessCube.
  • (new) Other player game statistics. View the performance of any player on ChessCube.

You can compare all the benefits here. Last, but not least, by taking a VIP membership you are helping to support ChessCube and enabling us to keep improving and bringing you new features. Without your support this would not be possible!

What does it cost?

VIP membership is sold in two packages:

  • VIP Monthly gives you access to the above features for 1 month and costs 49 Crowns (about $5).
  • VIP Annual gives you a full year’s access and costs 399 Crowns (about $40 or $3.33 per month).

Unfortunately ChessCube can not accept Cubits as payment for VIP memberships as Cubits are gifted to users every day. You can still use your Cubits to enter tournaments, play wagering games, rent streaming videos inside the application and buy virtual goods (backgrounds, piece sets and soundpacks).

How can I become a VIP member?

You can become a member by following this link: http://www.chesscube.com/play/app/?quickBuyId=397&quickBuyType=membershipShopItem

After logging in the VIP window will show from where you can purchase a membership. Alternatively you can click on the left menu “Store” button and select “Buy VIP” in the store. If you are already a VIP member your membership expiry date will also be shown on the VIP window.

We hope you enjoy ChessCube VIP membership!


May 23 2011

The Chess.co.uk Open

Jacques

ChessCube, the world leader in online chess tournaments, is proud to bring you another great event in cooperation with our partners at Chess.co.uk.

This weekend ChessCube will host The Chess.co.uk Open tournament. A total of $1,000 in prizes will be up for grabs, with prizes awarded to winners in several rating categories.

The main event will take place on Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 18:00 GMT. Anyone may enter the final directly or can play in qualifier events throughout the weekend (27-29 May) to win free entry into the final.

Prizes will be awarded as coupons, which can be redeemed at chess.co.uk for real-world chess goods which can be shipped anywhere in the world. The top 5 players in each of the following groups will receive prizes:

Open (all players qualify to win these prizes)

  1. £100
  2. £70
  3. £50
  4. £40
  5. £35

Rating 2000-2299 (only players who start the tournament in this rating range qualify to win these prizes)

  1. £30
  2. £25
  3. £20
  4. £15
  5. £10

Rating 1800-1999

  1. £25
  2. £20
  3. £15
  4. £10
  5. £5

Rating 1600-1799

  1. £20
  2. £15
  3. £10
  4. £5
  5. £5

Rating 1400-1599

  1. £15
  2. £10
  3. £5
  4. £5
  5. £5

Rating 0-1399

  1. £10
  2. £5
  3. £5
  4. £5
  5. £5

All prize winners will be verified by ChessCube. The final results will be posted and the winners notified within 24 hours of the completion of the final. Please contact [email protected] for more information or visit our forum.

Chess.co.uk is proud to sponsor tournaments on ChessCube. Based in London, chess.co.uk has been one of Europe’s leading chess suppliers since 1992. Check out our latest and greatest offers on chess books, equipment, videos and software – we ship worldwide and accept all major credit/debit cards as well as PayPal.


Apr 6 2011

The Online Commonwealth Chess Championships: a great success!

Mark

ChessCube, the world leader in online chess tournaments, with over 20,000 tournaments per month, sponsored the 2011 Online Commonwealth Chess Championships. This event ran over nine days, from 26 March to 3 April.

This unique online series awarded each section winner $1,500 in cash prizes and, in addition, they receive free accommodation and entry into the real-world combined Commonwealth and South African Open Chess Championships. This land-based event, which is not limited to Commonwealth country entrants, will be held at the beautiful Emperors Palace Hotel Casino & Convention Resort in South Africa, where an additional $21,000 in prizes is up for grabs.

There were three groups: above 2200 players, under 2200 and under 1800 rated players. Players who finished from 2nd to 100th positions in each group also won an array of cubit or virtual goods prizes.

Overall there were 9,061 entrants in 426 separate events. Participants were given the option to play in one of the three sections depending on their strength. This worked well in giving the lower-rated players a fantastic opportunity, as well as giving the stronger players a chance to compete. The feedback from the community was very positive over the splitting of the separate groups.

ChessCube’s unique ‘Warzone Chess’ pairing system gives anyone a chance to win one of the groups. Our handicap system includes time, material and scoring advantages for the lower rated players, which could even allow a 1200 to stand a chance of beating the 1700s to win the under 1800 event.

The Warzone pairing system creates a new exciting edge for Internet play, compared to the traditional slow-paced round-by-round Swiss or Round Robin systems. Instead of waiting idly between rounds, your next game starts 2 or 3 seconds after the last one ended. It’s a grueling trial by fire, with one fast-paced match after the next. The handicap system then creates the balance for you – so you can defeat anyone.

With such a big prize at stake, some dishonest players dropped their ratings on purpose in order to compete in a lower section, or to create some advantage in the handicapping system. We used a number of countermeasures to weed out the cheats:

  • We have introduced a well-constructed ‘rating floor’ system, to ensure that so-called ‘sandbaggers’ cannot dump rating points before an event in order to enter a lower category.
  • We used a very high k-factor (which increases rating volatility) in the first few rounds to ensure that player’s ratings settle very quickly into their correct strength.
  • We used XP levels in the final events to ensure that new players coming in with a low rating would not be able to enter or win prizes,
  • Our systems also compared player’s previous history on their account (or related accounts) to ensure that they do not have higher ChessCube ratings.
  • We also require the three winners to submit real world identification and proof of their real world ratings as a final check.

The tournament was an amazing success for ChessCube and we will be hosting many more exciting series in the upcoming months.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:
Mark Levitt
ChessCube CEO


Apr 5 2011

Mobile payments now possible on ChessCube

Jacques

Mobile Payments by Zong

Courtesy of Zong you can now buy Cubits and Crowns with your mobile phone. Zong has been around for 10 years and operates in over 40 countries worldwide, with 100% carrier coverage in most countries. Enjoy a fast, safe & secure shopping experience using your mobile phone!

To buy using your mobile phone follow these simple steps:

1. Click on the “+ Buy” button at the top of the screen.
Buy button

2. Choose “Mobile” from the list of payment options and click on Continue.
Payment options

3. Choose the Cubit or Crown bundle you want to buy and click on Continue.
Bundle options

4. Choose your carrier and enter your mobile number to receive a secret code. When you are done click on Continue – the secret code is now being sent to your mobile phone.
Payment screen 1

5. Enter the secret code you received in the form. To complete the purchase click on Continue. The charge will appear on your mobile phone bill. (In some countries you will instead be asked to reply to the text message to confirm payment.)
Payment screen 2

For more information you can visit the Zong help page or email [email protected]


Apr 5 2011

Use your f-pawn

Jacques

We have recently added two new chess training videos, both featuring openings where White makes early use of the f-pawn. These openings are slightly unusual but have at least two advantages for the casual players. First, you’ll be more familiar with the positions than your opponents and have a good chance to outplay them. Second, a mistake in defense can quickly lead to a winning attack for White.

Grand Prix Attack

Grand Prix Attack

In the first video International Master Andrew Martin advocates playing the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian Defense. This puts pressure on Black from the outset and contains a lot of poison – a vicious king-side attack often defeats Black.

A great benefit is that this is an easy-to-learn opening which avoids memorizing a lot of moves to counter the Sicilian Defense. There is also something for Black players – a good defensive system is shown against the “premature” 2.f4. For users who want even more there is also the Foxy video on The f4 Sicilian by Grandmaster James Plaskett.

Bird's Opening

Bird's Opening

Next International Master Andrew Martin presents coverage on the unusual Bird’s Opening, which starts with 1.f4. This will appeal to original players who like positions with little theory from where they can outplay their opponent.

Arguably the openings greatest exponent was Grandmaster Bent Larsen, one of the strongest players of his generation. This video will show you how to handle the unusual positions and play an interesting game with good chances of a win.

These videos can be purchased in our web shop for download and offline viewing using our free ChessCube Cinema application. Remember that you also get some great free videos with your ChessCube Cinema download!

Alternatively you can rent them inside ChessCube for instant streaming video and a great deal on the price. After logging in just click on the store menu icon and jump to the video tab.

More info:
General Guide to the Opening: f4 against the Sicilian by IM Andrew Martin
General Guide to the Opening: Bird’s Opening by IM Andrew Martin


Mar 14 2011

Warzone Chess tournaments: Anyone can win

Jacques

Warzone Chess™ ushers in a new era of chess tournaments. Instead of the normal slow and steady round-based tournaments, Warzone Chess is fast paced and action-packed, with a new game starting as soon the previous game ends. The aim is to score as many points as quickly as possible, with the highest overall score winning.

It is generally accepted that stronger players win tournaments, however in Warzone Chess it’s a free-for-all, where anyone can win. How is this possible you ask? Well there is a unique live handicap system which is in place for every tournament. The handicap system gives lower-rated players an advantage over higher-rated ones, with chess ratings used to calculate how much of a handicap will be given.

Each Warzone Chess tournament has the option of having handicaps enabled, which evens-up the rating gap between players:

  • Time handicap. A lower-rated player will start with a larger amount of the total game time, while a higher-rated player will have less time at the start of the game.
  • Position handicap. A lower-rated player will be given a positional advantage at the start of the game. For example, the stronger player may have to start the game without their queen.
  • Points handicap. Lower-rated players will be rewarded with more points if they win against a higher-rated player.  For example: a lower-rated player may gain 100 points for beating a stronger player, while not losing any points for being defeated. This gives you every reason to fight for the win.

You can see which handicaps have been enabled in a Warzone Chess tournament by looking at the tournament info on the right of the tournament window. Hover over the info icon to the right for additional information.

Warzone Chess handicaps


Mar 11 2011

I’ve become a ChessCube Business Partner!

Sean

ChessCube has launched a great new service that offers you as a chess player, chess blogger, coach, retailer, club operator and so forth the ability to have their own branded chess application on their website, for free. As ChessCube’s Community Manager, I’ve been watching the project develop and grow over time, and was massively excited when the email announcing the ChessCube Business Partner offer was sent to our user base as well as external coaches. From all accounts the feedback and interest has been wonderful thus far!

Wanting a piece of the action myself, I went ahead and signed up to become a Business Partner. Setting ChessCube up on my private blog was extremely easy. Even as an end-user with fairly minimal knowledge of HTML coding, I was able to embed the website onto my own private site in less than 3 minutes. Registration with ChessCube took less than 1 minute, pasting the code given to me by ChessCube into my webpage took seconds, and uploading the new web page to my server took all of 1 minute. And that’s it, I refreshed my page, and there it was – a great chess site running on my own personal blog. Installing ChessCube vs writing a blog post on my site: Writing a blog post with Tumblr is harder, and takes longer. ChessCube makes setting their site up easy, and can be done in quicker than most can finish a blitz chess game!

ChessCube running on my own private blog

The features of the ‘Powered by ChessCube’ solution:

  • A branded chess application for your website
  • Offer private rooms for your users to meet & chat
  • Run your own private or public online tournaments
  • Generate ongoing revenue

Find out how easy becoming a ChessCube Business Partner is for yourself. Head over to http://www.chesscube.com/b2b to get started.

Regards,
Sean
ChessCube Community Manager