Chessify: how does the market of chess apps work

700 million players worldwide, apps with millions of downloads, artificial intelligence, and other technologies, transforming the game. What are available on the market besides traditional playing mode? And how to attract the attention of a Grandmaster?
The game of chess has a special significance in Armenia. Representatives of the country won the Chess Olympiad 3 times. Since 2011 chess has been a mandatory subject taught in every school across the country for kids in the 2-4 grade. In such an environment the idea for Chessify company was born.

Chessify is a multi-service app for the amateur and professional chess players. The app's toolset includes an instrument to scan the boar, one to analyze the game, feature to search YouTube videos with the set position, and tournaments' live-streaming. Separately from the app, the company has developed an analytical instrument for professional players.
Coming up with the idea
Before working on Chessify, Gor Vardanyan, co-founder of the company, founded and run Fimetech, a software company specializing in Machine Learning, Artificial Neural Network, Image and Video Processing, Robotics and other technologies. At the same time, he is an associate professor at the Russian-Armenian University Machine Learning Department.

The idea for the company came from one of the Gor's suns. He loved to play chess but didn't want to do his homework, solve puzzles from the book. Son asked if he could take a picture from the book and continue the game on the phone. Turned out there were no such apps in Google Play or App Store. Gor gave that idea as a diploma work to one of the students. 2-3 months later the app was ready and they published it on Google Play. Just in 2 weeks, the app was downloaded 10,000 times.

A small team didn't plan to continue work on Chessify, register a company or start a business. The main goal was to help the chess community. Around 100,000 children play chess in Armenia, and the tool was aimed to foster a love for the game and ease the training process. In the end, turned out that 95% of the users were outside of Armenia.
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Current statistics on the share of users per country
Users' letters and comments were the needed incentive to continue working on the app. Users asked for more opportunities within the app and new features that would allow not only to scan the chessboard and solve the puzzle but to analyze the game and see the best next move.


Market research: How many people worldwide are playing chess?
At some point work on the app turned to be very resource-demanding. The team made a decision before moving any further to analyze the market and define the demand. Turned out, around 700 million people are playing chess worldwide. Based on the numbers provided by the International Chess Federation, in 2019 1680 players hold the title of Grandmaster.

There are apps like the ones developed by Chess King company or mobile app of lichess server, that have over 1 million installs. Solely in August 2019, the app Chess by Chess Prince that does not include any analytical tools was downloaded over 3 million times.

Presented data is the representation of the market in 2019, Chessify conducted research in 2017. But the tendency was the same, it showed the team that there are a huge audience and demand for new technologies to modernize the approach to the game.
Artificial Intelligence: Google is not a competitor to you
All instruments developed by Chessify somehow utilize artificial intelligence. For example, the first tool - scanning of the chessboard is based on artificial neural networks that identify a piece and transfer it to the digital-analog.

In 2017 Chessify won the local stage of Seedstars and EIF IMG competition, got a 50,000 euro grant, while the app was downloaded 15,000 times with the average 4,5 rate on Google Play. At the same time, the team was all working on the engine for the analytical tool. At that point, Google DeepMind released AlphaZero, an algorithm based on the artificial neural networks to analyze the game of chess, shogi and go.

The first reaction was a disappointment, later the team saw the bright side of the situation. All major media outlets started to talk about chess, artificial intelligence and what happens when these two are coming together, that the approach to the game can be and should be modernized.

Google is not a competitor to Chessify, AlphaZero is a research work for the company. And Chessify can use the findings of this research work to enhance their engine. Leela Chess Zero, an instrument for grandmasters and professional players, is based on the work of Google.


YouTuber Search: solution for what is impossible to do manually
Most of the applications available on the market are focused on the process of the game itself. That can be a game with a computer, opponent online, game on all the levels and with different time limits. Chessify is focused more on the needs accompanying the game.

The last instrument developed by the company is a tool for YouTube search that is done based on the set position. The search engine is based on the same principle as a scanning tool. The company deconstructs the video into pictures, that allows searching within the video in order to identify the exact moment the given position occurs. All a player needs to do is to set a position or scan it from the book, push the button and within a couple of seconds the app suggests several videos in different languages starting from the moment position first appears in the video.
This is a huge relief for the players. Even if you know the name of the position, there are several variations of the opening. On average, video from the training is 30-60 minutes long. To find the required positions manually one can spend half of the day, the app completes the task within a couple of seconds. The company does not disclose the technologies used to empower the YouTube search engine.


What is the need to impose parental control within the chess application?
When Chessify launched tools for scanning and analyzing the game, some of the users and friends of the company complained that the app brings damage to the community and especially children. Instead of doing the homework and solving the puzzles, children scan the riddle and solve it using the app. In response to that Chessify introduced parental control. With just a couple of easy steps, parents set a password for the analytical tool, while the option for scanning and then playing the game remain in free access.


Serving everyone: from the amateur players to the grandmasters

Chessify is working in several directions, but the main focus remains on the further development of the mobile app. But the application is far less popular among the professional players, problems they face can not be solved with the features available in the app.

Close connection to the professional chess community in Armenia gave an idea to the team for a new product. The problem many professional players face is that every 2 years they need to look for a new model of the computer so that it could cope with the power needed for the installation and functioning of professional analytical tools. The company developed a powerful analytical tool that makes all the work in the cloud and that is why is completely independent of the capacities of the laptop. At the moment over 100 professional chess players are using Chessify. 30 players out of this hundred are Grandmasters with an average rating 2600. To give the perspective, 2882 is the highest number that was set by the Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen.

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