NEW YORK — Websites showing moves almost as they occur at the World Chess Championship can continue to do so over the objections of the tournament organizers, a judge ruled Thursday, a day before the tournament is to begin.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said he was not persuaded that organizers of the $1 million, 12-game tournament had a legal right to block the websites from disclosing the moves until after each game, which can last several hours. The websites maintain that they learn of the moves through social media or elsewhere before discussing them on their websites.
Current champion Magnus Carlsen, of Norway, and Sergey Karjakin, of Russia, are competing in the tournament that begins Friday in lower Manhattan.
World Chess US Inc. and World Chess Events Ltd. sued the websites on Monday, saying they will take advantage of a $15 live feed of the tournament to relay word of each move over the internet. The lawsuit had also sought $4.5 million in damages. The defendants were Chessgames Services LLC, E-Learning Ltd. and Logical Thinking Ltd.
World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon said outside court that the legal action was a result of growing pains the sports is going through as it tries to make money.
“We’re kind of taken hostage at this point,” he said. “We can’t protect the integrity of the business model.”
Prior to Marrero’s ruling from the bench, World Chess attorney Robert LoBue told the judge that he believed the websites were stealing word of the moves from the tournament’s live feed.
He called chess a “cerebral sport.”
“It’s not an athletic sport,” LoBue added. “The moves are the very essence of the event.”
He said it wasn’t fair that some websites can steal what his client spends millions of dollars to develop.
In court papers, Colin McGourty defended himself as the editor in chief of Chess24.com, which is run by E-Learning Ltd. and Logical Thinking Ltd.
He said the Gibraltar-based company’s website, launched publicly in 2014, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. He said it shows chess moves on a computer-generated “virtual” chess board based on what it learns from publicly available sources. He noted, for instance, that the championship will be broadcast on Norwegian television. And each move will be discussed extensively on social media, he said.