On May 29th, the world’s top 16 chess players competed in the FTX Crypto Cup. Hundreds of thousands of fans tuned in to Chess24.com, Twitch, Youtube and the Champions Chess Tour website to watch their favorite players duke it out in the nine-day event. But unlike prior tournaments of this scale, where the prize pool is almost always denominated and paid in U.S. dollars, the FTX Crypto Cup was different. Thanks to cryptocurrency derivatives exchange FTX and its CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, the tournament’s $220,000 prize was supplemented by 2.1825 BTC, split among the winners.
Bitcoin enthusiasts have spent the better part of a decade advocating for the currency. They argue that bitcoin will transform the world, democratizing finance by mitigating and decentralizing the power currently wielded by Wall Street, politicians and technocrats. Skeptics have called bitcoin a “scam,” a “ponzi-scheme” and a “speculative bubble.” Nevertheless, over time bitcoin’s most ardent critics have slowly flipped their positions, institutional investors have bought in and the “digital gold” continues to permeate throughout our society. The FTX Crypto Cup represents just another example of bitcoin’s move into the mainstream. On the surface, that’s all the news there is to report — a crypto company sponsored a chess tournament with bitcoin.
But I think there’s a deeper story here. What else do bitcoin and chess have in common? What can chess players learn from bitcoin and what can Bitcoiners learn from chess? Is there an overlap between the two communities? Does Magnus Carlsen hold bitcoin? How good is Sam Bankman-Fried at chess? To answer these questions, I interviewed world champion and #1 rated player Magnus Carlsen, FTX Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, prominent Youtubers GothamChess and BTCSessions, Vice President at BTC Inc. Flip Abagnale and Bitcoin’s wunderkind, Jack Mallers, who plays a mean game of chess himself.
Hard Rules, Hard Money