We created Fantasy Chess with Magnus Carlsen.

GAME DESIGN

VISUAL IDENTITY

UX

FULL-STACK

The story of how we built Fantasy Chess is a fast and exciting one.
Read it here, and sign up to play the next tournament!

In the spring of 2023 Iterate was sponsoring the annual Norway Chess tournament, and we were tasked with exploring concepts to boost audience engagement. It all started in the local chess club house in the humble town of Sandnes.

Around the table sat Kjell and Benedicte, the founders of Norway Chess, and Nina, Mats and Rune from Iterate. A couple of promising ideas came up, one of which was Fantasy Chess. Imagine, a social and mobile friendly game like fantasy-football, only with chess. We all liked that idea. However, it sounded too ambitious in this context, and we eventually decided to leave the idea behind.

Except we couldn't. It kept coming back to us. While talking about “more important” things, our minds drifted off to Fantasy Chess. As anyone in the idea-business would know, this is a sign you might want to follow; a sign also known as gut feeling, or spark.

Let’s have a quick look at what Fantasy Chess actually is:

In Fantasy Chess, you assemble a virtual team of real chess players. Your team earns points based on how your selected players perform in real chess games. You don't need to be a chess expert to play. Instead, you focus on strategic team management. You aim to pick the best-performing players and use your knowledge of chess to assemble a team that will earn you points based on their actions in actual games.

The pitch

After convincing the team to have another shot at the idea, it came down to getting Magnus Carlsen himself onboard. A side-note: Fantasy Premier League has over 11 million players globally, and guess what, Magnus is among the worlds very best players. A world champion of both chess and fantasy football? We figured he wouldn’t be the worst audience for a pitch about a fantasy chess game. Not that we weren’t a tad bit nervous.

We shared our idea, and it went well. Turns out, Magnus had thought about a similar concept. He was onboard, excited even! Now we had 6 weeks to build a working game for the upcoming tournament.

The first players of Fantasy Chess would try the beta-version while the actual chess-matches were being played. With a team of designers and developers, we set off to solve the main crux:
the point system.

In figuring out the workings of a real time point system, using data from actual ongoing matches, we had to dive deep into the world of old school chess systems. Meanwhile, we started recruiting our first players by sending out newsletters and having our colleagues share them.

After a press release at our offices Magnus wrote a tweet, giving us got 5000+ signups instantly. To this day, that's the only marketing we’ve done for this venture.

First players

On the big day, we gathered in Stavanger, and were still working on the beta as the tournament started. We had 57 playtesters, who were constantly refreshing the app to see if they had gotten points. Clearly, something clicked. Out of those 57 players, we eventually got a winner. His name?
Magnus Carlsen.

The next iteration of the game came already three weeks later, for the SuperUnited Blitz & Rapid Croatia. We now had a lot of people asking to play Fantasy Chess, and we noticed an emerging buzz amongst chess fanatics on Twitter and Reddit.

At around 900 players, the contract was re-negotiated, and Magnus decided to buy himself a bigger share of the company (60%). While 6 MNOK came in from investors to build the next version for the upcoming Qatar Masters tournament.

What now?

Recently, we welcomed the new CEO, Mats André Kristiansen, who quit ODA and joined our team over the summer.

New features are out and being tested these days, like the ability to create your own leagues. With Fantasy Chess we aim to engage entirely new groups of chess-fans, and there are more clever ideas in the loop.
Stay tuned!

On this project

  • Mats Lande

    Design, Utvikling

    mats@iterate.no

    +47 924 16 812

  • Nina Tandrevold Hermanrud

    Utvikling

    nina.hermanrud@iterate.no

    +47 418 064 80

  • Pia Lindkjølen

    Utvikling

    pia@iterate.no

Contact

  • Rune Larsen

    CEO/Daglig Leder

    rune@iterate.no

    +47 917 78 534