GameSquad Interview with Erik

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Erik, the King of Smile, was gracious enough to grant me an interview for GameSquad, a gaming website I help to edit.  I am reposting the interview here for the enjoyment of the entire community.

Again, a big thank you to Erik for doing this! 

I have always found it a testament to the beguiling nature of Chess that in spite of a modern gaming market overflowing with all sorts of breathtaking virtual experiences, Chess continues to enrapture people from around the globe – of all ages, no less.  Bearing witness to this is the fact that there is a growing number of highly active internet-based chess clubs with which a devotee of the Royal Game can indulge himself.  Whether he prefers a game of correspondence chess waged over many days or a quick five minute session of blitz chess, somewhere there is a chess club to suit his tastes.

One such place is  Launched in May of 2007, is now the most popular chess club on the internet with over 270,000 members and some 63,000 games played to date.  GameSquad sat down with the king of to learn more about the man and the place:

Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

I’m Erik, I am the main owner of and I don’t really have a ‘title’ but you can call me boss, CEO, chief nerd, president, owner… whatever you want. I’m 31 and I live in the Bay Area of Northern California. I have 4 wonderful kids and a terrific wife. I learned chess when I was 8 years old but really only got into the game at age 18. I was hooked immediately!

How did the idea for come about?

I love chess, of course. But the idea came when I realized how there was a huge void in the online chess world. There were places to play, some forums, and a few sites with cool tools, but it was all broken up and fragmented. I wanted to bring that all together and add in the best web technologies to create the ultimate chess destination! (Read more here: )

Who are some of the other people who help you run with

We have such a great team!! Jay is co-owner and the main programmer. He is not only the smartest guy I know, but is the best 1-man developer in the world. Seriously. Then we have Igor who has done so much for so little. He basically enables our servers to work under such serious loads. Piotr is our main Live Chess developer and JavaScript codemonkey. He is from Poland and is working really hard day and night! We have some other help on the programming side, but those are the main guys. We then have Matt and Josh who help answer member questions and keep me from being buried in a tidal wave of email and messages. Overall a phenomenal team! (Read more here: )

What were some of the challenges bringing to life?

Wow. Where to begin… Read the saga here: But to highlight a few, we have had a HUGE learning curve technically. Serving up a million or more pages per day is difficult. Most of our challenges have been good ones – dealing with massive growth and trying to please a very large and diverse community. We’ve had hardware failures, cheaters, threats, competition, and mistakes. But the one consistent thing has been our drive to build the most compelling online chess experience and we’ve done a good job staying focused. Currently our biggest challenge is making our Live Chess server work with all browsers. It’s very technically complex and doesn’t work with older, less-sophisticated browsers.

What have been some of the rewards of running your own Chess site?

I get to play a lot of chess! Honestly, chess aside, I have met so many interesting people from all over the world. We have more than 250,000 members and I have come to know a remarkable number of them. It has really made me happy. If only I could get to be financially rewarding….

What do you think sets apart from other chess sites?  Why has it become so popular, so fast?

Community, community, community. We put community EVERYWHERE. You can comment on everything. You have your own profile and friends. You can move chess pieces on any website, but you can’t connect with other people anywhere like you can on Aside from that I think we have a darn good-looking and easy-to-use site (I hope! I designed it all…). Plus we offer tremendous value. There is lots to do for free, but there is also plenty of awesome features worth the upgrade including Tactics Trainer and Chess Mentor. is somewhat unique in that it offers both correspondence Chess and live Chess.  Now it seems like such a natural combination but it took to make it a reality.  Why do you think that is?

Honestly, it’s hard to do more than one thing really well. And frankly, our Live Chess isn’t that competitive yet. Lots of things to improve. I think the separation so far has been because it’s easy to do correspondence chess in the browser, but incredibly hard to do live chess in a browser. That has always been done through a client/server ancient technology. The two just didn’t mix. I think we’re just now at the point where good live chess can exist in the browser. And we just happened to be one of the first to do it.

What are your future plans for

First off, fix live chess! Second, fix live chess!  We want to do team competitions, videos, and a few secret projects. Our users are giving us new ideas all of the time.

Now for some questions about Erik the Chess Player.   When did you first take an interest in chess and why? 

I remember my first game at age 8. My mom says I won. I don’t remember. But I really have a gamer’s mind. I love looking at things and figuring them out. That said, I’m more of a snap-judgment type of person. I play mostly by quick intuition ala Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK.

Who is your favorite professional Chess player of all time and why?

It used to be Anand for his strong aggressive play. Lately though I have been in love with the sharp and daring games from young Magnus Carlsen. He brings such a breath of fresh air to the game!

Do you prefer the White or Black pieces and why?

White has the advantage, so I’ll take it!

What is your favorite opening?

The Glek! It’s the 4-knights with g3 thrown in. I play very similar opening systems no matter what happens (the Pirc, Closed Sicilian, KID, Glek).

What would be the one piece of advice you would offer a beginning Chess player?

Remember that the primary focus of the game is NOT to win, but to have fun. I have always said “You are never losing when you are learning.” I really believe that.

Why do you think Chess continues to beguile gamers of all ages in a world flooded with high-tech video gaming?

Simple is better. Even in video games they don’t make them like they used to. I’ll take Dig Dug over WoW any day. There is just something about the purity of chess. Simple, yet complex. There are other games like this (Go, etc), but chess is somehow more beautiful to me. Just the right combinations of pieces.

Care to make any predictions for the upcoming World Championship?

Ummm… I just hope there are not too many draws.

Would you like to add anything?

I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has helped make what it is today! That includes my family/friends who have supported me, the entire team, and all of the wonderful members who have come to call home.


If you would like to read the original article, please visit here