How I Got the Chess.com Domain Name
People sometimes ask me: How did you get the Chess.com domain name? (And they WANT to ask: How much did it cost?)
Here’s the story. Well, actually two stories, and how they converge.
(Wait! Before I tell the story, stop and take a guess at how much I paid for the domain name. Then share your guess in the comments!)
The Chess.com domain name was registered in 1994. I don’t know by whom or for what purpose, but not long after it was rolled into Aficionado, Inc. - the creators of the original Chess Mentor software. Over the next decade they made chess software with some success, but not enough to pay their bills or return the money to their small group of investors.
Meanwhile, in 2001 I started the company WholesaleChess.com (another long story, and also with my friend and business partner Jay!). I sold that site in 2005, but in 2004 I started looking for a way to reach more chess players who might want chess equipment. Google Adwords were already getting expensive and I thought it might be better to create a social network for chess players where we could hang out, discuss chess, and then put our Wholesale Chess sponsorship for those interested.
I also was unhappy with the current chess communities and websites out there and wanted something to call my chess home. I reached out to the owners of Chess.com because I thought it sounded like a good domain name for a chess community (duh!). We were soon in discussions on how to work together to make it work.
There was one catch though - the Chess.com domain name was tied to the Aficionado company, which was deep in debt. They were facing bankruptcy, selling everything to pay back creditors and investors. Through that research, I decided that I didn’t want to partner with the former owners, and so when the bankruptcy auction went forward, a friend of mine who was interested in domains won the auction for the assets of the Aficionado company. This included the Chess Mentor software and the Chess.com domain name.
A short while later I bought out the assets and rolled it into one new, debt-free company with just three owners (me, Jay, and my other friend).
The total price at bankruptcy was $55,000.
This experience shed light on the fact that there are private bankruptcy auctions happening frequently where tons of assets are being sold at unbelievably low prices with very limited information. (Yet another broken system that needs reform...)
I had the money to buy the domain name and start the new Chess.com company from the money I earned selling the WholesaleChess.com company (to a really awesome guy named Matt). I had sold the company because I had been (shockingly!) admitted to Stanford Business School. And it was during my time there where I designed Chess.com...(read more here).
Anyway, that’s the story.
TL;DR - I got the Chess.com domain name out of bankruptcy for $55,000 in 2005.