April Fools: Chess.com Annexes Unclaimed Territory To Crown Real King For A Day
Chess.com will annex this unclaimed territory to make a sovereign nation fit for a king.

April Fools: Chess.com Annexes Unclaimed Territory To Crown Real King For A Day

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
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104 | Chess.com News

Want to be "king for a day"?

Chess.com is about to give you the ability to do that, literally.

Today Chess.com filed papers with several international agencies to officially lay claim to Bir Tawil, an unclaimed piece of land between the Egyptian and Sudanese borders that no country controls. The main goal will be to host an annual one-day tournament whereby the winner is officially crowned king for that day.

Bir Tawil
Bir Tawil, the white space that neither Egypt (yellow) nor Sudan (blue) wants. Only the area in green is disputed. Image: Wikipedia.

"For years the chess community has called certain players 'the king' in jest or as an metaphor, but we think they deserve the chance to be a real king, even if only for a day!" Chess.com CEO @Erik proclaimed in his statement to the regulatory bodies.

According to the documents, the country's provisional name will be "Zwischenland." The name is an allusion to the chess term "zwischenzug" and references the fact that the unclaimed spit of land is "in-between" two countries.

Bir Tawil became no-man's land after the United Kingdom set up an official straight-line border at the 22nd parallel in 1899, but then three years later drew an irregular administrative boundary that dipped south and then north and reflected the movements of the local Ababda tribe. This second demarcation left a "hole," which still exists today, since Egypt still recognizes the original border but Sudan recognizes the later one.

The "king for a day" event will take place on a giant chessboard carved into the sand, and top grandmasters will be invited each year. The winner will be officially crowned the "king of Zwischenland" for that day. 

The exact format of the yearly event has not been chosen, but Chess.com has announced that the oversized desert chess set will remain every other day of the year for all to play, once certain infrastructure is put in place. For example, the Sudanese government has advised that a permanent shelter is constructed to protect chess players from a sudden haboob, which are violent sand storms known to occur in the region.

As such, the chessboard will likely be delineated with the same kind of tape used to outlay a beach volleyball court, but also a stone perimeter in case sand is blown to cover lines of the ranks and files. Several Nubian craftsmen have been contacted to create people-sized pieces. The longer plans are to build a conference center for chess camps and other lectures.

While many internet users and other single individuals have made perfunctory claims to Bir Tawil (like this man who thought that planting a seed would help his jurisdiction), Chess.com's wide array of resources will be used to help bolster the justification to become a microstate. There is no fee for such a claim, and no territory to purchase. Instead the hallmarks of international recognition are usually the standard accompaniments of all countries. For example, the website's logo will be incorporated into the the flag, and the country's "constitution" will be based on the principles of the site's fair-play policies. 

king throne

Chess.com hired a team of world-class architects to design Zwischenland's throne room in the classical style. 

Bir Tawil is about 800 square miles of land, which is plenty large enough for international recognition. If Zwischenland ever becomes a sovereign state, it would become the 168th largest in area, just smaller than Luxembourg and slightly larger than Mauritius. There are no plans at the moment to become an official FIDE federation, but there is talk of asking for special recognition from the world chess federation for Zwischenland being a "refuge for all critical-thinking peoples of the world."

Even if the chances of international acceptance are slim, Chess.com leadership plans to push ahead with the plan.

"Chess is all about controlling space, and this was one of the last pieces of land on Earth not controlled by anyone," Chess.com Chief Chess Officer Danny Rensch said. "So I have no idea if our claim will be honored, but this is going to be a blast just trying. And now every top chess player will get to try to live out the boyhood fantasy of becoming a real king. I'm already shifting my Crossfit workouts to the desert in anticipation of competing in year one."

Chess.com will soon invite members to vote on the official flag of Zwischenland. These are the finalists (for now you can let us know in the comments which one you like best; voting will open soon).

Option 1: The logo with some Croatian flag influences.
Option 2: The logo with some Panamanian flag influences.
Option 3: The logo with some American flag influences.

Chess.com explained that since chess is a "game of the people," it is right to crown a king for only a single day. For the remaining days of the year, the country will be for the "patzers" and will belong to all chess players of any "gender, race, color, nationality or religion."

Former FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is reported to be offering infrastructure investments in Zwischenland that are upwards of $50 million USD.

In the documents submitted to the United Nations, Chess.com has hinted that there will be no passport requirements. Instead, any individual seeking to enter will merely be required to solve a single "checkmate-in-one" puzzle to prove chess literacy. For those that have never played chess before, you will still be allowed to cross the border, but will then enter a tent and watch introductory Chess.com immigration videos.

"Chess.com approached me and asked if I would create a 'passport-based beginner chess video series' and I was like 'What!?'" GM Simon Williams said. But then they told me I would get some cool desert clothing with the Chess.com logo and they'd make me the country's general, so then I was like, 'Giddyup! Let's do this!'"

Williams joked that he wanted his beloved "Harry the h-pawn" to be the official passport stamp, but that is another area that Chess.com has already thought of. In documents submitted to the U.N., ChessKid.com's logo is shown as the suggested passport stamp – "Peshka the Pawn."

Peshka the ChessKid pawn
Peshka the Pawn—That's a stamp that even the well-traveled GM Nigel Short doesn't have yet.
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