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Taking Lichess to the next level (lichess.org)
426 points by akbarnama 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments

I have said this countless times, and I will say it again - it is just marvelous how Lichess provides so much value being completely free (both libre and gratis).

I would love to see more publicity of Lichess though - and seems like this move will help in that regard.

I don't know for sure, but is there any other chess organization in the world of this scope that is truly non-profit? Sure, FIDE itself is non-profit, but profit-motives of its commercial counterparts and allies are controversial, to say the least.

FIDE's finances are the sort of finances where your Swiss bank terminates all of your accounts in response to OFAC sanctions against terrorist states [0].

I don't think they belong on this list, even if they technically are a nonprofit!

[0] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43053626

Imagine if those sanctions had been successful and the “moderate rebels” had taken over Syria. It’s incredulous how atrocious Western foreign policy has become.

> It’s incredulous how atrocious Western foreign policy has become.

Always has been.

Have we forgotten Afghanistan, circa 1980s to 1990s? Who could have foreseen that when you uncork the 'religious nationalism' bottle, the end result might be something that won't dance to your strings...

Who were these "moderate rebels" in Syria?

They were radical Islamists who would have made the Saudis and Ayatollahs blush. Just one step down from ISIS. There was a tiny liberal faction that barely existed, and of course, that’s what the western propaganda focused on.

Al Qaeda. Yes, the US Government sponsored the Al Qaeda in Syria. Our media, left and right, referred to them as "rebels" throughout the conflict. I found it wierd that the key US faction was referred to by a generic term "rebels" until I Googled. And then holy shit! WTF!


While it was designated as a terrorist group it was tactically supping by both US and Israel. Russia defeated ISIS, against the best efforts of the United states. The United states merely wanted to move ISIS out of Iraq into Syria.


So much for 9/11 - never forget.

While I hate Trump as much as anyone could, I give him credit for keeping the peace in Syria and Ukraine, that clearly the Democrat leaders have zero desire for. Fox news attacked Obama for his birth certificate, but steered absolutely clear of Obama's sponsorship of Al Qaeda. The US media is beyond fucked and committed to US Imperialism 100%. Watching CNN/FOX is simply 2 alternative recipes for getting brainwashed, though Fox is objectively worse.

Also worth noting that the current "Director Of Content" for reddit is from Atlantic Council.

Its board of directors has been and continues to be a who’s who of high U.S. statespeople like Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, as well as senior military commanders such as retired generals Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the late Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, and Admiral James Stavridis. At least seven former CIA directors are also on the board.

The reddit board of directors? That doesn't seem right https://www.bloomberg.com/profile/company/0893288D:US

Now, what I meant is Reddit director of content was transplanted from Atlantic council which had these politicians as board

(Colin Powell died about a year ago.)

To be fair the parent comment was saying that the current director of content for Reddit is ALSO part of the Atlantic council, then says the Atlantic council is and has been made up of those individuals. Powell could have been on that council before his death at some point.

> after a statement on it's website said he had resigned.

Sort of insane how the BBC missed the correct form of the possessive.

The BBC website is full of sloppy writing, not to mention straight-up clickbait, these days. It's kind of sad.

Don't forget the casual racism: [0]

Which is part of their racist, institutionally colonial makeup at the top, according to their own staff: [1]

Then there's how they treated Corbyn, or how they "covered" Assange, or their role in the war on terror, etc, etc.

They don't deserve your pity. They've been like this for a long time.

[0] - https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/other/irish-people-rage-over-...

[1] - https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/bbc-institutionally-r...

As a rule, if an article uses [sic] in ANY part of its reporting it better have been scrubbed clean by an editor to not have any typos of its own.

Ownership and influence of chess companies and FIDE sponsoring is not very transparent. This article for instance claims that Mark Scheinberg has a chess.com stake.


The Scheinberg family also sponsors FIDE:


There is or was FICS, the free internet chess server. It never really had a web interface afaik.

While I think a US non-profit makes a lot of sense, I would exercise caution with the non-profit board.

The board’s job is to provide oversight and to appoint a director [1]. In this case it would clearly be Thibault, but what happens in a few years when Thibault is ready to go? Does he have say in his replacement? Does the French organization take precedent over the US nonprofit when it comes to leadership and governance?

I say this because Lichess is extremely valuable (even as a non-profit) and that will attract the wrong kind of people. Thibault should take every precaution to make sure he retains control of the org, with good people around him. I’m not sure if there is a non-profit equivalent of retaining voting rights, but I’d want to be sure he retains control until it’s well established as a non-profit and a succession plan is in place.

The wrong board could evaluate his performance (which right now he says he works at his leisure and loves what he does) and say “we need more fundraising and appearances in the US at tournaments” and he could balk / want to focus on the product. They could then look to appoint a US director of the nonprofit and things could get awkward and extremely costly.

It’s incredible what has been built and maintained with a small team. I think they will see extreme diminishing returns after they hit a certain level of governance. Whether that’s going international with a nonprofit status in the US or at another point is beyond my level of expertise.

If someone more knowledgeable that I am can correct what I’ve written above and point out that my concerns are overblown, I’d be happy. I’d also ask that person to volunteer and help Lichess establish a presence in the US.

[1] https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/board-ro...

There’s an entire industry built around milking non-profits, and fighting them off is a major part of the job.

I'm not sure about the precedence of us vs french law, but possibly the US nonprofit could be set up as dependant on the whims of the french one. French law has a few safeguards in place about Association hijacking, namely the fact that officially changing an association's "statuts" (its written missions) cannot be done unilaterally, and must include named trustees (which could be Thibault) in the vote.

> Therefore, in 2016, Lichess was formally registered under French law as an association loi 1901. This type of association applies to groups with clearly defined purposes that benefit the public, similar to charities. However, it’s quite easy to form one - the total number in France is over 1.5 million!

It is surprising that Lichess is a French charity, much like VLC. France also has a very low entry barrier for forming an LLC, so it seems to be a rather good approach all things considered.

> once we become an association of general interest, our French donors will be able to make tax-deductible donations, meaning they can reduce their individual tax burden through supporting us. In theory, this should also apply to donors who are citizens of other EU countries, but the last bit of legislation supporting EU-wide application was passed in 2009 and we’re still waiting for it to be cleanly implemented. Classic EU.

It really is a running theme that EU member state governments have to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement beneficial EU directives as local laws while they at the same time blame the EU for everything unpopular they do themselves. If that's not a clear indicator that the Parliament should have more authority to assert itself I don't know what is. At least we get the "project funded by the EU" signs on random buildings to not make the good stuff completely invisible on the local level.

> should have more authority to assert itself

The problem isn't that the EP doesn't have enough power, it's that EU politics doesn't have enough visibility, which means that MEPs are almost always politically subordinate to their national peers which means the EP as a whole has less clout and which leads to them having less influence with the EC than the member states

> France also has a very low entry barrier for forming an LLC

In what places is this difficult? It's essentially trivial in the US.

Created 2 companies in US, 3 in France - in US forming an LLC is not sufficient for you to be compliant and do business. You need statuses, a bank account, cap table, proof of capital deposit, registration in your state, city, a healthcare and dental provider, 401k, worker's compensation, payroll provider, insurance, accountant / attorney.

In France, I do it alone, in 1 afternoon. 184 euros filing fee. A couple of online forms. I can fill my sales tax declaration, and payroll when it's just me and partners. Healthcare, worker's compensation are built in the tax system, so declaring your revenue is sufficient to get all of that. My professional bank offer includes a basic insurance that is sufficient to rent and run the business. I find it way more fluid in France.

You need statuses, a bank account, cap table, proof of capital deposit, registration in your state, city, a healthcare and dental provider, 401k, worker's compensation, payroll provider, insurance, accountant / attorney.

What? You don't need ANY of those things in the US. One-person LLCs are practically ubiquitous. You just submit a one-page form to your state and send in a nominal filing fee.

Depending on how you do business and how many employees you have besides yourself, you may need to deal with the rest of that list, but they are absolutely not prerequisites.


I would not call creating an llc to do business in the US ‘trivial’.

At least not if you plan to be legally compliant with all the relevant regulations.

Never started one in France, so I can’t speak to that, but doing business in the US is much more than just forming an llc.

I would not call creating an llc to do business in the US ‘trivial’.

Perhaps, but that addresses an issue about which this thread isn't.

Actually I'm looking to do this for my French business - do you use a service? or just using the urssaf site?

If you want to have whatever the opposite of fun is, try to find information about how to form a startup in Germany. Bonus point if you can explain why you may want (or not) a mini GmbH.

See also: https://richventures.com/posts/how-i-would-start-my-next-sta...

Most of Europe requires you to put up several thousand in starting capital for an LLC equivalent entity. 7.5k for where I live, and Germany would be highest I think at over 12k. It's an extreme barrier for entry to say the least.

Not sure what the requirements are for a non-profit though, but I assume it's the same with just a different tax classification.

1 euro in France.

tl; dr:

> We’ve also been looking into options to set up a charitable presence in the United States, by either partnering with an existing charity or helping to set up a new independent 501(c)(3) organisation to support free open source software/technology in chess.

> We know that we’ll need to talk to awesome accountants and lovely lawyers, especially for the 501(c)(3) initiative.

> As we grow, we’re going to need more help from our community, and especially from skilled professionals who aren’t necessarily developers. Would you like to help? Do you have experience or skills in finance/accounting, law, nonprofit administration, communications, or something else that we could use? If so, we invite you to complete this short survey: https://forms.gle/TAAja3MqnbJRGgea9 (closes at 2359 CEST on Sunday 13 November).

If partnering with an existing org, Software Freedom Conservancy would seem like the right one.


Or OpenCollective.

AFAICT OpenCollective currently is not a 501c3, they are a VC funded for-profit company, although it sounds like they might be changing that.


They do run a 501(c)(3) fiscal host though, but I'm not sure if Lichess would fit its charitable purposes:

- increasing access to educational resources and training

- creating a positive social impact

- developing tools to improve civic participation within cities or communities


They should definitely use a fiscal sponsor first and do the 501c(3) as they figure out precisely what they want to accomplish with the organization. You get the tax deduction ability from day one but with way less of the onerous regulatory headaches.

Related thread from not too long ago, discussing Lichess' operating budget:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29955204 ("It takes $420k per year to run Lichess")

https://lichess.org/costs (a spreadsheet)

Main Developer Salary: $52,747.25

Damn. That's nothing, especially for someone doing such important work.

In a 2021 /r/Chess AMA Thibault responded to this.


standard european salary

No it is not. Even if you are talking about the average software dev salary across Europe, Thibault is way more experienced, and he lives in France.

France has very low developer salaries. While 50K is towards the bottom of the barrel with his experience, it's definitely not uncommon either.

50k€ = 75k€ total cost for the employer, and it used to mean 100k$ before the devaluation of the euro. But on this spreadsheet, he wrote 52k TCO, to that’s 35k gross or 26k€ net, ie 2200 per month, it’s very low for an entrepreneur.

I personally can’t find developers for 40 (junior) - 65k€ (decently senior), so, even though recruiters tell me I’m offering 8-10k too much, the actual market may be much, much higher.

In his AMA he wrote that that's what he earns before income tax. In French parlance this means after all employer and employee social deductions.

I moved to France in May this year, remote dev jobs for mid-senior were starting at 85k euros base.

Which compared to international companies hiring remotely, was very very low.

Which language?


I used to make $28k/year pre-tax as a junior dev (java+frontend, quit job 2 years ago), so your recruiters aren't that wrong.

Assuming this is before taxes, no, that's not much. It takes about 1.5x-2x of what a worker gets for a company to pay them salary. I'm not familiar with French taxes, but the resulting salary is bellow what I would expect him to get for sure.

Maybe in continental Europe.. but thats about half, maybe 1/3 of what he would make in E.g. Norway

The mean salary for developers with 10-14 years of experience seems to be about $75,000 in Norway, freelancers and those with their own businesses has perhaps about $85,000 (https://www.noroff.no/nyheter/accelerate/1399-hva-tjener-en-...)

Not for a scala dev and not for someone with his experience, that's just wrong.

I am unfamiliar with scala, which of it's traits makes it deserving of higher pay?

It's popular in finance, which pulls up the average pay.

Also in all sorts of data engineering, productionized data science, etc.

Functional languages seem to have a smaller talent pool and higher salaries.

You can write procedural Scala, but if that’s the case, you might as well use modern Java.

I guess the fact that it's rarer than other languages, but I have no idea.

Just a guess: perhaps that it’s more applicable to large use cases and at clients that are much more likely to be profitable and therefore able to pay?

Scala is big in the financial sector, which means average salaries for Scala developers are going to trend higher.

Maybe it depends on which European country, but overall that's a lot lower than anything I've seen in any European countries the last 3-4 years.

Minimum seems to be $70K/year, while the normal seems to be $80-85K, pre-tax.

What do you mean with minium in this case? When I still had a job I used to make $28k/year pre-tax in Sweden as a junior developer (java + frontend). This was in line with my other junior colleagues.

28k pretax seems really low. For the record, with a master at a government job in France, i was paid (as a junior) 27k after tax 5years ago (34k pretax but with government jobs you dont pay the social security tax or something, so its basically 40k pretax).

Now i work for Banks and energy companies, and the pay skyrocketed.

Standard for someone with about 1 year of exp.

Its extremely low for someone with such a high skill level after tax it'll be about 35-40k euro not counting VAT on all the products you buy in EU (avg 18-23%).

I'm interested what costs $0.38 on the Google Cloud in that spreadsheet!

Keeping a template image containing enough code to start fishnet (https://github.com/lichess-org/fishnet/) so that we can boot up quick and (relatively) cheap fishnet instances should the need arise.

Good for them, seems like a good move. I always get nervous when I see one of these titles from a well respected charity: I assume that it'll be the announcement of a new direction for the organization, or the establishment of a for-profit arm. This is just lichess growing to give better benefits for donors, among other things. They deserve it.

I always read lichess as female lich. Then I get confused when I click on it and see chess boards. Probably played too many fantasy games.

what the hell is lich if i may ask and yes I know google exists

A necromancer who voluntarily became undead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lich

I think it's incredibly responsible that they take governance seriously at a small organization like this. It'd be easy to take donations in some informal or crowdfunded way but going down the route of registering as a charity and having proper accounting and paperwork in place goes a long way to make sure people can be certain that their money is used well. In particular if the people running it ever change.

Being on the board of an American charity is kinda stressful imho. Even when you have D&O insurance if you’re on the board. Having buttoned up financials and processes and controls is a HUGE sign of relief for anyone on the outside considering partnering / joining / advising.

Pleasantly surprised to see the title image generated by Stable Diffusion.

my favorite takeaway as well. this thing is everywhere already!

How do you know?

It's mentioned at the end of the article.

I moved from Yahoo Chess, to Chess.com then to Lichess, and I haven't looked back since. I hope they continue to make it work as good as it does now - however they do it.

Yes, let's mention that chess.com is still very ok-ish service, haven't had any problem with them, nor with paid version, nor with free version.

Yes, chess.com is fine too

> but the last bit of legislation supporting EU-wide application was passed in 2009 and we’re still waiting for it to be cleanly implemented. Classic EU.

Careful what you complain about...

TL;DR Lichess is a growing not-for-profit, it's awesome, and (last paragraph):

> you might be just the sort of person we’re looking for – someone who’s clearly passionate about all things Lichess, even the minutiae. As we grow, we’re going to need more help from our community, and especially from skilled professionals who aren’t necessarily developers. Would you like to help? Do you have experience or skills in finance/accounting, law, nonprofit administration, communications, or something else that we could use? If so, we invite you to complete this short survey: https://forms.gle/TAAja3MqnbJRGgea9

Can Lichess please add Crazyhouse 960? They already have Chess 960 and Crazyhouse!

> At the moment, there are no plans to add any more variants ever.


Adding new variants like DuckChess, yeah, that makes sense. Adding a 960 option to Crazyhouse is a few lines of code. If PyChess.org can do it, so can LiChess.

Is this a thing? I don't like 960, but with crazyhouse it could be fun.

It is indeed a thing! Check it out on Pychess.org

I enjoy 960, and I enjoy Crazyhouse. Crazy960 is chess at its purest - no lines to memorize, no endgames to push for, just pure tactics.

I read that as "lichness" and was amused for a second, expecting some kind of immortality project for the aging elite.

1. c4

can lichess or chess.com add go please ?

It would probably be a separate site like https://lishogi.org or https://lidraughts.org (both based on the Lichess engine). Or, it might be added to https://playstrategy.org/ (which is the Lichess engine with a bunch of other abstract games added)

What do you think of the existing go offerings online?

Not as good as chess.com

Go world is mostly on websites only (not mobile native apps). Also the largest servers are In Chinese with minimal English translation (fox).

No standard equivalent of stockfish engine integration (while we are here, stockfish please add go support).

On baduk subreddit, top recommendation is goquest, which is like flappybird compared to super Mario brothers.

No 9x9 ladder climbs on YouTube to learn from like chess rating climbs by GM’s like levy and Aman.

Not sure why you’ve been downvoted. It’s not an unreasonable suggestion; chess.com already has loads of weird variants like Duck Chess.

Thanks. I love chess as well. But go is under marketed in the west and has potential in the rest of the world (non chinese).

have you tried https://online-go.com/? it looks very featureful

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