By Ben Church, CNN

With its popularity soaring and games increasingly moving to online platforms, chess appears to be ushering in a new era.

The increase in interest has culminated in the launch of a revamped online competition which will be the richest chess circuit in the game's history.

This year's Champions Chess Tour will be the new online home for the world's best players, as they battle it out for a share of more than $2 million.

Played on website Chess.com, the annual circuit will consist of six tournaments, starting with the Airthings Masters in February.

Every event has a $235,000 prize fund and the winners of each will qualify for an eight-player, live finale in December which has a purse of $500,000.

A further $100,000 will be shared among the top 10 finishers in the overall standings.

Hundreds of players, including world champion Magnus Carlsen and US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, will bid to be crowned the Tour Champion at the end of the year.

Any titled player can bid to qualify for the main events which will consist of a 56-player knockout phase.

Matches will be played in rapid format with players in the main events permitted 15 minutes per game, plus an additional three seconds for every move.

"Hundreds of players from around the world will compete and one will be left standing: the undisputed best online chess player in the world," Chess.com CEO Erik Allebest said in a statement.

"We expect the highest level of play from the top players and Chess.com will deliver the highest level of coverage we can for the fans, taking in all that was brilliant about both the Global Championship and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

"We cannot wait to share this with the chess community."

Online platform Chess.com says it now has more than 102 million users signed up -- a 238% increase from January 2020 -- with 7.5 million active users every day.

The website announced it was struggling to keep up with demand with servers failing during the busiest times of the day.

"It's never been a more exciting time to be a chess fan, but that's also why it's such a frustrating time to have service outages," Chess.com said in a statement.

"We love you, we feel you, we are sorry, and we are working as hard as we can to return to stability and provide the best possible experience."

The-CNN-Wire
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