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It was 5 in the morning, and I had been playing poker since midnight. I could barely keep my eyes open. I had 12 hours left, I needed to make money. This was six years ago, and that day was payday at ChessMood.

We had been working on the site almost 24 hours a day - making courses, editing them, scripting them, and uploading them. The site was starting to feel like Magic.

But it was in that foggy period in between when we knew we had something great, but the rest of the world didn't know about it yet.

And I was stressed out of my mind getting it off the ground.

We had seven teammates at that point, and everyone needed to be paid in just twelve hours.

I was playing poker on two monitors, at 20 tables at the same time. The sun was starting to come up. Twelve hours left...

I couldn't find any photos from that stage of my life, but it looked something like this...

Heaven on earth

Everything started when I was living in heaven...

In 2016, I bought my first-ever one-way ticket and moved to Thailand!

I was young and free. Armed with my poker skills, Grandmaster title, and coaching experience, I could work from anywhere with internet access and my laptop. So, I thought, why not travel?

They say, “Heaven on earth is a state, not a place.” In my case, it was both.
I was living next to the beach, in a cozy place, and could even jump into the swimming pool from my balcony.

I wasn’t living on the 6th floor 😊 And I never broke anything 😊

I would work (though work isn’t the right word to use here, as I was doing what I loved) for 3-4 hours in the mornings and spend all day doing all kinds of activities that any young man who loves life would do.

I was living a dream.

National team coach

Thailand’s chess federation learned I was there and asked me to coach their National team.
I wondered if they wanted me to teach poker or chess.
They said chess. Maybe poker in the future too.
I loved it!

I agreed and moved to Bangkok.
I became the national coach of the country of my heart.

I wore a suit twice in my life – once when I graduated from school, and on this day,
leading my team to the Asian Championship


Before the battle…

 With my Champions!


I loved my life.
I loved Thai food.
I loved Thai people.
I loved their culture.
I loved my team. Each and every person.
I loved chess and I loved training them.

My heart overflowed with LOVE, and there was a nice smile in my soul.
If someone had told me that I would soon depart from this heaven, I would have never believed it.

WTH was going on…?!

I was not well aware of online chess educational platforms and CDs with chess courses. And that was good, I didn’t know. I could sleep better.

Thailand didn’t have a Grandmaster. It didn’t have a master.
They didn’t have many chess books. But they had CDs and websites that they learned from.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the material they studied and the websites they used for learning chess.

It was all crap! Created by clever marketers who made a fortune off chess players. (Luckily, many of them don’t exist anymore)

In the following days, I searched for good resources, hoping they could learn from credible sources.
The more I researched, the more my sleep suffered.

Seeing the state of the online chess world in 2017 was painful.
Poor-quality materials were marketed brilliantly with beautiful words.

Hmm... Would anyone ever fix this situation?


No, no, no! I loved my life too much. I wasn't ready to sacrifice everything and become a superhero for the chess world.

But the next day, my pain was still there… The next day it grew stronger. My sleep worsened, and Thai food lost its taste. Even fresh pineapple breakfasts failed to refresh my mornings…OMG…Maybe I should do it…?!

The 1st failure

I was never a full-time realist. And never an optimist. Somewhere in the middle. I knew that building ChessMood would require lots of investment and time. I had time. I would give it all. I would give all my money too. But it would be less than 0.01% of what was needed.

I called my friend, who was a Grandmaster in online business. In his mid-twenties, he was already a millionaire and got there all by his brain.

“You can quickly build a chess shop,” he said, “And fund yourself to build what you want.” “You use Shopify, the dropshipping model, hire designers, register the company, do x, y, z, and you have the money to invest in your big dream/pain.”

I forgot about my realistic side and fully switched to the optimistic one. The next day with a few more people, we started to build a chess shop with lots of nice and funny designs (it felt so).We prepared ads and clicked “Go live.”


I was very excited. The 1st day.

Not in the 2nd. Not in the 3rd. It didn’t work. It miserably failed. Till now, I don’t know why. Maybe we didn’t market it well. I’m not sure… You can judge. Or buy a few T-shirts. It’s functioning 😊 Haha

Here is the website:

FB post

Eric Ortega
Eric Ortega, aka “Biker Dude,” wearing our “Think Big” T-shirt

Going to a temple

I love historical movies, especially the moments when brave kings go in front of their armies and not behind.

I was going in behind them. I was in Thailand, often working under palms and sipping my Pina Colada cocktail while the team was in Armenia.

I felt that to build ChessMood, I had to sacrifice things. I have to go in front of my team.

But sacrificing Thailand and my heaven wasn't an easy move to make...
So, I went to a temple to spend some time with monks, meditate, clear my mind, and make a decision.


After a few days, I bought the 2nd one-way ticket in my life.
This time Thailand - Armenia.

The dream site

I outlined 7 sections that were needed. (5 added later, and 10 are already live!) Outlined 75 (!!!) courses, including openings (and which ones), middlegame, endgame, tactics, classical games etc… catering to different levels, from beginners to Grandmasters. (62 courses are already there!)

Then I addressed the 3 significant issues I faced when learning anything online, not just chess.

  1. I never knew if the tutor was a genuine expert or just after money.
  2. I never saw the practical application of the courses
  3. I never could ask questions and get answered by the tutor

So I decided:

  1. Every course would be created by a Grandmaster!
  2. We not only record courses but also live streams to demonstrate practical application
  3. We’ll have a forum where students can ask questions and get answered by Grandmasters

Yeeeey!!! It would have been a dream come true if such a site existed when I was a developing player, struggling to raise my beginner rating in tournaments and later working eight hours a day to become a Grandmaster.

However, my excitement became a little bit tan when I made an estimation of how many hours will be all the courses I wanted to have on the site. It was 500+! The required funding was also a scary number.

But nothing was going to stop me. 

 I've always held a strong belief that when you care about something deeply, you don't bother with math or evaluating your chances. You just go for it...

The following week, I began searching for people to help me build the website, discussing with my Grandmaster friends to see who would join me, record courses, organize live events, and more. As I shared my vision, five of them didn't even let me finish speaking before they interrupted and enthusiastically said, "I’m in!" 

Working on openings
Working on ChessMood openings  

And for the needed money, I decided not to wait until everything was perfect before getting started. Instead, I took it step by step, making money and covering expenses along the way. One step at a time.

It’s still my desktop cover image

I put my last money together, rented a three-room apartment for $500 (yeah, it's cheap in Armenia, come here!). In one of the rooms, I set up a desk with two monitors and a laptop, added $400 to my Pokerstars account, and kept the other $100 for food. I attached a sign on the door that said "Don't enter," together with a Flash Royal image.


In another room, I would sleep, and in the biggest, we would work with my small team.

Hello, new life! 

I had a very “healthy” schedule. 
I would wake up at 4 AM, make a double espresso, and play poker until 8 AM to cover the expenses. 

At 8:30, my teammates would come, and we would work together until late evenings, sometimes nights. 

And like that, 6 days a week, for a full 1 year… 
(Yeah, I’m alive 😁) 

Working on endgame courses with GMs Ter-Sahakyan and Hovhannisyan 

To become the head of the Student happiness team, Lily had to survive 20 moves.
She got mated on the 23 😊 


GM Gabuzyan records his first course 

I know he looks scary, but he’s one of the kindest people in the world.
Jun 15, 2019, 3 AM - working on the website design. 

That scary “NO”

After three months, a VC offered me to make a huge investment.

But I didn't want to make ChessMood a "money" company, run by "money people" who will push me into making "profit" decisions and follow "stupid" growth metrics...

So I said No.

It was not my first No. But this No's size was bigger than the others, and this time, I was scared when I rejected.

It was 2 days before I had to pay the salaries that I didn't have.

Poker is a game that no matter how strong you are, you'll have bad periods.
And to look into the eyes of my teammates and say I can't pay them was my scariest dream…

But at the same time, I couldn't allow VC people to make my baby ChessMood a scary place.

And here I was...
Two monitors, 20 tables, coffee after coffee.
Pair of sixes, then A-K, then nothing, then nothing. Twelve hours left...

I believe in angels!

In my team, there was this girl - Anahit. We called her Annie — a beautiful soul.


She knew how I was covering the expenses. She knew that around 8 AM were the finals of the tournaments, the most important parts.

She would come earliest, before 8 AM, and would bring me dopping. Fruits, tea, and her beautiful smile.

That day, when I had 12 hours left, she knew it too.
She knew a lot, she sensed a lot, and she saved me and my phone.

At one point, I got very unlucky (yeah, chess is better, everything is in your hands), and I took my phone to throw against the wall.

I saw an SMS. It was from her. “Change is coming. Things will be different from now on.”

Was I in love with her? Nope. Not yet 😊
But I started to believe in angels.

She looks like an Angel, doesn’t she? 😊 February 2018, 1 AM

Everything suddenly changed. Luck switched on my side. I started to win tournament after tournament. My mood was back, my confidence came back.

In the next 6 hours, I made all the salaries, including for the next month!

I survived.

And it wasn’t the first time luck was on my side… And not the last.

ChessMood was live 

We registered the company in the USA, Delaware, and launched the website on February 15, 2019. I was very excited. And unlike with the shop, my excitement only grew more and more, day after day. We got students from the very first day! And more and more people were joining us every day. From every continent. From countries, I didn’t know existed. (Shame on me. I know. I was never good with geography)

People loved what we created, and their kind words and excitement added lots of fuel to our own excitement too.

We continued working like crazy, uploading more and more courses, and building new features.

Soon more Grandmasters joined:
Johan Hellsten, Noel Studer, Boris Avrukh, Rafael Leitao…

The 1st ChessMood Family Meetup in the USA

Most of our students were from the USA, so I traveled there to have the 1st ChessMood Family meet-up. Our students came from different states, and we surprised our stomachs with some good food and drinks, and of course, played lots of chess 😊

With our traditional “Right Mood - Right Move” T-shirts. Please, don’t try to read
what is on mine. It was a gift from the guy in the middle 😊


I don’t recall WTH we ate there 😊

In the streets of Saint Louis, 2019 USA

Saint Louis
Our students Jay Garrison and Piotr Urbanski accompanying me to the
game in the historical Saint Louis chess hall


My team and parents meeting me at the airport 😊
Do you know who is the girl next to me?

Marriage? Never!

In the beginning, I was very aggressive as an entrepreneur and a leader. No one would guess that I arrived there from Heaven.

But the things, the Love, and the Smile in my soul slowly started to come back. She slowly started to bring them back.

The first person I would see in my day was Annie. She would come the earliest.
The last person I would see in my day was Annie. She would leave the latest.

And the man who said he’d never marry, made a proposal 😊

Marry me
We made it with my sister 😊 She’s also romantic like me 😊

Annie said yes!
The girl who said she’d never marry too.

I made a nice move, right? 😊

We married on April 1, Fool's Day.
And when I wrote on Facebook, nobody believed.

We left the city for 2 days and came back to work.
There were courses to script. Courses to upload. And every month, I had to figure out how to make payroll.

We got this little naughty kid, who would bother and make us laugh during work 😊

Our Angels & Investors

We got to the point when we were profitable. Everything was going forward, but at a slow pace.

I knew it was tough to scale and push forward without investments, but again - I didn’t want to make ChessMood a “money” company.
I was afraid to allow money people in.

But…I left room for an exception: We might say “Yes” if the investor is a chess lover, ideally our student.

I told it to my Angel. She smiled, looked into the skies, paused for a few seconds, and said, “Okay.”
I don’t know what she did, but obviously, she did something.

The next day I was going through the profiles of our students and noticed that one of them was not watching the courses much.

I reached out and offered to cancel his membership.
(I had to train myself all the time, often manually, to avoid becoming a money guy.)

He said, “No. All good. Currently, I'm just very busy. But I love ChessMood. Keep my membership. I want to support your company.”

The very next day, I got a message from him “Hey, I want to pay part of your expenses.”


I recalled that during our initial 1-1 call (PRO Members get a bonus 1-1 call with a Grandmaster, and back then, I was doing all of them myself), he was a very nice, gentle person, in a suit and in the airport for a business trip.

I Googled his name.

He was the founder and the CEO of one of the biggest companies in Tunisia - Vermeg!

Badreddine Ouali, the founder and CEO of Vermeg


We talked. We talked more. And then more.

Then without negotiating any terms, he gave us $200,000 and said, “I want to be part of this journey.”

We had our first investor. Now ChessMood had an Angel too.

The more I spent time with him, the more I couldn’t believe in his personality. How can a man be so successful in both his professional and personal lives, and at the same time, be so incredibly humble and brilliant?

When Any and I got married, we didn’t follow the traditional route of choosing a Godfather. We decided to do it later.

And he was the person in whom we both see our Godfather.

He said, “Yes!”

So, he became our Godfather and the Godfather of our kid - ChessMood.

Meeting Badre
After 4 years, we finally met in person. At his 60th anniversary! May 20, 2023

Our 2nd Godfather became the craziest person I know. (Yeah, we didn’t follow the traditions of having only 1 Godfather. Who created such rules?)

He was also one of our earliest students and a hero who helped me to save the company at some point. (I'll share that story later).

Bhabatosh Chowdhury. As you can see, he sucked at chess.

Now he has 2,300+ on Lichess!
But he still sucks at Ping-Pong 😊  BTW, he is our first student I stayed at their place.

After we announced our first investment, the next day, we received an email from another student who also wanted to invest in ChessMood.

I was impressed right from our first call by his humbleness and gentleness.

Shiong Tan
Our 1st Zoom call

Soon Mr. Shiong Tan became our second investor.

After a few months, I received a message from a Grandmaster friend who wanted to invest but preferred to keep it anonymous.

He joined us too. In just a few months, suddenly, we got everything and everyone we needed to build the happy company I had been dreaming about.

Building a happy company

Lucky me, I was aware of some of the biggest society’s traps.

I have witnessed many founders who squeeze the juices of their employees just to hit the numbers of their investors’ demands. They grow big, become Unicorns. Everyone applauds them and writes about their success. They all are happy on the 1st day. But by the 2nd, they all start hating their lives again.

I didn’t want that. We didn’t want that.

Firstly, I didn’t want our office to be in a business center.

I didn’t want a standard life, a standard company, where people work from 9-5, and constantly looking at their watches from 4:45, eagerly waiting to go home or indulge in drinks on Friday nights.

Lucky me, my team members were anything but standard people, and they didn't want that kind of life either.

So together, we set out to build our Paradise.

Instead of an office, we rented a spacious home in a private residential area.


Then together, we designed it, carefully selecting furniture and putting our hearts into every corner of the home — in our working place, the kitchen where we cook and eat together, in the playing room, the cinema room, the garden, around the barbecue area and in every corner of our place.



With my babies in our garden, 2022

We also made sure to create a comfortable and loving space for our beloved pets, Yakko (our parrot) and Chprlo (our dog).

Yakko and his home


Her warm place in winters

It’s already been years that we live like a family. In the mornings, we pick each other up by cars, come to our Paradise, have breakfast together, work together, cook together, have lunch together, work together, play together, barbecue together, and live dream lives.

And lucky us, our investors approve this way!

Avetik's birthday
My crazies met me on my 33rd birthday like this. It took time to understand who is who 😊

We also have teammates from other countries. From the USA, UK, Spain, Japan, India… And most of them were initially ChessMood students.

We don’t use the word “employee.” We use “Teammate” instead.
We don’t use the word “hire.” We use “invite to join.”
“Competitor,” “competition,” and everything that starts with “compete” are forbidden words here.

We live differently.
We build differently.
We smile differently.
We live in love and spread love with our students. The universe flows the love back.

We get cakes, pizzas and many surprises from our students.
They visit us…


With “uncle” Roger Rein at our first place. 2019 June

  Chris Garret is offering wine to Yakko 😊

He is our student and teammate at the same time.
BTW, he raised about 300 points in 2 years.

GM Narayanan playing blitz with our GMs in the kitchen. Yakko is learning. 2022, in our Paradise

And they meet with each other too. Of course, each time making us jealous.

ChessMood family
Kevin Hall and Piotr Urbanski. Where is the chess board? 😊

Vishnu and James
Our champion Vishnu Warrier with our student and advisor, James Altucher!

Badre and Edo
Badreddine Ouali (our Angel, Godfather, and Investor) with Eduard Cabrol (our
teammate & brother), meeting in Japan! How I didn’t die from envy, I don’t know

Our Dream & Mission 

We dream of building a dream chess platform for chess lovers, where they’ll unlock their full potential in chess and become the best versions of themselves. Where they have fun and they grow. Where they meet and make friends with other like-minded people. And they feel love at every corner of ChessMood.

We try to help them win not only the chess game, but the life game as well.

And it’s crazy to see the number of comments under our articles… People telling us how we shaped their lives and chess journeys… To see thousands of 5+ star reviews and kind words.To see people raising hundreds of rating points…

It’s crazy to look back and see how many students became masters and Grandmasters got their dream rating levels…

A funny thing. We often get emails saying, “It’s a scam. There is no way you can have all these feedback and compliments. It’s fake” 😁😁😁

Joshua Lisec, who wrote the bestseller “Be so good they call you a fake,” would be proud of us 😊

It’s crazy and unbelievable the life we’re living…

At this moment, we have thousands of students of all levels.

Beginners, all the way up to Grandmasters.

As a business, we’re growing steadily but slowly.  Even 0.01% of the chess world doesn’t know about us yet.

But we don’t want to use tricky marketing techniques and fake words. We can’t betray our values.

We can’t allow society’s traps to guide us on how to move forward. Our students' raised rating is always gonna be our second important metric.The 1st will be our happiness. Ours — our team, students, investors, advisors, supporters and everyone involved. I hope to be able to reach more chess lovers and help them. And as a company to become an inspiration for entrepreneurs. That they believe it’s possible to build a genuinely happy company, and that the word “happiness” exists.

I know there is still lots of work to be done…And I’m ready. I still work 6 days a week, from early morning to late evening, sometimes to late night. But it is fun!

Even now, as I write these words, my wife, my dream who came true, who has been with me this entire journey, is looking over my shoulder, reading these words.

“This draft looks good,” she says. And then she pokes me. “But you need to rest! It’s two in the morning, Avo. I think the chess world can wait one more day for the story of ChessMood. Come on. Let’s go home.”

As usual, she is right.

To be continued…

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