International Master Daniel (Danny) Rensch is the Chief Chess Officer for Chess.com. He holds numerous records in chess, including one for being the youngest National Master of Arizona State, but has now largely switched to the business side of the game.
Rensch has recorded videos and several other content material for Chess.com, which is one of the largest chess websites in the world currently.
In this interview, we find out about his journey in chess, how chess is progressing as an esport and his future goals.
1. Can you please introduce yourself?
International Master Danny Rensch, Chief Chess Officer for Chess.com.
2. How did you begin your journey in chess?
I learned to play when my grandpa was unwell one summer to keep him company! The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer came out at the same time and got me hooked on the idea of playing in a chess tournament. The rest was history!
3. When did you decide to make the leap into professional chess and become a titled player?
Around the age of 15, I decided that I wanted to become as good as I could! I made the FM title but I had health issues and that slowed me down. Ultimately, I'm very grateful for my path that became focused on teaching and helping others enjoy the game! I taught in schools, private students, etc., and eventually got involved with Chess.com!
4. What were some of your favourite/memorable moments from your playing career?
Playing in Russia in the summer of 2002 and earning my first IM norm, winning multiple scholastic chess championships (individual and team) and achieving my IM title are a few.
5. When did you think about switching into the business side of chess?
As I said, health issues sort of forced my hand and I embraced teaching and running programs. When the internet arrived, I saw the opportunity to start doing bigger things online, and that's where I've been ever since.
6. How has Chess.com evolved as a site for players? What is your role in it?
Chess.com has grown from a random hope to provide forums and community to a site that boasts more than 9 million chess games played every day. It's hard to describe beyond that.
My role at Chess.com has gone from simply creating content to editing and managing others to now guiding the entire "chess ship" of Chess.com, from our features, product ideas, our biggest events and more.
7. Can you talk a bit more about the site? What have your personal lessons been like through your journey with Chess.com?
So many lessons to be learned! Just like a chess game: you're never losing if you're learning! I've personally had to learn patience- to think about even bigger picture chess games than the one on the board. And how managing teams of people is different than managing product. Helping others get the best out of themselves is what I do best now!
8. How has the business side of chess developed over the years?
We are now a massive market, with more time spent on Chess.com than many other top video gaming sites! We grow the game not just by serving the current community, but by showing others they might love chess too.
9. Can you talk about chess as an esport?
Chess is the ultimate esport because it is NOT fantasy! Meaning, it has a long history of "otb (over the board) chess" that brings a culture into the online community that other video games don't have.
Chess is the same game in the classroom for kids, helping them develop critical thinking as it is for Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura competing in our Speed Chess Championship or the PRO Chess League! That "bridge" makes the potential for chess as an esport very high!
10. What advice could you give to young chess players and other enthusiasts?
Play every day. Always establish at least 1 takeaway (a lesson). And follow your "whys" in life. Don't let people tell you "you can't make a real job out of chess" or ANYTHING you love! If you follow things you love and have a sense of purpose about what you do, you can make anything happen for you in life!
11. What are your future goals with Chess?
Maybe "play" a little more chess and manage a little less "chess business" in my older age.