Interview with Chris Moreton from

After we’ve tried the excellent online chess website Onirik has asked for a interview Chris Moreton, creator of the website.

Onirik : When did you started this website ? How did you get the idea ?

Chris Moreton : Red Hot Pawn was launched in February 2001. I had written a Windows chess program (Rival Chess) whilst at University in the early 90s for which Russell had provided the graphics, and, as we had both since become web programmers, it seemed natural to try to build a chess-based website. It was originally intended for the Web TV market as the concept of playing a correspondence style of chess seemed to suit the way we believed Web TVs were going to be used. The site soon grew beyond its original intentions, however, and Web TV didn’t really take off.

O : How many games are played at the same time ? How many servers to you have to handle so many connections? Isn’t it too hard to supervise all
this stuff ?

C. M. : RHP runs across four dedicated servers. In an average week, about 30,000 games are created, and nearly two million chess moves are made. Managing the site is a lot of work and takes up most of our time. We are lucky that we have a very active and helpful community of players some of whom act as game moderators (to detect players who are using chess engines to achieve unfairly high scores), and some of whom act as forum moderators to keep the discussions in the forums under control.

O : Do you have any relation with the FIDE ? Aren’t you the biggest chess club in the world ?

C. M. : We have no relation with FIDE. It is probably true that we are one of the largest chess communities in the world, and if FIDE felt that there was some value to be found from building a relationship with us, we would certainly be accommodating.

O : Have you tried to organized tournament with the FIDE ?

C. M. : Not yet. This is something we may be able to look into to see if it is viable.

O : The user interface is very well done, how did you succeeded in
creating such a GUI ?

C. M. : Thank you. Russell has a history of designing graphics and started his career designing graphics for computer games running on machines such as the ZX Spectrum. We strongly believe in making our players’ interaction with the site as simple as possible, allowing them to concentrate on playing chess and engaging with the community rather than spending too much time trying to figure out how the site works or how to meet opponents!

O : What challenges do you want to address in the near future ?

C. M. : Scaling the site to support our growing user-base is an ongoing challenge. Meeting this requirement is coupled with the need to innovate to introduce new features to keep the site fresh and interesting for our long-term members. We always try to be as responsive as possible to the demands of the community regarding the implementation of new features and we often consult members on the direction of the site prior to significant changes.

In addition to a number of frequently requested minor changes (such as allowing players to specify a pre-determined reply if their opponent makes a predicted move), we are currently focusing on and expanding and improving one of the key attractions of the site for subscribers – the clan system. Playing in teams really brings members of the community together by creating relationships between players and friendly rivalries between the clans themselves.

Other projects on the horizon include the possibility of introducing live chess to the site to complement the correspondence chess. This decision hinges on the success of current experiments with some open source software we are trialling on our existing live chess site at

On top of this, we both like to keep up with advances in web technology and are always looking at ways to take advantage of the latest developments in order to improve the site.