Season 1 - Genesis
October 2015 - It started small...
The first season of the Lichess 4545 league was small in nearly every way. The league only had 11 teams. Teams only contained 4 players. The league was created by a committed group of lowly chess players with a common goal: become Masters. The 3 founders and original moderators were @parrotz, @chessicstudent and @mkoga. As @mkoga recalls,
"We met [in 2015] on thechessroom which is a slack group for chess enthusiasts like ourselves. We liked the team tournament format from similar leagues so it felt pretty natural that lichess have some sort of league."
They recounted some early ideas as well as early struggles.
@mkoga, "One of the things we wanted to improve from other leagues was higher team and cross team interactions. A lot of other leagues felt very opaque. You didn't really know much about the other players in your league. there wasn't much of a community so we saw that slack would help us build that."
@parrotz "[Originally] we were worried about getting enough players to field enough teams. turns out we drastically underestimated the interest. I invited enough people to slack on the first day that i regretted making the process manual. It was a lot of manual work for season 1."
@mkoga "Early on we found that players would either not show up for their game or some players would be on vacation and can't make a game. The challenge was always wrangling players. Flakes were a huge problem at first"
@parrotz "It was a nightmare finding alts at the very beginning."
The group still exists and is active within the lichess community, but has mostly left the league... for now. In founding the league, there were many logistics to figure out and obstacles to overcome.
Another nightmare that veterans of the league remember all too well was that the league was initially run entirely by data entry into shared Google Docs (this continued until season 4). This meant work for the moderators was very repetitive. Season 1 would not have been the success that it was without the "insomnia fueled productivity of our founder", @parrotz who recalls,
"For a while there i was spending hours every day on it. finding new players, encouraging people to schedule, encouraging people to play, settling disputes, doing that effin spreadsheet"
However, the community was already coming together and starting to grow.
Lonewolf is born
Even since the beginning, this league has been focused on grassroots efforts to acheive new heights. The league realized there was a need for something more flexible to help keep the alternates involved. The Lone Wolf competition was originally created as a side tournament, secondary to the team league. Lonewolf #1 was created by @theino who became its original moderator. 30+30 was the chosen time control. @Theino states,
"Since it was considered a side tournament, it was decided to try a different time control. A faster one made sense for people who would soon be playing in the team tournament as well"
Season 1 of the team league ended with Pawn Chop (@crabbypat, @CheapEndgameTricks, @coolalzi*, @gehenna) winning. The winners of Lonewolf #1 were 1. @Atrophied 2. @coolalzi 3. @WilkBardzoZly and Best U1600: @jshholland
January 2016 - The league begins to grow...
Season 1 was such a success that word quickly spread and interest grew. Season 2 started with a large expansion. Season 2 had 22 teams each with 5 boards. With much higher participation in the league, responsibilities mounted and new moderators were needed just to keep up.
New Moderators: @mrlegillimens, @petruchio, @endrawes0, @theino
On top of new moderators to help with the load, tasks started to become automated and many of improvements were slowly being added.
Spreadsheets got formulas and conditional formatting!
@chesster was created with big dreams in mind but had very humble beginnings. When @endrawes0 created @chesster, he had hoped that it would eventually alleviate all the manual entry in the spreadsheets, but by the end of Season 1, only few read-only commands had been implemented.
Season 2 lasted 8 weeks with the Sicilian Dragons (@matuiss, @somethingpretentious, @jaivl, @scarff and @immortality) as winners. Along with the tremendous growth in the team league, Lonewolf #2 was also very successful with the winners 1. @matuiss2 2. @chess111 3. @Atrophied and Best U1600: @Seb32.
At the end of the season, the community nominated and voted on a set of games to be reviewed by the YouTuber IM John Bartholomew (Link).
April 2016 to May 2016 The Continued Expansion
The success of the league continued and even more interested members joined the Lichess4545 community. Season 3 continued to expland with 26 teams and increased to 6 boards per team!
New improvements were continually being made to the spreadsheets. Formatting of the spreadsheet underwent significant changes to accommodate such a large number of players.
New moderators: @seb32
@tnan123 recalls, "As a participant since the start of season 2 I'd already seen tons of improvements with the organization of the league, especially with the continued improvements to the spreadsheets. I was starting to get back to chess and had played slow time control leagues on multiple other servers. Season 3 was when I decided I would stick with the folks over at Lichess4545. The organization of the league was improving and the community was much more active"
Smack My Bishops won the team league with 15/16 points! (@eamonmont @quirked @infested @diamanthori @SirDore @mbazylisk)
Chesster evolves... enter @lakinwecker! With the large amount of manual work required to run the league, chesster our friendly ant worker started to be able to post game results and gamelinks into the spreadsheets. Unfortunately at this point players still needed to manually post those things into slack.
Tony Rotella's review video of season 3 best games (Link)
July 2016 to August 2016 Membership levels off
In this season membership seemed to level off. Every season there are many folks joining but also many folks stepping away (both temporarily and permanently). Season 4 had 24 teams each with 6 boards.
New moderators added @angborxley, @prune2000 and @tnan123 as the original moderators had stepped away. @JPTriton and @cyanfish join @lakinwecker to continue moderating Lonewolf.
White and black win percentage statistics were added.
Due to the work of @tnan123 end of season awards and statistics including individual player perfomance scores were implemented to celebrate and show some interesting and fun statistics from the season.
The Hateful Mate won (@EsolcNeveton @cactus @R-Mena @isaypotato @Heidman @lakinwecker), clinching victory by half a point in the tie breaker after the 4 top teams tied with 12 match points!
Games were reviewed by IM Astaneh on Twitch and posted to youtube in the following playlist
October - November 2016 Birth of a website.
With the hard work of a few invaluable programmers the league was finally able to get rid of the spreadsheets it had been using.
The Lichess4545 website was created by @cyanfish with help from @lakinwecker. @freefal contributes to the creation of a TV page
We also had a platform to write, share, and store written content and thus the Lichess Ledger was born. @Atrophied, @darksquaregames, @TonyRo and GM Wesley So provided an interview during this season.
Lastly, ChessLeagueTV got its start with a few players hosting to cover live league games.
Winners were Blunder-Mifflin (@Aliquantus, @madatadam, @OuterHeaven92, @jivey, @samjjames and @parkerz)
The game reviews were done by ChessExplained, and can be found on his youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Chessexplained/videos
January - February 2017 Evolution of the website and @chesster
@somethingpretentious was added to the 4545 moderator team.
During the offseason a new league was created at #ladder based on a completely different tournament style seen in many chess clubs. This was run by @chessicstudent, @cactus, and @seb32.
#blitz-battle was also added during the middle of the season as a 3+2 side tournament restricted to lichess4545 members.
Additional features were added to the website and chesster. These include, but were not limited to:
- an improved alternate search system
- the automation of gamelink and result reports
- direct messages from @chesster for various notifications to both your slack account and lichess.org inbox
Winners were: Petrojan Horse
Highlights from the ledger include interviews with Thibault the founder of lichess and 10 year old national master Christopher Yoo, some chess book reviews, a visit to the Tata Steel Chess Festival.
Youtube review was done by IM Andras Toth and can be found at his youtube channel.
March - May 2017 A big expansion!
A huge number of new faces joined lichess4545. A total of 30 teams of 6 boards each were formed increasing the number of players playing 45+45 games each week to 180!
To be continued!