Rey Enigma playing during one of his spontaneous matches in Madrid.

Rey Enigma, the Banksy of chess, brings his challenge to Malaga

Only eight people know his identity and on Thursday he'll don his suit to talk and play at La Térmica

REGINA SOTORRÍO

His call comes through right on time. "Hello, I'm Rey Enigma (the Enigma King)," said a strange, high-pitched voice on the other side of the phone. He distorts it naturally, because he doesn't want to be recognised in any way. Almost a year after he began uploading content to social media, hidden behind his suit, Rey Enigma's identity remains a mystery.

He's the Banksy of chess, a guy who, without showing his face, has amassed 109,000 subscribers on Youtube and over 450,000 followers on TikTok. His goal is to spread the game through viral challenges. On Thursday he'll be in Málaga, at La Térmica cultural centre to play chess and give a talk.

Only eight people know his real name and not even those in his close circle are aware of what he does for a living. "There have been times when I've be with friends who have shown me videos of Rey Enigma and I've had to act as if it were the first time I'd seen him," he said. However, his character isn't totally inaccessible and he has kindly lent himself to the talk.

Recently, writer Carmen Mola was revealed to be three men under a pseudonym after winning the million-euro Planeta award. When posed with the same idea, Rey Enigma said: "Revealing my identity is, at the moment, priceless; but a million euros is an appetising figure."

There's hardly any information about Rey Enigma. His age is undetermined and it is only known that he's from Madrid, where his spontaneous appearances began. His grandfather taught him chess when he was five years old, and since then "he's always been with me".

When he wasn't donning his suit and playing chess, up until a few weeks ago he was a marketing and publicity specialist. "I can now say that I exclusively make a living off chess, which was one of my dreams," he said. Such is his online influence.

Rey Enigma has become his own marketing campaign. The concept for the character stemmed from the need to give the chess community a "different value". "When I started out there were a lot of streamers and content creators who did things spectacularly," he said.

Then, he applied the first rule of publicity: standing out. He put on a tight, chequered suit and began uploading videos that quickly earned him his following.

At La Térmica he'll face 20 players, in three-minute games. He'll play the matches after a conversation with expert journalist Manuel Azuaga in front of an audience.

Rey Enigma is aware that every time he attends an event, he's in danger of being identified. "It's a risk. But there are no direct accusations yet, I'm still an enigma."

Maintaining this double life "isn't easy", but the daily messages of gratitude for promoting chess and for making it his full-time job more than make up for it- something that was unthinkable a year ago.