At the beginning of November a new chess club was born in Bulgaria. Its name is Levski, Sofia. Funny thing – Levski is one of the greatest clubs in Bulgaria, not only in football, but practically in almost all sports. But so far they did not have a chess club. The simple and effective idea to name the club after one of the greatest personalities in Bulgarian history came to the chess organizer Nikolay Todorov. He was also the man to shape up the idea of a simultaneous exhibition that will break a world record. What time could be most appropriate probably was asking himself-surely when the match Topalov-Kamsky is taking place, end of February!
The opening ceremony of the record attempt
Somewhere around the middle of January, Kiril Georgiev started intensively his preparation for the Guinness record. The ex-president of the Bulgarian Chess Federation Dr. Mikhail Iliev had personally created the programme for the famous GM. Dr. Iliev is also the official medical face of the Bulgarian national football team, national chess master, and sponsor of one of the strongest female teams in Bulgaria.
Training for his record attempt: GM Kiril Georgiev
As Kiril later revealed in an interview, the programme included a lot of walking (at least five to six hours per day), which is his favourable physical exercise in general, and couple of saunas every week. Two other GMs Atanas Kolev and Valentin Lukov had to help him in order to break the record.
A unique chess labyrinth was built in Inter Expo Center especially for the simultaneous exhibition. Its length was approximately 500 meters.
The start of the Guinness Record attempt by GM Kiril Georgiev
A month before the start of the event the organizers took a decision that every participant receives as a present for his participation the Staunton set with which he or she was playing, the special chess board, as well as their personal badge and certificate for participation in the Guinness event. The interest for the simultaneous was great: more than 620 people subscribed as potential players, but only 360 made it to the start. However, those who could not face the GM also had a great time. On special tombolas eighty additional prizes were given, including 20 chess clocks.
On 21 February, precisely at 11.00 o’clock, the simultaneous exhibition was officially opened. At 11.35 the first move was made by Mrs Vesela Lecheva, Chairman of SAYS. Other politicians, too, paid attention on the event, including the mayor of region Izgrev Panayot Bonchev, and the president of the BCF, Dr Stefan Sergiev. The BBC covered the event throughout the whole day.
On board one a priest was expecting the GM. Kiril had to face 360 players. In order to break the record, he needed to have positive score against at least 322 of them (i.e. a result of more than 80%). The holy man was the first one to share the point with the GM.
For every move the Bulgarian grandmaster had to walk for about half a kilometer. It was no big wonder, that after six hours of play he had made only eight (!) moves. According to the rules Georgiev had the right to take a 5-10 minute break on every hour of play.
Kiril is a professional in everything that he does. Although he usually plays semi-closed openings, in the simultaneous he chose a more aggressive approach. In most of the games 1.e2-e4! move was opted for! Gambits were the main weapon of the GM, with which he tried to reduce the number of resisting boards. Nevertheless his task was far from easy, since a lot of experienced players, rated around 2000 were facing him.
A number of curious things happened during the play. Here is a story by the IM Kalin Karakehajov: “The nine-old-talent Vladimir Petrov achieved a very solid position and offered a reasonable draw to the GM. Georgiev refused, but after two more hours of play offered a draw himself. But it was time for the young man to show character, and he bravely rejected the offer!” We can only praise the courage and stubbornness of the young man who finally, after 13 hours of play, won the game!
I called the chief organizer and president of the Levki Chess Club Nikolay Todorov around 23.00 o’clock. “How is it going? Is Kiril holding on?” “Kiril is doing great”, he replied, “but I am not sure if his opponents will make it. They look very tired…” The Russian WGM and journalist Maria Makaricheva paid a visit to the hall somewhere around that time.
Kiril Georgiev is famous for his strong character. After 14 hours of play it was already obvious that he was breaking the record. However still 14 players kept on fighting. Kiril’s helpers GMs Lukov and Kolev advised him to offer draws. But the GM considered his positions won, and proved it in a mere fourteen minutes!
After 14 hours and 8 minutes (according to some sources 14 minutes) Georgiev won his last game, thus achieving 284 victories, 70 draws and only 6 losses. His scoring percentage was about 88%. The record was broken!
Please note: every time we mention the subject we get emails from readers who contradict each other on the status of the previous record. ChessBase reported that in August 2005 GM Susan Polgar broke IM Andrew Martin's previous Guinness Book record of 321 opponents by playing against 350 players simultaneously at the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. But a number of readers claimed that the 321-player record by Andrew Martin still stood since Guinness did not accept the record by Susan Polgar. That has become irrelevant, since Georgiev broke the record, whatever it might have been.
Addendum: We have been informed that "Time does not stand still and ambitious plans are in hand for a new attempt – 400 boards – by IM Andrew Martin in Kansas City, Easter 2010. All the proceeds from it will go to various charities."
Addendum 2: A growing number of readers are writing in to say that if Georgiev took six hours to make the first eight moves, in 14 hours he made an average of less than 20 moves per board. Not so. After a while the grandmaster has won many games and the rounds grow smaller. The final games on a small number of boards can be quite long – the moves are then made every few minutes.