116th Scottish Chess Championships (International Open)

by ChessBase
6/19/2009 – When you think of international chess it is unlikely that Scotland springs to mind. Steinitz, the future first World Champion, participated in an international tournament in Dundee 1867. After this promising start Scotland has rarely featured on the map for strong players. However this year’s Scottish Championship is a step in the right direction. Jonathan Grant, Director of Chess Scotland, explains how.

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116th Scottish Chess Championships
(International Open) – 11th to 19th July 2009

By Jonathan Grant, International Director of Chess Scotland
Photos by Miroslav Plchot and Jonathan Grant

When you think of international chess it is unlikely that Scotland springs to mind. Yet chess has a long history in Scotland that dates back to medieval times. The Lewis chessmen, the oldest in Europe, were found near Uig on Lewis in the early 19th century. The origin of the pieces is unknown but it is likely they were made in Norway around 1200 AD and intended for use in Ireland.

Lewis Chessmen from the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh [image: Christian Bickel]

Steinitz, the future first World Champion participated in the first major International tournament held in Scotland, Dundee 1867, but could only finish second to Neumann. After this promising start Scotland has rarely featured on the route map for strong tournaments.  I can name perhaps Dundee 1967, Troon 1984, Isle of Lewis 1995 and a handful of British Championships as the exceptions rather than the rule. Apparently all the world champions from Steinitz to Karpov (except Fischer) have passed through and I vividly remember Spassky and Tal playing blitz at the Glenrothes International in 1988.

National Museum of Scotland Simul

Fittingly a simul by GM Keti Arakhamia-Grant against all-comers, on 13 June, took place in the National Museum of Scotland, home to the Lewis chessmen in Scotland to promote this year’s Scottish International Open Championship.

Keti is the only female GM in the UK – she did her final norm at Dresden Olympiad 2008

Keti played continuously, twelve opponents at once on a rolling basis, for almost six hours, and was undefeated with 42 wins and nine draws out of 51 games, despite facing some Master strength players and half of Scotland's top juniors. Quite an achievement!

2007 British Champion, GM Jacob Aagaard and FM Keith Ruxton of “Rampant Chess” fame kicked off the simul

Rampant Chess, by FM Keith Ruxton and Geoff Chandler, is a collection of the most entertaining games by Scottish Masters. Written in a completely original style – there is no other chess book quite like it – and the authors donated all proceeds to Chess Scotland!

Start of the working day

A steady stream of challengers and spectators throughout the day – never an empty board

Our intrepid photographer, Miroslav Plchot, holds the draw

Thirsty work, walking for six hours...

Two youngsters, Shivan Murdochy and Jonny Scott, working hard

Promising junior Andrew Green (2215) was one of the victims

I wouldn’t touch that pawn if I were you...

Edinburgh Chess Club stalwart Johnny Marr, 92, looks on as the last game finishes

Strongest ever Scottish Championship is International Open


The prestigious central venue, Edinburgh City Chambers, hosts the strongest ever Scottish Chess Championships 2009 from 11th to 19th July. One of the oldest continually running chess events in the world, this international open will welcome strong players from countries as diverse as India and Slovakia. In the Year of Homecoming Scotland, Belgium-based GM Paul Motwani and London-based GM Jonathan Rowson will be among the favourites. Play takes place from 14:00 to 20:00 BST every day and games will be transmitted live to the web at www.scottishchesschampionship.com

Edinburgh City Chambers, venue for the Scottish Championship [image Ronnie Leask]

With over £5000 in prizes, as well as excellent IM and GM norm opportunities, the 2009 Scottish Chess Championship is set to become the strongest open in the UK this year. Top ten entrants so far are:

  1. GM Jonathan Rowson (Scotland – 2589)
  2. GM Jan Markos (Slovakia - 2571)
  3. GM S. Arun Prasad (India - 2552)
  4. GM Jacob Aagaard (Scotland - 2535)
  5. GM Mark Hebden (England - 2510)
  6. GM Paul Motwani (Scotland - 2501)
  7. GM Keti Arakhamia‐Grant (Scotland - 2492)
  8. GM Colin McNab (Scotland - 2472)
  9. GM John Shaw (Scotland - 2469)
  10. GM Magesh Chandran Panchanathan (India - 2462)

Chess Scotland was formed in 1884, albeit as the Scottish Chess Association, and the Scottish Championship began its long run, interrupted only by the two world wars. In recent years the Scottish public has had to content itself with watching its top players dominate away, at the British Championships, rather than at home. Delighted as we were to see GMs Jonathan Rowson, Jacob Aagaard and Keti Arakhamia-Grant secure 8 titles between them, there was a desire to see them fight it out for the Scottish title.

The invaluable support of Edinburgh City Council alongside sponsorship from Quality Chess and Chess Suppliers has secured all six of the Scottish GMs including its entire Dresden Olympiad team. The strength of the field is not the only factor that makes this year’s championships unique.  To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, 2009 has been designated the Year of Homecoming (www.homecomingscotland.com). 

Statue of Robert Burns in Port of Leith [photo Edinburgh Inspiring Capital]

As part of these homecoming celebrations Edinburgh City Council have generously agreed to sponsor the event which includes allowing the Championship to be held in the magnificent buildings of Edinburgh City Chambers. The competition thus offers a unique opportunity to admire the inside of this spectacular venue located in the heart of the city, on the Royal Mile.

Iconic Edinburgh Castle [photo Edinburgh Inspiring Capital]

For those looking to combine top-notch chess with a fun holiday, the location is ideal.  Edinburgh is consistently rated one of the top tourist destinations in the world. 

Nightime in Edinburgh City Centre [photo Edinburgh Inspiring Capital]

From its International Festival to the Hogmanay celebrations, the city is internationally renowned as an exciting place to visit. The culture and history of the Scottish capital is here to be enjoyed – add to this the extensive range of activities during homecoming year and one has the ideal opportunity to combine great chess with a fantastic vacation.


About the authors

Jonathan Grant

  • International Director of Chess Scotland
  • Married to GM Keti Arakhamia-Grant with one daughter, Elena
  • Scottish Champion 2006; represented Scotland in four European Team Championships and one Olympiad

Miroslav Plchot, Czech Republic, 33. "I am a devoted Christian. I have one brother who is a Minister in Prague. I love reading, travelling and sport!!! I am married for ten years and have two daughters (so far). I studied photography for three years in Stuttgart (where my wife is from). We have lived in Edinburgh now for five years. I don’t love just the game of chess but also its principles and history – every move has its consequences same as in life…

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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