25th Spring Chess Festival in Budapest

7/2/2009 – Hungary certainly does not lack in chess tournaments. The year starts with the traditional early January tournament organised by the Hungarian Chess Federation, soon afterwards, in March, the spring season starts with the Spring Chess Festival. This year was the 25th edition. The events in Budapest are fraught with cultural activities. Illustrated report by Diana Mihajlova.

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25th Spring Chess Festival in Budapest

A report by Diana Mihajlova

Hungary certainly does not lack in chess tournaments. The year starts with the traditional early January tournament organised by the Hungarian Chess Federation at its beautiful premises in Falk Miksa Street in Budapest, close to the Parliament. Soon afterwards, in March, the spring season starts with the Spring Chess Festival, also in Budapest. Just before the summer, a noteworthy event is the Zalakaros Chess Festival, which for 28 years has been an important date in the Hungarian chess calendar. Favoured by many Hungarian titled players it takes place around the first half of May. During the summer the main action concentrates around the Lake Balaton with the particularly popular Balatonlelle and Talentum Kupa tournaments. In the meantime the most exciting chess event “Peter Leko &”, which this year had Vishy Anand as the opponent, takes place in Miskolc around the end of May.

July and August are littered with Opens and long weekend tournaments around the country, and players are spoilt with choice between Eger, Pecs, Veszprem and Keszthely among others. But probably the most attractive would be Szombathely, near the border with Austria, towards the end of August, with two opens and closed GM and IM tournaments. The autumn is marked with Open, Rapid and Ladies GM tournaments in Paks, a town south of Budapest, on the banks of Danube and the Open in Heviz, a popular spa resort. And the renowned monthly First Saturday tournaments in Budapest draw chess players from all over the world throughout the whole year.

In the second half of March, the Spring Chess Festival coincides with the world renowned Budapest Spring Festival of Arts.


The Budapest Opera House

Music productions of remarkable quality abound throughout the whole year in Budapest in many splendid venues including the very contemporary Palace of the Arts and the world renowned Ferenc Liszt Academy. The Opera House however is a pinnacle and magnet for music lovers worldwide. During the Spring Festival apart from the usual popular operatic pieces a modernised version of Handel’s ‘Xerxes’ is being shown.


The Museum of Fine Arts

Art exhibitions range from Gustave Moreau, the French forerunner of Symbolism at the Museum of Fine Arts to “Da Vinci – The Genius” at the VAM Design Centre.


The world's most famous smile – a Leonardo detail

The Leonardo show focuses round the invention by Pascal Cotte, a French scientific engineer and photographer of fine art, who constructed a 240-million pixel camera to photograph the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, where he was granted unprecedented access to conduct an extensive new scientific evaluation of this masterpiece. He came out with startling new revelations: Revolutionary technology bringing science and art together, just as Leonardo did over 500 years ago.


Detail of the façade of Mucsarnok (Hall of Artworks)


Heroes Square

The famous "Heroes Square", which in the past was littered with statuaries of the "heroes" of Communism, today is an elegant piazza and a regular destination for tourists. It was used as a prop in the movie "Luzhin Defence", where the manipulative chess manager discards his client Luzhin after he had a bad patch of one too many losses. It is a poignant moment when the chess obsessed, hapless Luzhin (John Tarturro) is left for the first time entirely on his own and, abandoned on this square, helplessly asks: "What is the name of this city?"

The chess playing area where players are having a game of chess while steaming inside the Szechenyi thermal bath is a common subject on Budapest postcards. On our photo a prominent spot is occupied by the Polish WGM Beata Kadziolka (Photo: Iweta Rajlich)


The Spring Chess Festival is organised by Mr Laszlo Nagy,
who also runs the famed First Saturday tournaments.

It is actually a tournament of some historical background – it was initially run by the Hungarian Chess Federation and it was heavily subsidized by the Hungarian Government. But with the collapse of the communist era the tournament also ceased to exist until about 16 years ago, when Mr Nagy decided to resurrect it and run it himself. Without the subsidy, however, which explains the small prizes. Nonetheless it is a very well attended tournament by both Hungarian and foreign players. More than 90 percent international FIDE rated players also provide a good opportunity to earn or increase a FIDE rating. It is a particularly attractive enterprise for players who choose to stretch their stay in the beautiful Budapest and connect it to a First Saturday tournament.

WGM Anya Corke (HKG) this year did exactly that. She made an extended stay of two months and played at the Spring Festival as well as at two flanking First Saturdays. This way Anya actually filled a part of her gap year with a chess playing sojourn in Budapest, before starting her academic career which will take her temporarily away from chess.

Players from various corners of the globe make Budapest their destination during the Spring Chess Festival. After a hard working day, paprikas, wine and Gipsy music are quite in order. Clockwise from left: Monir, Arman (BAN), Dargan, Paul (ENG), WGM Corke, Anya (HKG), Mihajlova, Diana (ENG), IM Paschall, William (USA), Roverso, Leandro (BRA), Volman, Horacio (ISR), Dinayet, Kazi Rashed Ullah (BAN)


Michael Yip (CAN, 2089) vs Melinda Varga (HUN, 1562)

Open tournaments like this one where the majority of players are FIDE rated are a good opportunity for beginners to measure up their strength against more experienced opponents.


Don Ngo Tan (VIE), 11 years old, lives in Budapest and speaks very good Hungarian. He is brave with English and is making a rapid climb-up in his chess career. He made 5/9 points with a 2101 performance. Don now plays under the Hungarian flag.

Zsuzsanna Kabai (HUN) made 5.5 and 2232 performance. At 14 years she has joined the young Hungarian chess force only very recently but has already firmly secured her position among the promising young talents. She is playing at as many tournaments as possible, including the First Saturday, and her rating calculations are announcing a change of whopping +107 Elo points, which will bring her rating to just over 2000.

15-year-old Bence Szabo is keeping a steady place among the Hungarian young elite. His 6/9 result could have been still better, but together with his overall result at other tournaments he is about to add a healthy 23 elo to his 2229 rating.

WFM Anna Styazhkina (RUS) is the world champion in her age group. She is twelve years old. Anna could not remain unnoticed, not only because of her fragile, pretty frame but also because of her excellent performance. She came accompanied by her father as a trainer and will take away 48 Elo points after her 5/9 and some remarkable wins against much higher rated opponents.

Dr Peter Rajcsanyi, FIDE’s Public Relations and Marketing Director, is based in Budapest but is globetrotting, following the many meetings and decisions in the work of the World Chess Federation. He used some rare free time in his busy schedule to enjoy competitive chess.

IM William Paschall (USA), Adam Hantak (GER), Paul Dargan (ENG), WGM Anya Corke (HKG) went for a stroll after the last game and came back in time for the prize giving ceremony. But they found out that they were too late. The Hungarian Chess Federation offices and venue, where the tournament was held, were punctually shut and most of the players, but particularly the Hungarians, had disappeared. Anya, who with 6/9 won the best lady prize, and William, who secured second place with 7.5/9, would collect their prizes at a later stage. The prize giving ceremony had been cut short because an event of great significance happened to be scheduled at exactly the same time: the Hungarian national football team was playing an important Euro match (Hungary v Albania 1-0!) Will chess ever be so popular?

I just about managed to lure back for a photo session the winner IM Miklos Galyas (HUN, 8/9, performance 2601). With 2456 Elo Miklos was also the highest seed at the tournament.



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