Amateur chess with a difference

by Diana Mihajlova
11/30/2018 – The World Championship has naturally dominated the headlines over the past three weeks, but let us not forget that chess is played by millions of amateurs worldwide. That's the focus of a new tournament in Serbia from January 3rd-11th, 2019. DIANA MIHAJLOVA explains. | Pictured: The Amateur Chess International Tournaments are accompanied by an ever-present mascot: a stylized chess piece with a head of a panther, called "Archibald". | Photos: Tournament archive

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US-style open for amateurs in Belgrade

The American open circuit is famous for attracting amateurs from across the globe with big-money events like the annual World Open. But this kind of tournament is largely unknown in Europe. The Chess Amateurs International, founded in Russia, is setting out to change that, and has a goal to provide amateurs with tournaments featuring substantial prize funds, cosy locations around the world and a friendly atmosphere, not to mention the opportunity for players to raise their rating and maybe, just maybe sluff off their 'amateur' status in the process.

Here's a chance to ring in the in the New Year in (chess) style, not to mention a 30,000 euro prize fund, with first prize pegged at 4,000 euro! Grandmasters need not apply. This one is reserved for amateurs! A FIDE rating of less than 2325 is required to enter.


Amateur chess in Belgrade, Serbia, from 3-11 January, 2019

On the topic of prizes, it is worth noting that there are prizes all the way down to 40th place, as well as additional rating category prizes, youth, veteran, women prizes, prizes for the local players of the host country and even individual game beauty prizes.

The Belgrade tournament will be the fifth edition of this ambitious project that started in December 2017 and consists of several tournaments per year. The previous four editions took place closer at home: three in Sochi, Russia and one in Minsk, Belarus. The organisers intend to extend their operations to additional countries in the future.   

Indonesians in Minsk

Young Indonesian players at the Minsk tournament


Several generations can be seen at the Amateur International in Minsk

Start of round

A start of a round at the Amateur International in Sochi

Sochi 2016 winners

Alexandr Chernjavsky, the winner, Aram Erityan, the bronze winner and GM Sergey Beshukov, the organiser at the Amateur International in Sochi, 2017

tournament logoThe Amateur Chess International is a brainchild of GM Sergey Beshukov. The managing team of these highly professionally organized tournaments include GM Kirill Bryzgalin (organization), Olena Jobava (organization, translator), Igor Klevko (internet and photography) and Leonid Elkin (copywriting, PR, advertising).

The founder Sergey Beshukov comes from a chess family. He is actually continuing the legacy of his father, IO Aslan Beshukov, who was formerly a well-known chess organizer and now the President of the Chess Federation of the Southern Federal District and Member of the Supervising Council of the Russian Chess Federation. He was also founder of the Russian successful chess team ‘Universitet Belorechensk’ led by GM Baadur Jobava.

Aslan Beshukov

Aslan Gazizovich Beshukov is addressing the participants at the Minsk tournament

The golded panther head serves as the company logo, and a matching trophy is presented to the winner after being prominently placed on display in the playing hall during the tournament. It is a shiny, gilded, molded plastic representing a chess piece with a head of a panther that was sculpted by the Belarus artist Valery Dudko. In an interview for the, Beshukov describes the birth of the mascot and logo of the Amateur Chess International: a ring that his family presented him for an anniversary had a head of a panther. When bemusing about various business aspects of his new enterprise, with the help of an artist, the design of this beloved ring metamorphosed in a chess piece that became the company’s logo. Beshukov likes to set his imagination loose and gave it a name: Archibald. That's also the name of the company registered in Russia ‘Archibald Chess’ under which the Amateur Chess Internationa tournaments operate. It took some time before the flat logo became a three-dimensional piece and a trophy which has been given to the winner ever since the third tournament in Minsk where it was won by Zviad Sichinava from Moscow.

Beshukov also likes to boast in a playful manner: ‘The chess world has never before seen such a prize! Fight for Archibald!’ 

Zviad Sichinava

Left to right: Artur Gharagozyan from Armenia (2nd place), Zviad Sichinava (with 'Archibald'), Ruslan Yandarbiev from Russia (3rd place)

The Fifth Amateur Chess International Tournament is fast approaching! The tournament comes with an entry fee of 200 euro. At first blanche this might sound like a lot, but think of the full picture; the organizers negotiated very affordable living expenses during the tournament — a standard ‘package’ of 370 euro per person in a double room includes the entry fee as well as hotel accommodation with breakfast. Optional lunch and dinner are available for 10 euro (5 euro a meal). Therefore, the cost is still only a fraction of what most tournaments offer — plus the possibility to get one of the 59 prizes, the lowest of which is 200 euro.

The venue for the tournament is the Hotel Balasevic situated 7 kilometres from the city centre in the natural beauty of Ada Ciganlija, the lake with its island and Kosutnjak, the largest park/forest in Belgrade. Cafes and restaurants line the lake, there is a large shopping mall and a Concert Hall. The hotel organizes bus tours for its guests to the city centre.

The lake

The lake Ada in summer | Photo:

January may not be prime time for a swim, except for the brave, but fortunately, the hotel itself is already an oasis of nature with its gardens, brooks and bridges.

Hotel montage

The hotel and its courtyard | Photos:

Hotel room

A spacious, comfortable room at the Hotel Balasevic

Belgrade is a host city with a lot of chess history, you may have read about before.

The organisers aim to bring together chess enthusiast from around the globe in an atmosphere where fighting spirit and friendliness go hand in hand. The Fifth Amateur International Tournament in Belgrade fall within the festive holidays still observed under the Serbian Orthodox Christmas season from the beginning of the New Year through January 7th.

The list of participants is already quite impressive with registered players from countries as far afield as Pakistan, Philippines, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The organisers aim to treat amateurs with dignity, making it possible for them to play for big money with real chances to win while able to climb the rating ladder. 


The Amateur Chess International Tournament’s flag: Amateurs from the entire world, unite!


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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