A perfect chess day in Budapest

by Alina l'Ami
10/26/2018 – Earlier this month, Judit Polgar showcased chess for the fourth time in the Hungarian capital Budapest, presenting her Global Chess Festival with the theme "chess connects us". ALINA L'AMI was an official photographer on behalf of the festival and sent us this recollection replete with visual highlights of the day — interspersed with her typical whimsical prose — for a colourful jaunt through this annual chess celebration. | Photos: Alina l'Ami

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A Global Chess Festival retrospective

chess connects collage

“In my much more modest experience, I can say that chess practice has helped to form the clear conviction that nothing in this world happens by chance. And that luck, in life as in chess, is not part of the game,” concluded Andrea Bocelli in his supportive letter towards the Global Chess Festival (GCF) and its queen, Judit Polgar.

It is perhaps by chance that they met, by choice that they became friends. Sharing the same passion for the 64 squares and a painstaking diligence when it comes to expressing their art to the world, the two masters have one more thing in common — common sense. It is sweat and determination which turn dreams into reality. Destiny doesn't pay home visits and they know they have to go for it themselves.

Click or tap any photo to enlarge!

The frame frames a frame of mind

It's that time of the year when hundreds of thousands of chess lovers are glad to live in a world where there are Octobers. This is not about the colourful skies or the crispy leaves, it is also not about the cuddling or the blushing cheeks. It is one of those perfect chess days which seem to occur more frequently in memory than in life. But the beauty of the traditional GCF is very much real, just like Judit is.

upside down girl

Upside down for right side up ideas

selfie with Judit and Sofia

Still smiling after a hard and long day, which is only natural given the overall success

To reach a fairy tale ending though, it depends, of course, on where the story stops. For the best female player of all time, it never does. Rather than looking forward in anticipation or backward in admiration, Judit is looking upward in a continuous strive for finesse. What can be done better? Where lie the errors?

happy child

Are people happy?
(yes, they are)

I am not adept at eavesdropping on other people's conversations but when words like — “the festival has a heart”, “you can feel Judit's and Sofia's warmth in everything they touch”, “my son is so joyful, he should pursue a chess career after all” — are said centimetres away from your ear, that must be shared!

boy with large pawns

Being a professional chess player is not required to enjoy the game

Making hay while the sun is still shining is part of the hard-working team's philosophy. The festivities are not even over yet and notes are being taken relentlessly for the next edition. Chance does nothing which has not been prepared beforehand. Every detail on the program (and there were a lot of them) has been arranged with strenuous care and thought, which is probably the reason why a potentially colossal disaster had been fenced by a hairsbreadth.

girl making a tower with pieces

In chess, steady hands are needed

Take the risk or lose the chance

Since “chess is a pure form of art”, the fourth Global Chess Festival on October 13th, was held in the special venue of the Hungarian National Gallery, where the participants could play among fine art masterpieces worth millions of US dollars and spanning hundreds of years!

Polgar sisters play blitz

The traditional Marzipan Chess Battle adorned with one of the best-known Hungarian works: the 20 square meters “Ruins of the Greek Theatre at Taormina” by Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, 1904/1905.

As romantic and culturally brilliant as that sounds, the bold courage of both the museum director and the festival team must be largely applauded. There were zero incidents! The paintings and the works of art can still be admired by the connoisseurs — astonishing if one thinks about the over-energetic kids running around with their marzipan chess pieces and not completely clean hands. And what would make someone's eyes even bigger: there were no walls, no fences or any barrier of some sort to prevent Damocle's sword from falling.

boy balancing a giant king

The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward they say

Since feelings or emotions are not enough to paint a memorable day, knock yourself out with facts and figures taken from the press release.* Small parenthesis: a whole new article can be written based on the handout alone; just like the day itself, it doesn't lack soul and cheerfulness, rare qualities for the rather dry press briefings.

photo collage

When the day looks like this, the press release must be written accordingly!
(click or tap to enlarge)

Nevertheless, chance does play a role in life, even if we speak about 0.000001 percentages. For years already and with every trip taken to Mexico, I tried to admire Frida Kahlo's paintings but to no avail. They were always on the move until... I suddenly found myself at the right spot at the right time. Frida's paintings were present in the very same location as the Global Chess Festival!

black and white magic

There is magic in Budapest's chess celebration, even if you know how it is done

Facts and Figures  *

  1. 250 venues from 23 countries took part in the 4th Global Chess Festival initiated by Judit Polgar
  2. The event was followed online by nearly 100,000 people

children playing and watching

More than a thousand on-site visitors

  1. For the first time at the festival, the Goodwill Ambassador of Artistic Values of Chess was awarded to a number of artists whose work has been inspired or influenced by the great game of chess. These include the French composer Jason Kouchak, the Chilean singer-songwriter Juga and the Japanese multimedia artist Yoko Ono, who will receive the award from Judit in New York this November. Ono’s long-time collaborator Sam Havadtoy was also honoured with the award, as was Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi.

Jason Kouchak

Musical mosaic at the museum by Jason Kouchak


Dedicated to her art — the passionate Juga

  1. The festival itself received praise from famed Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, who emphasised that chess eliminates the differences between people. It is in this spirit that the special circumstances of those with visual or hearing impairments were also playing in the festival, allowing for their chess technique and tools to be a focal theme to this year’s event.

man with a magnifying glass

If you haven't found it yet, keep looking

  1. It is with the spirit of Polgar’s personal motto, “#Chess Connects Us”, that the fourth Global Chess Festival was held. The Budapest-based local event was also joined by venues from across the globe, including — among others — the United States, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, India and Nepal. In the Netherlands for example, the small island of Schiermonnikoog with a tiny population of almost a thousand inhabitants, renamed the island in celebration of the event to become the Isle of Chess for the day. China was also a major partner of the Global Chess Festival, with 200 locations representing the event.

girl reaches across chess board

And yet, being physically present at the GCF is worth the nuisance of the long haul flights

  1. The stand out event of the festival was the simultaneous match held by Judit and Sofia Polgar, for which hundreds of people applied. Ultimately nearly 50 players sat and played against the two multiple Olympic champions in tandem. All ages were represented by this mix of players, from the retired to the very young, with the central motto for the event strengthened when a visually-impaired little girl sat at the chess table to compare her skills against the Polgar sisters.

group photo

Put your hands up for...Budapest!

Despite being absent for quite a few years from the tournament arena, Judit never lost the touch. The game underneath is one of her wins against the boy who won the Szamos Chess Palace Cup, Aarnavh Trivedi.


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  1. The ability of chess to educate was once again highlighted this year, with Judit Polgar’s Chess Palace and Chess Playground educational programs also playing a major role at the festival. These programs were developed for the younger generation to help them tackle the challenges of the 21st century and to teach them how to navigate the digital age and face the constant barrage of information that we are all required to endure on a daily basis.

boy relaxing

Playing chess is fun

  1. And a political final thought which ends the press release: “Chess is a world, but a precious one, without the lies. It is a pure form of art” - said Arkady Dvorkovich, the newly elected president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), who acknowledged the festival’s motto of connectedness. “It gives us an opportunity to have an honest relationship with others and ourselves. This Festival has the power to gather all the generations, and to bring everyone close to everyone, to meet each other in socializing and to transmit that energy further. The idea that Judit Polgar put into focus, that chess has the power to connect people, is the guiding principle for all of us.”

kids looking at a cell phone video



Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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