Chess Connects for the 5th time at the Global Chess Festival

by Alina l'Ami
11/2/2019 – The Global Chess Festival 2019 returned to the Hungarian National Gallery and featured all the usual events for children, including simuls and appearances by all three Polgar sisters — Judit, Sofia and Susan. Singer/songwriter Juga performed and Vladimir Kramnik gave a simul and was Judit's guest for a live question and answer session. ALINA L'AMI reports in exquisite detail from Budapest. | Photos: Alina l'Ami

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A dream begins with a dreamer

Dali was my favourite artist for most of my teenage years. I was fascinated by his brazen visionary and turned a blind eye to his surreal self: “there are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction”. Curious to know who ever bit the dust because of happiness?! It can get pretty close though during the chess festival brought to life by Judit Polgar. At times, as one gallery followed another, the chess show hosted on 12th October by the Hungarian National Gallery began to feel like a Surrealist labyrinth. I was prepared to catch a good case of chess delirium but the one million events, two million high profile visitors and seven million chess devotees were a visual and psychic marathon.

A grand chess show

Global Chess Festival
The ticket to a grand chess show

Imagining long-legged elephants, melting clocks and horses galloping on a tomato is easier than visualizing the scale and beauty of Judit's canvas. Science fiction was reality ahead of schedule in Budapest, with thousands of kids running or coloring centimeters away from the paintings on display. To have no incident reported is just as puzzling as the green apple of Magritte! Coincidence? Maybe. And maybe not.

Kramnik simul

Who has time to revel in the 'lifeless' works of art when
Vladimir Kramnik and Judit Polgar are for all the world to see?

There is no happenstance that thirty countries joined the 5th edition of the Global Chess Festival (GCF for short) with worldwide events. The connection between art, sport, education and science was celebrated by a Chinese wall of visitors through a long list of chess related activities, together with an even longer list of distinguished guests. The legendary trio of the Polgar sisters is the living proof that #ChessConnectsUs, motto which has long been Judit's personal belief and the guiding idea behind the Festival.

3 Musketeers

All for one and one for all
The museum's  pièce de résistance

It is relatively 'easy' to cut corners in Louvre, Hermitage or Rijksmuseum by just following the highlights' route. But how to mark the main features of the GCF is an endless enigma. The chess celebration in Budapest has a fantastic charm as a whole, comparable to Juan Miro's “Carnival of Harlequin”. Every bit is colourful, inspiring and brings diversity.


 Judit's poetry stands in the art of making all the elements work independently together

“What I saw in the Hungarian National Gallery was amazing and very exciting. Kids of different ages, backgrounds and interests were able to meet in one place. The event created a real combination of art, sport, education and science. And that's what makes the Global Chess Festival special.”, said Arkady Dvorkovich, President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), who came to Budapest at the invitation of Judit Polgar.

“Attending the festival gives me the opportunity to show my respect to Judit Polgar as a chess player and as a human being. Many may not have realized how big her achievement is. It may be compared to that of Marie Curie. That is why I am delighted to be able to show my really sincere admiration and respect towards her work, since it is also very important for the next generations.” said Vladimir Kramnik. As a token of appreciation for his lifetime achievement in Chess as a Sport, the former World Champion received the Goodwill Ambassador of Chess award and a zillion of chess enthusiasts shadowed his every step throughout the day. How many autographs he gave only his pen knows...

girl closeup

Nobody can refuse such Margaret Keane eyes

The renowned grandmaster Pal Benko, who passed away in late August, was awarded the Art in Chess posthumous award for his artful ways on the chessboard. The moment when his widow received the distinction was beautifully painful.

Benko award

When everything is done with a good heart it shows also in the usually informative press release. The official announcement is not just facts and figures. It has a special focus on the human factor and I don't see a better solution than copy-pasting big chunks of it.* Judit didn't forget anyone, not even sending me a selfie when her to-do-list was screaming louder than a police siren.


Busy but lively days

chess children

Energy suppliers

During this year's Festival, the long arm of coincidence stretched further than the aesthetics of dismemberment commended by both Dali and Magritte. The artists' works were on a temporary exhibition in the National Gallery, as if Judit specifically ordered it for the eyes of her guests. It is impossible not to rally to the continuously burning energy centre and the Universe kept loyal too – the weather was once again superb. And which are the odds to meet my childhood chess friend and his student amid thousands of chess fans?

Surreal reality, that's what it is in Budapest. The 6th edition will be done with mirrors — 10.10.2020!

Children in orange shirts

Counting down the days

*The Goodwill Ambassador of Chess award, founded by the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation, was also given to Leontxo Garcia for his efforts with Chess in Education, Demis Hassabis, DeepMind's chief executive officer and one of the foremost artificial intelligence researchers, and Alpha Zero for Science in Chess.

New arrivals

  • Champions Talk, a discussion that aimed at discovering an answer on how to become a cutting edge chess player — with Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik;
  • Inspiration Cup
  • Future Champions of Europe — (details underneath)
  • before and after parties

Sofia Polgar

Classic never goes out of style
The traditional simuls, here with Sofia Polgar

Chess and Science

The GCF’s international status was raised by its conference with renowned scientists, world-famous chess players and educators. The public enjoyed the lectures of:

  1. Ken Rogoff, professor at Harvard University
  2. Sylvester E. Vizi, former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
  3. Natasha Regan and GM Matthew Sadler, co-authors of the bestselling book on AlphaZero
  4. Leontxo Garcia, Spanish journalist
  5. GM Susan Polgar, founder of the SPICE institute


Chess emotions in the voice of Juga
In the spirit of Mikhail Tal

Future Champions of Europe

Budapest is named the European Capital of Sport 2019 and, as part of this, youngsters from 11 countries were able to compete in the Future Champions of Europe, competition organized by Judit Polgar Chess Foundation in association with European Chess Union. The first prize winner, 10-year-old Ukrainian Ihor Samunenkov, got an invitation to the 82nd Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2020, where he will be able to enter backstage and meet some of the best players in the world.

Ihor Samunenkov

Chess life is a web of endless possibilities

Equal opportunities for girls and boys

Sofia Polgar and her husband, Grandmaster Yona Kosashvili won the Inspiration Cup, the 1st hand & brain tournament ever organized in the history of chess. It was not only a spectacular game for Grandmaster pairs, where one team member was the ‘brain’ and the other was the ‘hand’, but also a prestigious example of mixed gender competitions at the event.

Sofia Polgar and her husband Yona Kosashvili

“Celebrating 25 years of friendship and love with Yona” (Sofia)

One of the most important aspects of the tournaments of the Global Chess Festival is the fact that girls and boys get equal opportunities by playing in the same group. In this crucial mission for gender equality, Judit Polgar found a partner in the festival's main sponsor, Morgan Stanley, who was also on hand to reveal the vision and expertise of the company’s own chess masters on-and off the chessboard.

Judit Polgar

Your move

Writers have this saying “kill your darlings”... and I've applied the same principle to photography as well when it just didn't fit the story. Probably because I did that too often, I'll make an exception now — I do enjoy street photography too much to not share at least something with you.

Judit's daughter

Behind the scenes with Judit's daughter and her friend
(known for their traditional queens' ballet performance)

young girl

(Still) Moving life

Recapping the 5th Global Chess Festival


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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