Grape Celebration with Judit Polgar

by Albert Silver
3/3/2012 – For the second time, the Festa da Uva (Grape Celebration) International Chess Open decided to repeat its innovative formula, and invited international chess star Judit Polgar to join in the invitational and open rapid events. Judit gave a lecture, launched her book "Chess Playground" in Portuguese, and gave a simul in this fun event with a very jovial setting. Large illustrated report by Albert Silver.

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Grape Celebration with Judit Polgar

Report and photographs by Albert Silver

Although in its twelfth edition, the Festa da Uva International Chess Open (Festa da Uva is Grape Celebration in Portuguese) decided to repeat its innovative formula from two years ago, in an effort to fight potential drops in inscriptions and attract players from around the country and South America to the city of Caxias do Sul in Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil.

Two years ago, instead of just organizing their traditional rapid open, they brought in world top ten Vassily Ivanchuk to participate in a two day invitational rapid event facing three other grandmasters, followed by their traditional open in which the stars participated as well, affording even the lowliest beginners a rare opportunity to play one on one with a chess superstar. Sadly that last event lacked one serious item, suitable media coverage to share the experience.

This year, they invited me to help make sure the festival was not enjoyed by the players and visitors alone, numbering the hundreds all the same ‘tis true. This year they brought yet another foreign star, Judit Polgar, who came not only to participate in the many activities, but to help promote her newly translated book, “Chess Playground”.

Aside from Judit, the organizers included seven-time Brazilian champion GM Gilberto Milos, the legendary Henrique Mecking, and top Uruguayan GM Andrés Rodríguez. Although a semifinal was scheduled followed a final the next day, the actual time controls were undecided until the day before the event. After much querying on how to best accommodate the interest of the audience, it was decided that the semifinal would be a double round-robin in which the players played one fifteen-minute knockout game, followed by one five-minute blitz. Although technical difficulties prevented the broadcast and electronic recording of the games, I managed to film a few, and will upload the footage as soon as I am back in Rio and have access to a suitable internet connection.  

The invitational took place in a glass cubicle, inspired by Bilbao’s organizers, and was held in the actual Festa da Uva (Grape Festival), which is a large fair organized around the region’s grape cultivation, the foremost wine producers in Brazil.

The glass box undergoes preparations for the event

The semifinal phase ended in a near route by the Hungarian genius as she won her first five games, losing only the final blitz against Andrés Rodríguez. Milos and Rodriquez tied for second-third and had a blitz tiebreak to determine who would meet chess’s Iron Lady in the final. Gilberto Milos won the honor as he beat the Uruguayan GM in a tense game.

Judit Polgar was in good spirits in her second visit to Brazil

Her first game was the highly anticipated encounter with Brazilian legend "Mequinho"
(pronounced meh-keen-yo)

It was not Henrique's day as he succumbed to Judit after a tactical oversight

The steadfast Gilberto Milos, was here as a player, after organizing last year's Grand
Slam Finals in São Paulo.

Milos lost 1.5-0.5 against Rodríguez in their individual encounter

In between rounds, Gilberto enjoyed a chat with Judit, whom he had not played against
since their 1996 match in São Paulo.

Andrés Rodríguez enjoys the grapes celebrated by the fair

Judit was accompanied by her close friend, world-class photo-
grapher Timea Jaksa, whose beautiful work can be found at her
website Timea Pictures.

Timea Jaksa, Albert Silver (your reporter/photographer), and Judit Polgar

Mecking and Milos ended in a victory for the seven-time national champion 2-0

Henrique Mecking was once third in the world and has actually been closing back on
2600 despite years below it since his return.

The arbiters, players and organizers pose for a group picture

After the fourth round, live music was heard as players and figurines came out clapping
and dancing. Here are the queens of the festival.

It wasn't simply a show for people to watch, and everyone was drawn in to participate

Supporting them was a live group playing music and singing

They strummed their guitars, beat their drums, and pianoed
their accordions.

A large number of figurines came dressed to keep as lively an atmosphere as possible

Their sheer good cheer and obvious enjoyment of it was infectious

Satire and irony were in large doses as these 60s figures with giant microphone,
Beatles hairstyles and bandana came out.

They thoroughly poked fun at the crowd and contributed to the high spirits

After the day's games were over, the organizer, André Boff, (seated behind the waiter)
took everyone to the city's best pizzaria, where waiters came around with different pies
for customers to choose a slice from, in a an all-you-can-eat frenzy. Judit and Timea
could hardly believe that they had dessert pizzas as well, such as this banana and
cinnamon pizza served with vanilla ice cream.

Here is a view of a few other types, with fruits, cream, and cheese, or chocolate flakes.
Others had white chocolate with coconut sprinkles and M&Ms. Utterly decadent, and
completely delicious.

To finish the day, Judit gave a lecture which included her history and a Q&A

Many fans came from all around to see her and talk to her

The lecture was a success and was filled from end to end

Stay tuned for the report on the final, as well as coverage of the rapid open, in which Judit and the other participants will also play.

Copyright ChessBase

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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