Jeddah and Djerba to host emerging chess talents

by Diana Mihajlova
1/20/2024 – A brainchild of Chokri Saidi, a French-Tunisian entrepreneur, the Djerba Chess Festival aims to combine chess, friendship, culture and tourism on the beautiful island of Djerba, the largest island off the coast of North Africa — which is also known as the ‘island of dreams’. Furthermore, Saidi has gone a step further in his chess organizing pursuits and, from this year, he is also organizing the prestigious Jeddah International Youth Chess Festival. Diana Mihajlova informs.

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Chess, friendship, culture and tourism

Chess is enjoying an abundance of worldwide events. Alongside the FIDE official competitions, high level international events are often organised with the help of private sponsors. Thanks to dedicated, generous individuals, many deserving players who are left behind the top regular protagonists are given the opportunity to compete in prestigious international competitions that serve as exposure and a springboard towards further achievements. Some of these events are well established and have been running for years, and some new ones are popping up. Among the latter is the Djerba Chess Festival in Tunisia.

A brainchild of Chokri Saidi, a French-Tunisian entrepreneur, it aims to combine chess, friendship, culture and tourism on the beautiful island of Djerba, the largest island off the coast of North Africa known as the ‘island of dreams’.

Djerba Chess Festival

Djerba | Photo: Tunisia Tourism

Chokri Saidi owns the high-end travel agency Go-Makka, with several offices in France and Tunisia, which is the main sponsor. Another enterprise owned by Saidi is Go-Events, which manages his chess projects. He puts strong emphasis on women’s chess and chess in schools and youth training. With Antoly Karpov as a patron, a chess school has opened on the island and tournaments are organised for school kids from the island, Tunisia and the Arab region. An annual Open, the Arabian Karpov Cup, has been running for four years, while several rapid and blitz online tournaments are taking place throughout the year.

Chess celebrities Judit Polgar and Anatoly Karpov helped the promotion of chess on the island and further in the region.

Djerba Chess Festival

Judit Polgar and Anatoly Karpov surrounded by Djerba’s school children

In 2020 and 2021, Djerba Women Open Online Tournaments were organised with separate prizes for Global, African and Arab participants.

Djerba Chess Festival

The 2021 Djerba Women Online Tournament poster

Djerba Chess Festival

Chokri Saidi on the beaches of Djerba


ChessBase reported on the second edition: Chess on the Island of Dreams


Djerba Chess Festival

Chokri Saidi (far right) with some of the second-edition participants: (from left) Antoaneta Stefanova, Maxime Lagarde (winner), Jules Moussard, Aryan Tari, Nihal Sarin and the event manager, Chaher-Eddine Miladi

Events organizing being Saidi company’s speciality, it is natural that the chess tournament would be accompanied by several side events and tourism projects with original flavour.

Djerba Chess Festival

Excursion around the island on a pirate boat

Djerba Chess Festival

Vibrant beach adventures

This year, from 17 to 25 February, the fourth edition of the Djerba Chess Festival will take place. It comprises a Master tournament with eight invited grandmasters and several Open sections classified by rating.

Djerba Chess Festival

Djerba Chess Festival 2024 poster

In the Master section, two well-known chess personalities will participate: Hans Moke Niemann (USA 2692) and Vaishali Rameshbabu (IND 2481). The remaining invited masters are: Jules Moussard (FRA 2630), Aryan Tari (NOR 2623), Daniel Dardha (BEL 2602), world junior champion Marc’Andria Maurizzi (FRA 2572), Bilel Bellahcene (ALG 2516) and Vasyl Ivanchuk (UKR 2623). Ivanchuk’s participation is uncertain because of various obstacles.

Djerba Chess Festival

The fourth edition’s masters (clockwise from top let): Bellahcen, Dardha, Maurizzi, Tari, Niemann, Moussard, Vaishali, Ivanchuk

Jeddah International Youth Chess Festival

With the Djerba Chess Festival firmly established, Chokri Saidi goes a step further in his chess organizing pursuits and, from this year, he is adding another prestigious tournament: the Jeddah International Youth Chess Festival set to take place from 24 to 30 January. In order to boost and encourage chess achievements of younger generations, this event is dedicated to players of up to 18 years of age, born in 2005 or later.

Jeddah Youth Chess Festival will feature the Jeddah Young Masters, the Arabian Karpov Cup, and many side events including masterclasses for school teachers, masterclasses for players, simultaneous displays by GM Romain Edouard and online chess competitions.

At the same time, this event brings to the fore Saudi Arabia as a country where, in recent times, chess and intellectual sports have undergone a significant revival. In 2023 more than 50 tournaments were registered, including the national championship, the Saudi Games Classic (Open and Women) and several tournaments in the historic cities of Jeddah, Madinah and Makkah. With the appointment of Abdullah Al-Wahshi as president of the Saudi Chess Federation, Saudi Arabia has become the first Arab country awarded a place on the advisory board of FIDE.

Jeddah International Youth Chess Festival

Abdullah Al-Wahshi, the President of the Saudi Chess Federation, making the first move at the Riyadh Calendar Chess Championship, 2023 | Photo: Arab News

The Arabian Karpov Cup is open to U18 Arabian players. This will be an opportunity for the young Saudi players to compete against their counterparts from the surrounding Arab countries of the region. Spanish players are given a privileged status and are admitted to this tournament due to the Spanish peninsula’s historic links to the Arab world. The highest seed is the Spanish FM Jaime Rey Martinez (2342).

The Jeddah Young Masters are 10 rising stars with an Elo rating above 2500. In a 9-round round-robin they will fight for the 4,000 Euro first prize that comes together with a prestigious trophy and a gold medal. The second place winner will receive a silver medal and 3,000 Euro. The third place winner will receive a bronze medal and 2,250 Euro. All players are allocated cash prizes according to their results.

The line-up of the Jeddah Young Masters includes some of the most promising young talents:

  • Raunak Sadhwani (IND 2650), 9th youngest Grandmaster ever, World Junior #7
  • Volodar Murzin (FIDE 2633), World #2 U18, 114 rated games played in 2023
  • Pranav Venkatesh (IND 2611), 75th Indian Grandmaster, World Junior #12
  • Bardiya Daneshvar (IRI 2591), Iranian 2022 national champion, knocked off super GM Grischuk at the World Cup 2023
  • Jan Klimkowski (POL 2520), World vice-champion U16, biggest rising star in Poland
  • Yagiz Kaan Erdogmus (TUR 2496), 12-year-old Turkish prodigy, gained nearly 500 rating points in a little over a year, awarded the title Turkish national athlete in 2020
  • Andy Woodward (USA 2473), World #1 among players born in 2010 or later
  • Jakub Seemann (POL 2441), reigning U16 world champion
  • Faustino Oro  (ARG 2377), nicknamed ‘The Messi of Chess’ the 10-year-old FIDE master is the youngest ever to have achieved 2300 Elo points
  • Candela Francisco Guecamburu (ARG 2295), at 17 a reigning World Women Junior Champion (U20)

Jeddah International Youth Chess Festival

Jeddah Young Masters (clockwise from top let): Erdogmus, Venkatesh, Murzin, Daneshvar, Klimkowski, Sadhwani, Oro, Seemann, Francisco, Woodward

There is still time to make it to the Djerba Chess Festival. It would be worth checking the convenient packages on the website. It promises to be an unforgettable experience!

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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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