Judit Polgar's Global Chess Festival

by Alina l'Ami
10/22/2017 – The 2017 edition of this now well-established chess festival was held last weekend in Budapest, the Hungarian capital. The festival, now in its third year, was held at a new location, and ChessBase contributor Alina l'Ami was invited to serve as an official photographer. We're thrilled to present her unique 'angles'. | Photos and report: Alina l'Ami

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The Hungarian dream

Come with us through the gates of Graphisoft Park, the 'Silicon Valley' of Budapest. There's something you should see. We know you won't resist the autumnal colors so take a moment while we explain this setup to you. First, there is this game of chess.

It's your cerebral challenge, our chance, your companion, our crave; it's our cloister, our core...

Global Chess Festival collage by Alina l'Ami

… it is what we cry out for
[Photos by Alina l'Ami — click or tap to expand to full size]

But the true beauty of chess is that it connects all of us through time and space. It is a profound medium of communication, immune to any barriers of language, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, physical ability or social status. We're celebrating its 11th anniversary here, in Hungary, and it is the third year that the chess voice is in unison all around the world under the international name of:

Global Chess Festival

Global Chess Festival

Every second Saturday of October chess related activities in sports, arts, culture and entertainment, are carefully wrapped in one-full-day-box-of-bliss. You will meet in a minute fellow chess fans, celebrities, sportspeople, artists, scientists, businesspeople and an enormous amount of happy kids.

Come, be part of it.

Group photo on large chess board

Rejoice with us the diversity and the 1000 faces of chess!

The Graphisoft Park's founder, Gabor Bojar, has officially opened the chess festivities, therefore:

Dancers striking a post in black and white leotards

Let's get the pieces rolling

Children playing on a large floor chess set | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning...

Sofia Polgar with children

...in a fun way and even with Sofia Polgar

Judit Polgar and chess connects children

Get into the groove

“Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make people happy”

 — Siegbert Tarrasch, The Game of Chess (1931)

Enjoy the special artistic moment of Jason Kouchak's “Queen's Journey”, an inspirational highlight and a pitch-perfect fit for the day. You will feel the Grandmaster's touch through the human display of the eight queens puzzle: the ladies can be strong and follow their paths without obstructing each other.

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Keep following this way...and dive into the colorful black and white kaleidoscope through a small exercise of visualization. You are invited to try to imagine what it would be like to be the best in the world at something. At anything. We've tried to imagine; it's hard.

Despite being officially inactive for quite a while, Judit Polgar, the best female chess player of all time still feels her tactics (and remembers nearly everything), as she showed in one of the sames from her simultaneous exhibition.


Black played 1...Nfxe4. Is that correct?

Judit Polgar smiling portrait

Within less than a second Judit replied...

2.Bxe4 Nxe4
3.Nxe4 Qxe4

and Black's opponents' eyes became bigger than ever...

Imagine you have defeated eleven world champions.
Imagine you have reached numerous chess milestones at an age others would still be in the dilly-dallying-phase.
Imagine you have broken many barriers and have been an inspiration to million of sports lovers.

Judit never dreamed about success, she worked for it.

The Polgar pillars

What happens when all of the Queen's intelligence and energy is focused on placing an 8x8 board on a worldwide map? What happens when you double that with the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of...

Sofia Polgar

...Sofia Polgar?

What if you have a tireless team that will spare no effort to make you feel part of it all? The sky's the limit.

Through the power of your mind's eye and digitization, you are here with us now. Had you been following the Dutch chess news, you would have witnessed yet another sample of how chess is able to connect the seemingly unconnected. On October 14th, to celebrate chess alongside Judit Polgar, the Dutch Chess Federation organized a match between a 7-year-old against a 97-year-old!

That's the Global Chess Festival (GCF) spirit and this is how you can take part in it, physically:

Map of Chess Connects Us participants

Chess Connects Us map | Global Chess Festival website 

Whether you are living in Chile, New Zealand, Hungary, Tanzania or Malaysia, worry no more, you can join the chess map at any point in time. And every year — every second Saturday of October — you can bring your contribution by organizing your own event. You have the freedom to shape your cultural and educational chess program according to your own perspective and time zone.

Shoot the moon! 

collage with Judit and Sofia Polgar, children, Jeroen van den Berg | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Chess and art go hand in hand: András Győrfi's chess inspired oil canvas (centre with Sofia and Judit Polgar), painted in only one hour during Judit's simul!

The Global Chess Festival can offer you a few ideas: stage programs, simultaneous chess exhibitions, interactive games, chess lessons and conferences, chess cups, shows — the list is actually impossibly long. Feel free to let the chess magic happen.

For now, continue walking with us, look around and have a good time in the festival held under the patronage of Budapest's mayor, Mr. Istvan Tarlos. The goal is to share the beauty of chess with five million people in ten years, to connect and enjoy chess related activities simultaneously on the day of the festival.

GCF 2017 in (just a few) numbers:

  • Chess games played — nearly 400
  • Simul games with Judit and Sofia Polgar — 56

Collage of children playing | Photo: Alina l'Ami

External help was needed to adjudicate the unfinished games: this is where the Romanian GM Mihail Marin (bottom right) entered the scene

Judit Polgar with Jeroen van den Berg and other guests

Visitors from 16 countries

Marzipan chess pieces with boy

4000 Szamos Marcipan [Marzipan] Chess pieces were made...

Judit and Sofia give away marzipan chess pieces to children

... and given away

  • Over a 1000 autographs were signed by the sisters
  • 200 Chess tattoos were painted
  • 7 hours Facebook LIVE by Anna Rudolf 
  • 1st Future Champions tournament, with 15 Hungarian talented children was won by...

Dorina Demeter

Dorina Demeter 

She received the special prize from the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation: free participation in the Isle of Man Tournament, 2018, with accommodation for both the player and one accompanying person.

Girl with chess piece tatoo | Photo: Alina l'Ami

And much more...How was all of this humanly possible within only seven hours? We are still not sure...

This is my life, this is me

We have strong doubts there is a more exuberant leader than Judit Polgar. She jumps, she leaps, she claps, she grins. Her joy is tangible. What did she win this time? Nothing palpable. Only the appreciation of more than 2000 souls present at the Global Chess Festival and thousands more worldwide. We smile right back at her, as if we won something too.

Group photo with Judit Polgar

And we did

We hope someday you'll join us
And the chess world will live as one.

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Corrections 18:00 CEST: The original post misstated the number of the 2017 festival. It is the 11th anniversary, not the 10th. We also undercounted the number of World Champions Judit has defeated. The correct number is also 11, not 9.


All text and photos by Alina l'Ami, who was the official photographer for the GCF

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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