Judit's Global Chess Festival 2016

by Alexey Root
9/27/2016 – As reported by Mihai Marin in 2015, the Global Chess Festival is a must-see event. This year it will be held on Saturday, October 8, and be even bigger, according to one of its organizers, Eszter Szokolay. Eszter was interviewed via email by Alexey Root of the US. The US National Chess Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of October. The conjunction of the US National Chess Day and the Global Chess Festival merits a big ChessBase News preview.

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Global Chess Festival

Interview by Alexey Root

Many ChessBase readers in the United States are excited about the second Saturday of October as that country's official "National Chess Day" (the first National Chess Day was October 9, 1976, by proclamation of then-President Gerald Ford). However, the Global Chess Festival allows chess pride to go from national to global, with the theme of "Chess Connects Us." Alexey Root reached out via email to the Global Chess Festival to learn more. Eszter Szokolay responded on behalf of the Global Chess Festival.

Alexey Root (AR): How did the Global Chess Festival (GCF) come into being?

Eszter Szokolay (ES): It all started in 2007 with the 100-board simultaneous chess exhibitions of the Olympic Champion Polgar sisters. Over the years, the annual Polgar Chess Festival grew into a prestigious event in Budapest, Hungary, then it became international and, finally, a Global Chess Festival.

The driving force behind the GCF is Judit’s Polgar passion for the game, her team creates and organizes the festival with the following mission: the Global Chess Festival promotes the 1000 faces of chess all around the world. We aim to share the beauty of chess with five million people in ten years, to connect and enjoy chess related activities on the day of the festival.

AR: About how many people will attend the Global Chess Festival in Budapest on October 8, 2016 and what worldwide activities are planned?

ES: We expect about five thousand visitors in Budapest at the Buda Castle. The live broadcast will enable a “virtual” presence around the world for those who cannot be there in person. We encourage everyone to join our community and take their places on the Chess Map.

To emphasize the popularity of the royal game, we have also created a platform to present worldwide chess events taking place on the day of the festival. There is a big variety of events, from professional chess tournaments, simultaneous exhibitions, school challenges, social gatherings, and art shows that include chess. We wish to show the diversity of the game with the motto “Chess Connects Us.”

Every chess-related event in the world is welcome to register and get onto the Chess Map Events page on the Global Chess Festival website. Since October 8 is also National Chess Day in the United States, there will be multiple events in the US. Many European countries have chess tournaments on the second Saturday of October. Chess events are taking place from Chile to New Zealand just to name a few places around the world.

AR: Who are the grandmasters in the “Highlander” tournament this year? What is the time control and format of the event?

ES: This year’s knockout Highlander Cup will host last year’s winner, World Champion (2004) Rustam Kasimdzhanov from the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Israeli World Chess Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand. Some of the most talented Hungarian players will also fight for the Highlander Cup: two-time chess Olympiad silver medalist Zoltan Almasi, six-time Hungarian champion Ferenc Berkes, rising talent and member of the Olympic team Benjamin Gledura, Woman’s European champion Hoang Thanh Trang and grandmasters Gabor Papp and Gergely Antal. The first round will kick off at 13:00 on 8th October, with the following pairings:

GM Boris Gelfand vs. GM Benjamin Gledura
GM Ferenc Berkes vs. GM Gabor Papp
GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov vs. GM Trang Hoang
GM Gergely Antal vs. GM Zoltan Almasi

The time control is two games in each duel of ten minutes plus five seconds/move per player. In case of a 1-1 tie, two blitz games will be played with alternating colors and three minutes plus two seconds/move will follow. The winner takes the entire prize fund of USD $15,000.

AR: Who are the other chess celebrities that will be at the festival and what will they be doing this year?

Judit Polgar and Boris Gelfand promoting Global Chess

ES: We are delighted to host Grandmaster Boris Gelfand and all the players attending the Highlander Cup. The traditional simultaneous games with Sofia Polgar and Judit Polgar will once again be main activities of the festival and amongst the visitors we expect to see Loek van Wely from Holland and a number of other grandmasters both from Hungary and abroad. Each year we have the pleasure of hosting great talents from the arts, music, and entertainment as well.

AR: What are the goals for this year’s Global Chess Festival?

ES: In Budapest we strive for another wonderful all-day family festival, connecting in chess-related activities, in sports, arts, culture, and entertainment. Children get to learn the first moves of the game, but we also have fascinating professional chess tournaments.

Worldwide, we aim to have as many people as possible on the Global Chess Festival Chess Map indicating that they already know “Chess connects us.” This would be the first step for reaching our goal, which is that in a few years five million people will share and enjoy chess related activities on the day of the festival.

AR: What are the benefits of teaching chess to children?

ES: Chess enables children, parents, and teachers to go through creative and playful learning together. The impact of chess on skill building is widely known and accepted. Chess is also recognized as the key to strategic and creative thinking, encouraging children’s development of cognitive skills in particular.

Face painting with chess motifs...

...is done with a lot of attention to detail

Playing chess teaches discipline, patience, develops logical thinking, the ability to tolerate failures, helps math skills, and prepares children for dealing with challenges. You could say that chess teaches life skills, by getting children ready for life’s challenges.

AR: What is the Festival’s approach to teaching chess to children?

The Judit Polgar Chess Palace program will present educational and interesting activities on the Chess Palace Promenade at the festival...

... where King Crucifer, Queen Quenessa, Sturdy Rook, Speedy Bishop, Jumpy Knight, and Tiny Pawn will wait for children at six posts.

A lot of art and crafts and trivia games will be played...

...along with the already traditional Chess Palace Cup children’s tournament

Another true family chess battle is the Generations Clash...

... where child-parent-grandparent will play together on one chess board with joint effort.

Photos are courtesy of the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation.

Previous reports



Alexey Root was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.
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