Spring starts with chess in Budapest

by Diana Mihajlova
4/20/2014 – During the 80s and 90s, the Budapest Spring Chess Festival was one of the largest chess events in the world with over 450 participants among whom were some of the greatest names of the day. Largely funded by the government, it died off with the political changes when funds dried up. After a long absence, it is back, hoping in time to relive its former prestige and glory.

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Some of the ladies participants at the Budapest Spring Chess Festival (from left)
back row: Hanna Krisztina Gal, Ashley Tapp, Julianna Terbe, Rosza Majoros,
Eszter Monduk, Diana Mihajlova. Front row, seated: Nikoletta Toth, Sara Kovacsy,
Luca Hegedus.

The key to its return this year is thanks to the Budapest Chess Federation, aided financially by the Hungarian Chess Federation, that has made a brave attempt to bring the chess festival back in the hope that, in time, it might reach its former prestige and glory.

The Festival took place from 26 March to 5 April and consisted of a nine-round Swiss system Open, with A-group (>1800) and a B-group (<1800). A Youth Grand Prix, which we already reported, and other side events, like simultaneous exhibitions and lectures, also took place.

The Festival coincided with the Hungarian Government elections, which saw the reigning party Fidesz retaining power with a landslide victory.

After months of refurbishment works, the Parliament building and its grounds
are opened to public in all its splendour

One of the elected party’s members of Parliament happened to be a particularly dedicated chess aficionado. That is the reason why the above information concerns us.

Mr Mariusz Revesz, whose parliamentarian duties lay within the sector of education, has already made many positive moves for chess in Hungary. He helped the Judit Polgar’s Chess Educational Program to be included in the national curriculum for pupils aged six to ten years of age, in their first to fourth years of school, with maths, reading and writing as main subjects and – chess as an elective subject.

Mariusz Revesz MP in front of the Parliament

He is the President of the Budapest Chess Federation and, in this role, for the last two years, has helped a new Open, with parallel GM and IM sections, to be added to the Hungarian chess calendar as a yearly international event, which takes place in August.

Mr Revesz resurrected the Spring Chess Festival by lobbying the Organisers of the main Budapest Spring Festival of Arts, which is Government funded, to include chess within its official program. Thus, the tournament was granted one of the Festival’s venues, the splendid Balna Centre (The Whale Centre). 

In a shape of a Whale (‘Balna’ in Hungarian), it is an architectural invention
spread along the banks of Danube and houses commercial, conference and
culinary premises

The interior of the impressive Balna Centre

On the grounds of the Balna Center a ‘Danube picnic party’ takes place over weekends and holidays, as it happened during the tournament - the area was transformed in a huge bazaar with eateries and various local produce stands.

Crowds enjoy early sunny spring days on a ‘Danube picnic party’ in front of the
mouth of the Whale. The upper glassed floor is where the tournament unfolded.

Kürtőskalács (chimney cake) - a typical Hungarian sweet, traditionally baked
over a charcoal chimney. The warm pastry is rolled in various toppings like ground
walnuts, cocoa, cinnamon, coconut or poppy seeds.   

Perec (a Hungarian pretzel) - a salty, crispy type of bread is another typical Hungarian pasty  

Even an ironmonger spread a stand with all necessary tools
and a fireplace, proving that old crafts are still a necessity

The first edition of the renewed Budapest Spring Chess Festival proved mainly a ‘Hungarian affaire’ with few foreign participants, most of whom are Budapest’s short or long-term residents.

Canadians in Budapest: Ashley Tapp and Michael Yip

Ashley, the famous ‘chess girl’ is in Budapest as a first leg of her European tour. She has decided to take several months away from school and home in order to train and play chess; a brave adventure made possible by a sponsor who recently stepped in to help Ashley’s chess progress.

Michael Yip is a prolific blogger, faithful to both his original Canada and his adopted city Budapest, by creating Budapest Chess News and Canada Chess News 

Pedro Gomez De La Garza from Mexico is a music exchange student placed in
Budapest by the global educational organisation ‘Youth for Understanding’. Pedro
is studying piano and playing chess whenever possible.

FM Juergen Brustkern, with his Hungarian partner, made Budapest his home.
He often contributes chess articles to German magazines.

With 5.5/9, Mai Hung won the best woman prize in the A-group

WIM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung hails from Vietnam. She spent several months in Budapest playing chess and training with Dr Hoang Minh Chuong, a mathematician, father and trainer of the reigning European woman champion GM Hoang Than Trang.  

WIM Varga Klara in consultation with her coach GM Attila Czebe

FM Adam Kozak (on the left) and Richard Farkas, two young promising Hungarian
players, both won prizes - Adam as the youngest player and Richard in his rating category

Several rating category prizes, best woman, senior and junior prizes were also awarded, in both groups. The main prizes from a 1.000.000 HUF (ca. 3300 euro) prize fund, in the A group were snapped by Hungarian GMs.

GM Gyula Pap (7.5/9), the first prize winner, flanked by Mr Attila, general secretary
of the Hungarian Chess Federation and Mr Mariusz Revesz, the president of the
Budapest Chess Federation

Second prize winner, GM Laszlo Gonda (on the left), 7.0/9 and third prize winner GM
Tamas Fodor Jr with 6.5/9

A group photo of all prizewinners from both groups. The first place winners,
GM Gyula Pap (A-group) and Miklos Kovacs (B-group) are holding their cups.

Further down from the Balna Centre, on the same side along the Danube, a complex of art institutions houses the Budapest Palace of the Arts, a concert hall, the National Theatre and the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art

The National Theatre with its curious look-out spiral tower

A close-up of the spiral tower

As part of the Spring Festival, the Ludwig Museum hosted a retrospective of painter Judit Reigl, a successful representative of the abstract movement who achieved success in Paris in the 60’s after escaping the Hungarian communist regime. Reigl’s work is making a comeback in Hungary, represented by art dealer Kalman Maklary.

‘Man’ (1969-70), oil on canvas, 207 x 270 cm (Private collection, France)

The Ludwig’s permanent collection contains an installation by Yoko Ono, a known chess lover. A set of a table, two chairs, a chessboard and chess pieces, all completely white, entitled ‘Play it by Trust’.

Yoko Ono: ‘Play it by Trust’, installation 1966




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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