The 56. Biel Chess Festival will begin soon - with Arjun Erigaisi and Vincent Keymer

by Press release
7/10/2023 – In about a week, on 15 July, the traditional Biel Chess Festival will begin. In a Grandmaster Triathlon eight top players will show their skills in classical, rapid and blitz chess, and this Grandmaster Tournament is embedded in a wide range of open tournaments for all tastes and playing levels. | Photo: Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: ChessBase India

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56. International Chess Festival Biel Bienne

With the Triathlon of the Grand Masters, new ground was broken in 2019 in order to continue inviting world-class players to Biel/Bienne at a time when the financial demands of the top 15 in the world rankings presented an insurmountable hurdle in the absence of a major private sponsor. In the current year 2023, despite the uncertainty about the financial participation of the city of Biel, the organizers have managed to secure not only the Festival with its many different tournaments, but also a Grand Master Tournament that will be the strongest since the inception of the Triathlon, with a player average of over 2700 Elo points. The protagonists are briefly presented here below. The other tournaments of the Festival (July 15-30, 2023) will be presented in a later press release when the online registration opens.

At the beginning of his 26th year as president of the organizing committee, Peter Bohnenblust explains how the Festival is once again fighting to defy all odds: "Also thanks to last year's petition - a contribution for the 2023 Festival has again been included in the budget of the city of Biel/Bienne. However, the definitive confirmation by the parliament and the people is currently still pending. Therefore, clarifications and inquiries are still ongoing in order to ensure the Festival in the usual scope".  

Paul Kohler, initiator of the Chess Triathlon and director of the Festival for six years, emphasizes the role of his predecessors: "Without the selflessness of Peter Bohnenblust and the late Peter Burri and Olivier Breisacher and of course the Festival founder Hans Suri, it would not have been possible to realize such a well-endowed Grand Master Tournament with so little financial means. The tradition that these prominent people have built was, a strong argument to convince the eight competitors, who are around 2700 Elo points, to show their skills this year in the Triathlon." 

Grandmaster Triathlon (GMT) Date 15 - 26 July 2023

8 players, 7 rounds classical chess, 7 rounds Rapid, 14 rounds Blitz 

Brief introduction of the participants in the Grand Masters Tournament 2023

Yangyi Yu (age 28; 2729 Elo): The 2013 World U20 Champion and China's No. 2 has never broken the glass ceiling that would take him all the way to the top, but he's never been far from it (2765 Elo in 2018). Currently, he is ranked 22nd in the world. With his accumulated experience, he will be a tough nut to crack, especially for the young, hungry and lurking wolves.      

Liem Quang Le (31 years; 2728 Elo): At last year's Triathlon, the 2013 Blitz World Champion made a triumphant comeback after being abstinent for more than two years due to the global health situation. Indeed, the Vietnamese won the competition, prevailing especially in the classic and rapid sections. Although he now devotes himself to chess coaching rather than competition, you can be sure that he will once again teach his opponents some masterclasses in ingenuity and game control!  

Erigaisi Arjun (19 years; 2701 Elo): After Nihal Sarin (2021) and Gukesh (2022), it is now the reigning Indian champion who will highlight the phenomenal pool of prodigies from the Eastern cradle of civilization in Biel. From February to October 2022, he rose from 2633 Elo points to 2728 in only a few months. He suffered a slight decline this winter but is expected to be on the rise again by July, and the Watch City could be a milestone on that path.   

Bogdan-Daniel Deac (21 years; 2700 Elo): Although the No. 1 spot in Romania was taken away from him by Richard Rapport's change of federation, the unassuming young man could use the opportunity to make a name for himself! After his development was slowed down by the restrictions related to the Covid affair, we hope he can give it new impetus this summer in Biel! 

Vincent Keymer (18 years; 2690 Elo): The tournament's relentless youngest, yet the No. 1 player in Germany, Keymer is returning to try to place himself in a top position that better reflects his immense talent after unsuccessful attempts over the past three years (2020: 4th; 2021: 6th; 2022: 8th). With a good performance, he could permanently establish himself among the players with an Elo rating above 2700.    

Bassem Amin (34 years old; 2688 Elo): Every year we are happy to host a tournament that not only pits different generations against each other, but also brings together players from all continents. This year, we're filling a gap by finally inviting a pro from Africa in the personable Egyptian, whose years of experience at this level will put the other players to the test.   

David Navara (37 years; 2685 Elo): The Czech gentleman is the newly crowned reigning European Blitz Champion and will be the veteran of the tournament. Still, he, who peaked at 2751 Elo in 2016, will pose a great challenge to the others. As an uncompromising player, he will not only make life difficult for the participants, but his presence will also guarantee that we will see exciting games that will be different from the usual paths.

Jules Moussard (age 28; 2684 Elo): The current No. 3 from France seems to have used the forced break of the last two years to prepare himself to finally unleash the great talent that the experts have always said he has, but which has yet to really emerge. Since April 2022, he has accumulated 54 Elo points. We wish him to keep up this momentum and cause a surprise in July!

As an appetizer to the Festival, the traditional simultaneous tournament will already take place on Friday evening, July 14. It will be held, how could it be otherwise, on the national holiday of the tricolor, by the Frenchman Jules Moussard. However, the official start of the Festival will take place the next day at 12 p.m. with the opening ceremony at the Congress House Biel. From 2 p.m. onwards, the Chess960 will begin, the final ranking of which will be used to determine the winner should two players be tied after the triathlon. The Swiss Championships in this version of chess, developed by the legendary Bobby Fischer, will be held at the same time. The classic tournaments will start on Monday (17 July 2023). There will be four open tournaments this year instead of two. We'll go into detail towards the end of the month when online registration opens.

In the meantime, here's an overview of the program:

Every year we experience difficulties with amateurs, mostly young and bright players, who want to play the Master Tournament (MTO) to compete with professionals. Unfortunately, this is not possible because we have to maintain a level that ensures that the participants of the MTO, who travel from abroad especially for this purpose, can achieve an IM or GM norm. Another concern is that with nearly 150 players in the ATO, some of them only find opponents who are at their level in the last rounds. Before that they jump from an opponent who is far too strong for them to one who is far too weak. Another thought concerns the players who do not want to invest ten days in midsummer for chess. With the new options we are offering this year, we hope to address these shortcomings.

We already introduced our main tournament, the Grandmaster Tournament, in our last press release on February 09. Now let's move on to the slower tournaments, of which there are four: 

  • The Master Tournament (MTO). This tournament is supported by the FIDE Open Aid Package and is aimed at professionals and semi-professionals looking for a certain standard. Therefore, the limit for participation is 2050 Elo. This year it will be played in ten rounds and an extended classical time control, which will further ensure that the final winner is the most deserving. The tournament is part of the Highly Ranked International Tournament (HIT) series, and the results will count towards the 2023 FIDE Circuit, allowing players to qualify for the 2024 Candidates Tournament. On this occasion, we are working hand in hand with the FIDE Fair Play Commission and have invested even more resources to prevent cheating. This investment will be transferred to all the tournaments of the festival, and despite our financial difficulties, we felt it was important to do this to help ensure the reputation and continuity of chess.   

  • The Main Tournament (HTO). A tournament with nine rounds and a "normal" classical time control, intended for ambitious players (1700 Elo and above). Those who believe their Elo rating is undervalued can prove it by meeting players with a higher Elo rating in each round, which, if proven correct, promises them a rapid increase in their Elo rating! 

  • The Amateur Tournament (ATO). It is traditionally the most attended tournament and has the same form as in previous years, with the change that the upper limit for participation has been set at 1900 Elo.  

  • The Week's Tournament (WTO). Seven rounds in five days, with an accelerated classical time control, and open to all: we hope that this will give those who can only invest one week in chess during the summer vacations the opportunity to participate in a high-quality chess tournament. 

The one-day tournaments include the traditional Swiss Championships in 960, rapid chess and blitz, the free Vinetum tournament for youngsters, as well as another blitz and another rapid chess tournament with many titled players.