The Global Chess Festival 2015

by Mihail Marin
10/22/2015 – Judit Polgar became a grandmaster in 1992 when she was 15 years and four months old. At that time she was the youngest grandmaster of all time, breaking Bobby Fischer's record from 1958 by one month. She soon developed into the best female player of all time. Now she helps to make chess more popular, for instance, by organising the Global Chess Festival.

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Since 2007 Judit Polgar has organized a yearly chess festival in Budapest, in close cooperation with and supported by the main sponsor Aquaprofit. Over the years the event has grown into a highly prestigious social event, in which well-known personalities (sportsmen, artists, scientists, etc.) and, most importantly, a great number of children, like to take part. In 2015 the event became international under the name Global Chess Festival (

"Our goal is to attract five million people from five continents to join the Global Chess Festival within the next ten years." The start was promising: ten cities from four continents joined the first edition by organizing events at the same time in the various cities and on four continents. Here’s the list of the ten cities which took part in the event: Budapest, Santiago de Chile, St. Louis, Szabadka, Gyor, Satu Mare, Boca Raton, Christchurch, Melbourne and Miami.

"We aim to provide them with the opportunity of establishing cooperation and building up friendships across the barriers of language, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, physical ability or social status."

It is well-known that chess is a superb educational tool which helps to develop a number of useful qualities in children: logical thinking, interrelating, creative use of information, and much more. The festival offers countless entertaining and fascinating activities to attract children to chess and to let them enjoy its educational and social benefits.

The festival took place on October 17, and the following video conveys the atmosphere in Budapest:

The highlight of the event was the Highlander rapid tournament, in which former World Champion Anatoly Karpov and former FIDE-World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov played against two local players: Olympic silver medalist Csaba Balogh and Benjamin Gledura, Ungary’s most promising junior player. The concept of the tournament was inspired by the main theme of the famous “Highlander” movie: "There can be only one winner". Accordingly, only the winner of the tournament would win a prize, which, however, was quite substantial: 6 million Hungarian Forint (roughly 20,000 Euros).

The participants (from left to right): Benjamin Gledura, Anatoly Karpov, Csaba Balogh, Rustam Kasimdzhanov

The big surprise of the semifinal was Gledura’s win against Karpov!

The great final: World champion versus promising youngster

The one and only winner during his entertaining speech at the gala dinner.
But to slightly adjust the famous Queen song that was played during the
closing ceremony: "We all are the champions".

Beside every great man is a great woman - Rustam and Firuza

This year's edition's logo was "1000 faces of chess" - simple and suggestive at the same time.

The queen of the 64 square arena at all levels...

...and of the Global chess festival. In the background - "chess pieces faces" designed by Sofia Polgar.

It would take an Argus with more than a 100 eyes to see all these faces, and thus I asked several people who were involved or simply visited the festival to reveal their thoughts and feeling in regard to the concept and ideas of the festival.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov – a former World Champion and winner of the Highlander tournament who does not think he has hit the top yet.

Benjamin Gledura right after having seen the bright side of chess: "This event is typical for Judit and it is good for chess in general."

Csaba Balogh, who took his loss against Kasimdzhanov philosophically: "It is a possibility, of course, to lose to the main favorite..."

Anatoly Karpov was visibly upset by his unexpected defeat in the semifinal and rushed back to his hotel before I could interview him during the festival. But later, during the gala dinner at the Danubius Hotel Gellert, he remained true to himself: "I try to play my best!"

Polgar versus Karpov: the queen and the king grabbing their chance for a blindfold game?!

Sofia Polgar: "Chess is everywhere!"

Lajos Portisch: "This is an interesting idea of Judit", but "I feel a bit sorry that in the first game Karpov didn't play so well..."

Daniel Yarur: "Chess is changing continuously, new faces appear all over the World."

Daniel Yarur (Spanish version) "Es un cambio constante, una dinamica permanente y eso es lo que atrae: siempre aparecen caras nuevas"

Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam: "I look at all these kids and I get the feeling I see the 1000 faces of chess."

I also took advantage of my position at the festival to ask a question which had been bugging me for a long time:

Victor Marin: "Chopin's Revolutionary Study is like the Sicilian defense."

Candidates who wish to participate in the Global Chess Festival will find information on the website of the event: Each October, on a specific day, participating cities organize their own event with various chess activities. This gives room to individual ideas and specific cultural perspectives while contributing to the program of the Global Chess Festival.

The idea of the connectedness of the various activities of the Global Chess Festival is underlined by common corporate identity elements such as the logo and the precise description of the implementation. But the countries that take part in the Global Chess Festival still have the freedom to shape their local chess events, lectures and education programs according to their own individual ideas and concepts.

Part two will follow soon: with more pictures and annotations of the crucial games of the Highlander tournament.

GM Mihail Marin, born in 1965, has several times been Romanian champion, played in 12 Olympiads (earning an individual bronze medal in 1988) and first made the leap over the Elo barrier of 2600 in 2001. Marin possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster — he is able to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine.


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