Five Million Playing Chess On Five Continents?

Five Million Playing Chess On Five Continents?

Now in her ninth year organizing a chess festival, Judit Polgar has a new mission. The rebranded "Global Chess Festival" seeks to engage five million chess players worldwide on the same day each year. She hopes to reach that threshhold within 10 years.

The first eight editions were mostly confined to chess events in Budapest, but this past Saturday she led a multi-continental effort to get to that lofty number. Her event in Budapest was just one of many other events around the world. Other cities participating included Santiago, Chile; St. Louis, USA; Subotica, Serbia; Győr, Hungary; Satu Mare, Romania; Boca Raton, USA; Miami, USA; Melbourne, Australia and Christchurch, New Zealand!

Twin IMs! Sofia Polgar and Lawrence Trent "frame" themselves for the camera.

While tournaments in St. Louis (her sister Susan's SPICE Cup) focused on titled players and norm seekers, Judit's event has traditionally focused more on growing chess scholastically. With a combination of simuls, face-painting, and other events, the day is packed.

The festival advertises the diversity that comes with "1000 Face of Chess" this year. And the most famous face was...
...GM Judit Polgar of course.

Polgar upped the ante on her event with the new Highlander Cup, a knockout event that featured GMs Anatoly Karpov, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Csaba Balogh and teenage IM Benjamin Gledura.

The 16-year-old Hungarian sensationally beat the ex-world champion in game one before drawing him in game two to win the match.

Kasimdzhanov beat Balogh in the semifinals and then also went to win against Gledura 1.5-0.5 in the finals.

GM Fabiano Caruana's second, GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov, became the first Highlander Cup Winner.

Since 2013's event, the day has culminated with a transatlantic match played on Chess.com's Live Server between four Hungarian stars and four American talents. This year was no different -- the players competed once as White and once as Black against their counterparts in G/15+5.

Team Hungary plays on the Chess.com live server while IM Sofia Polgar looks on.

The teams were amazingly balanced. When subtracting the customary 100 points to the American's U.S. Chess Federation rating, their four averaged 1906. The four Hungarian's FIDE average was 1907! 

Despite the insignificant rating disparity, the U.S. squad, all from California, won by the largest margin in the match's three-year history. They tallied 6.0-2.0 thanks to three players winning their mini matches and one player tying.

The "oldest" players were in the Under-12 section (all eight were born after Judit beat Garry Kasparov). American Anthony Ge took 1.5/2 from FM Alex Krstulovic but their first game had a lifetime full of action: a likely mouse-slip (or a White player preferring Black), a near-exact study endgame, queen versus rook, and exactly 100 moves!


Ge had no trouble with the pawnless endgame, otherwise GM Josh Friedel has him covered with his series on the same.

Anthony Ge takes his Chess.com gear on the road when he travels.

In game two they played nearly down to king versus king before a draw was finally agreed.

In the Under-10 section, American Gabriel Eidelman (with a French username!) tied 1.0-1.0 with Gellert Karacsonyi, a veteran of the event. The two drew round one, then the Hungarian played the enterprising and rare Rxe4 followed by Rxd4, offering his rook both times!


Younger sister of Gellert, Kata Karacsonyi, a three-year player in the event, couldn't use her experience as she lost both to Robert Shlyakhtenko. The two rushed to castle on opposite sides about as quickly as is possible, so it wasn't surprising that the fight didn't last long:


Shlyakhtenko's Chess.com username is "1e41-0" but maybe it was just a psychological trick? In game two he opened with 1. d4!? but was up a piece nonetheless before move 10.

Was he preparing a new opening the night before the match? Hardly. In fact he was showing off another skill, whilst conquering another Hungarian (this one was of course Béla Bartók!):


In the Under-8 section, Raphael Manahan ensured that the Americans wouldn't lose ground in any of the one-on-one matches. He beat Hungarian Markus Molli Amina 1.5-0.5.

We all have our old school photos, and here's Raphael Manahan's.

In the opening game, White had all the play but neither player claimed the three-fold repetition that occurred in the middlegame after White's 35th move (perhaps Black forgot that different moves were used to get there, or she just had youthful optimism about her position!).


They drew the second game to make the final margin 6.0-2.0 for the American team.

A full report on the SPICE Cup from new Chess.com correspondent GM Robert Hess will follow after the tournament ends later this week.

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