The World Chess Festival welcomed chess aficionados, Grandmasters and World and European Champions from 90 countries to Budapest last weekend.
Around 5,000 fans of the game visited the Castle Garden Bazaar in the grounds of Buda Castle - an historic complex of 19th-century buildings and pleasure gardens.
This is the tenth time that the event has been organized by the Polgár Judit Chess Foundation. A Grandmaster, Judit Polgár is considered to be the world’s most successful female player of all time, and has been at the top of the leader boards for 26 years.
"We hope that in 10 years, there will be around 5 million peoplejoining the World Chess Festival worldwide," said Polgár. Hungary’s women have a formidable reputation in the "Royal Game" that transcends culture, social status and age. Last year, an 87-year-old Hungarian pensioner (affectionately known as "Auntie Bici") clinched a world record in simultaneous chess, overtaking a record set in the 1920s by the Cuban grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca, one of the world’s best ever players.
Reaching out to the global community, more than 100 events were simultaneously organized in 80 other countries to coincide with the Budapest event. Live broadcasts of the professional matches also made it possible for thousands of fans from around the world to tune in. Appropriately, the theme of the event this year was "Chess connects us".
The World Chess Festival offers more than just a spectator experience:school challenges, family generation games, and art exhibitions were specifically aimed at engaging younger visitors. Public interviews were also held with Olympic champion canoeist István Vaskuti and Danuta Kozák, five-time Olympic champion kayakist.
Judit Polgár is well known in Hungary for her sport activism, steering events like the Chess Festival to "bring sport closer to people". She is also one of 24 "Guardians of the Bid" – a group of sport professionals supporting and advising the Budapest Olympic Bid, led by former Country President, IOC member and Olympic champion fencer, Pál Schmitt. The Guardians also include Budapest Mayor István Tarlós, International Weightlifting Federation President Tamás Aján, and Hungarian Swimming and Canoeing Federation Presidents, Tamás Gyárfás and Etele Baráth.
The Castle Garden Bazaar is one of several planned spectator sites that will showcase the road cycling competition, should Budapest become the Host City of the Olympic Games in 2024. CGI of the site was released recently by the Budapest 2024 Olympic Bid.
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