Chess Day Becomes Chess Festival
This year’s Aquaprofit-Polgar Chess Festival welcomed over four thousand visitors to a wide variety of entertaining activities. Programs ranged from intimate chess games to entertaining shows for large audiences; most participants stayed for the whole day, in the company of the world’s most famous chess sisters: Judit, Susan and Sofia Polgar. The Festival’s patron was Mrs. Androulla Vassiliou, Member of the European Commission, and was supported by the Representative of the European Commission in Hungary.
Judit Polgar, ambassador of the European Parliament’s Chess in School program, gave a 27-board simultaneous game to children representing the 27 nations of the EU. At the press conference, the world's top female chess player also announced that, starting in 2013, chess will be part of the National Curriculum in Hungary as an alternative subject in elementary and high schools. Judit is also developing a student’s chess book and teacher’s handbook series to ensure the success of the program.
Other popular highlights of the Festival included live chess dance choreography; an amazing escape by escape artist David Merlini, who set himself free and hung from the ceiling to play a rapid game against Susan Polgar; and the Hungarian debut of chessboxing, a rapidly growing hybrid sport, featuring Mihaly Kotai, WBF/IBO middleweight world boxing champion. The final event was a 100 board simultaneous exhibition match, given by the Polgar sisters, who took on celebrities, athletes, artists, scientists, businessmen, politicians and fans. The exhibition game was opened by Alisa Maric, Minister of Youth and Sport, former chess player hero of Serbia. Celebrity guests included George Soros, Bessel Kok, Roland Garros winner Andrea Temesvari, world famous conductor Ivan Fischer, a number of Ambassadors to Hungary (Serbia, Israel, Sweden and Canada), and countless others from the world of sports, theater, politics, business, and media, many of whom flew to Hungary just to be able play a game against the Polgar sisters.
The notion that chess is not attractive to the media was proved wrong; the excitement surrounding this wonderful annual event drew thousands of people eager to be a part of it. This year’s festival succeeded in meeting its goals: to promote chess as a game that can bring together people of different ages, races, ethnicities, genders, social and economical backgrounds, in an activity they can all enjoy. Moreover, the event drew particular attention to chess as a successful teaching tool that has been shown to improve academic performance, by improving students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, and encouraging independent decision-making – all while the students enjoy themselves.